Bruce Fein, a very well respected conservative legal scholar and Reagan’s Deputy Attorney General, has officially called for Bush to be impeached for what he calls “political crimes against the Constitution.” He did so on Keith Olbermann’s show last night (here’s the full transcript):
OLBERMANN: Do you think this president needs to be impeached?
FEIN: Yes. I think the founding fathers intended the impeachment threshold to be satisfied if there were political crimes against the Constitution, against our checks and balances and separation of powers. Those are the mechanisms, what you might call the scientific method for staying on an even keel, avoiding folly and abuses. And I think that President Bush over the years has crippled that mechanism.
And here he lays out the list of reasons why:
FEIN: But the strongest case are his claims that he can surveil Americans, intercept their e-mails in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That he can run a secret government, for example. Your program earlier, Keith, in a rather understated way, indicated that we don’t know if secret programs that have not been leaked to The New York Times yet that are spying in Americans.
And it may well be, as the Church Committee discovered 10 or 20 years afterwards, that there has been massive misuse of intelligence. Also his claim that he can identify any American citizen as an enemy combatant, detain them indefinitely in Guantanamo Bay, without access to lawyers, utilizing secret evidence to detain them.
Those are the kinds of egregious violations of due process and notions of judicial review and checks that justify the conclusion that these are political crimes against the Constitution itself.
He also pointed to the new Executive Order that Bush signed last week allowing him to seize all of the assets of anyone he deems to be undermining the situation in Iraq as a blatantly unconstitutional claim:
OLBERMANN: One more thing that may be added to this ledger, Bruce.
The conservative Web site WorldNetDaily had posted today a critique of Mr. Bush that could have read like one posted on liberal Web sites that referred specifically to this executive order that he signed last week, claiming the power to seize anyone’s assets if he decides they have so much as received goods or services for someone who might pose a risk of committing violence in Iraq.
A, can he do this? B, can he do this to Americans in America? And C, what does that Fifth Amendment say about it?
FEIN: Well, he has claimed to do this under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act. And even if it authorized him to do that, the Constitution surely does not. Because the gist of the executive order is to impose a financial death penalty on anyone who he says on his say-so alone creates a significant risk of undermining the rehabilitation program or political reforms in Iraq.
A “significant risk.” Now they could conclude that you have a risk if you are very hostile to the various policies that he has undertaken in Iraq. And this idea that you could end your financial life unilaterally without notice is totally antithetical to the Fifth Amendment.
He is undoubtedly right. The executive order is a clear violation of both the 4th and 5th amendments. The government may not seize property without due process of law; the accusations of an executive agency do not constitute due process by any stretch of the imagination, no matter how authoritarian the imagination’s owner might be.