Impeach Karl Rove!

Per Talking Points Memo this morning:

This is prima facie evidence of a systematic effort by Rove’s office to politicize the Cabinet departments and other Executive Branch agencies that are supposed to carry out the laws without respect to electoral politics.

Why not impeach the turd blossom?

Seems to me it would be an open-and-shut case, plus it would enable Congress to require testimony from Rove and his aides on this and other matters (can you say U.S. attorneys? vote suppression?) that fall into the same vein.

To what office was Rove elected?


Article II, Section 4 makes no reference to elective office. It just says “all civil Officers of the United States” may be impeached.

What civil office does he hold?

Do you really mean to suggest that various administrations don’t run Cabinet departments in different ways, according to the policy preferences of the administration and the political appointments that head them up?

Elections for president are held for a reason - people by and large expect that policies will change with different administrations. Certainly you expect certain changes to come about in 2009, whoever wins the presidency.

I would also like to ask which statute was violated when a political advisor to the President addressed other departments of the Federal government. Please be specific.


He is Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff in charge of coordinating domestic policy, economic policy, national security and homeland security.

Yes, I do mean to suggest that past Administrations haven’t held briefings for the assorted Cabinet departments that give a detailed look at which seats in Congress are at risk for the party in power, and what seats it might potentially pick up.

I’m sure that’s what you meant to ask about.

Why - does impeachment require a specific statutory violation?

It’s almost certainly a violation of the Hatch Act, among other things, but that’s really almost beside the point. If you’re okay with the Executive Branch looking like a big-city political patronage machine such as Mayor Daley used to run in Chicago when I was growing up, with every governmental action geared towards winning another election for the party in power, then by all means, stand up and say so.

Most of us think that’s a travesty of democracy, even at the city level.

Is that a “civil office”?

I really don’t understand what the nature of these briefings were, and Talking Points memo does an incredibly poor job of trying to explain, but impeachment is just stupid. If Rove violated the Hatch Act, he should be arrested and tried for any criminal violations.

Impeachment is silly. You don’t need to go tying up Congress every time someone in government breaks the law. Just arrest the wrongdoers and throw them in jail.

Christ, it’s like half the people on this board have impeachment fever. Impeach Bush! Impeach Cheney! Impeach Rove! Impeach Jenna! Impeach the mailman! Impeach Guantanamo! Impeach wiretapping! Impeach somebody or some thing, because that’s what the American people voted for, whether they knew it or not!

Let’s put it another way. I don’t think it is at all proper. But you are trying to criminalize everything this administration does - whether it is a minor violation or a major one.

The experience of the past twenty or so years indicates to me that the American people doesn’t have much patience with this approach.

Should there be a wall between the political side and the policy side? Absolutely. But the notion that there should be one is a pretty recent development. FDR ran his White House and Cabinet as explicit vote-generating operations. What he engaged in wouldn’t be seen as proper by modern eyes of either party.

President Clinton, too, had to be reined in on this score - he was prevented from firing his Attorney General because the political fallout would have destroyed him. And he wanted very badly to fire Janet Reno.

This article is a wonderful treatment of the whole controversy, in a well balanced and dispassionate manner. It is clear that Bush could have handled matters better - for one thing, his politicization of these offices alienated Democrats further and made it difficult to work with an already difficult party.

Interestingly, the model for how to run things seems to be the Reagan Administration - this tracks with numerous Democrats and Republicans who have said over the years that the federal government in general was well run in that era.

So are Bush and Rove wrong? Sure. But criminally wrong would be harder to prove than politically wrong. Why not settle for that?

There is no precedent for the assumption that this makes him a “civil officer” of the United States. On what are you relying in making that claim?

Looks to me that impeachment is reserved to Cabinet officials and federal judges. Rove would not qualify.

Hold on now. In 1879, the House Committee on Expenditures in the State Department approved a resolution of impeachment for George Seward, who was at the time of the malfeasance a consul general in Shanghai. It seems he was a hopelessly corrupt individual. Although the Committee approved the recommendation to be sent to the whole House for action, the question was raised: is this individual eligible for impeachment? Rejecting a suggestion to have the Judiciary Committee study the matter, the House then voted 132-109 to consider the impeachment resolution, but then failed to come to a conclusion on the question, and shortly thereafter the House adjourned. While that case did not reach resolution, it seems that the House was more than willing to consider a consul general a “civil officer” of the United States.

That’s a far inferior position to what Mr Moto has proposed, that is, only cabinet officers and judges.

So, Bricker, if a senior White House official isn’t a civil officer, what could he be?

(Keep in mind that I think going around impeaching everyone is just a lousy idea, I’m not necessarily saying that it can’t be done.)

My guess would be that those people may be impeached if their position required confirmation by Senate. Someone who is simply hired may be dismissed by his or her boss, but does not come under the purview of Congress.

The consul issue may have revolved around the manner of selection and appointment of consuls. (And I am not sure how that works.) Ambassadors may be impeached, but they also require Senate confirmation to take their jobs.

Rove cannot be impeached. The closest we get to Congressional involvement would be some distant budget action that allocated funds to the president to hire people to run the bureacracy of the White House.
(We could get the House to start de-funding every office to which Bush appointed Rove, but that would lead to (more) chaos in the White House and, eventually, stupid paybacks the next time a Republican House faced a Democrat President.)

That’s the precedent, anyway. There is the strange case of William Blount. One of the the first senators from the new state of Tenneesee, he crafted a plan to convince the Creek and Cherokee Indians to ally themselves with the British and overthrow Spanish dominion in Florida. When his plan became public, the House voted to impeach him.

The Senate dismissed the case on the grounds that they had no jurisdiction to impeach a member of Congress. They expelled him from their ranks – the first seantor ever expelled – but said that impeachment did not reach into the legislative branch, each house being already empowered to expel its own members.

Let’s stipulate that impeachment law isn’t well settled either. However, the history of it shows that of the seventeen times it has been undertaken, it has involved two Presidents, one Secretary of War, one Senator, one Associate Justice, and twelve federal judges. Since then, it has become clear that impeachment of a Senator or Representative would probably be found unconstitutional.

Given this history, it seems to me that modern jurisprudence will tend to restrict impeachment to officials of sufficiently high stature that simple prosecution is deemed insufficient, or that the perquisites of office shield from such.

(On preview it seems that Bricker has addressed this subject well.)

But the Constitution doesn’t make any reference to impeachment being reserved to elected officials, judges, or those confirmed by the Senate. The Constitution says that impeachment is for the “President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States.” We know that “all” means “all,” but saying that “civil” actually means “only someone confirmed by the Senate” doesn’t seem to jibe. It seems to me that “civil” means “civil,” as opposed to, say, military.

But here’s the million dollar question: who gets to decide what “civil officers” means? Since the Constitution gives the House the “sole power” of impeachment and the Senate the “sole power” of conviction, my first guess is that Congress, alone, gets to decide what a civil officer is.

(This is not an argument about “the Congress can impeach for any reason it wants.” I disagree with that, I think the Constitution is pretty clear when it says that treason, bribery, and high crimes and misdemeanors is the standard for impeachment. But in determining who is eligible for impeachment, since it is a power reserved exclusively to Congress, it seems to me that Congress can interpret civil officer as it wishes, so long as it is within reason. In other words, no impeachment of the President’s dog or the Attorney General’s stapler.)

And I find now that the House has launched investigations into impeaching those who are not judges, cabinet members, or Presidents. There was an investigation into the Collector of the Port of New York, the case I mentioned earlier, and a related case to another consular official in Shanghai. That none of these impeachments were completed isn’t really evidence that they could not have been. In my view, it just seems to mean it hasn’t happened, as opposed to it could not happen. Hopefully this PDF link works.

That’s true. And what’s more, it doesn’t look like the Supreme Court has any say in that. Uncharted territory.

However, if I were the Democrats, I’d be careful not to go there without a damn good reason. The Republicans had standing to impeach Clinton in the 1990s, and still got burned politically for it. The Democrats using this meat-ax to go after the spiders of the administration won’t go over well.