At This Fork ...
By William Westmiller
Impeachment or not, Ken Starr should immediately file indictments against Bill Clinton -or eat all 4,500 pages of his report. If Starr's allegations are good enough for the Judiciary Committee, they're good enough for a judge and jury.
Nothing precludes the Special Prosecutor from filing criminal charges, not even the craving of congress to hog the entire road to judgement. Impeachment and indictment are two separate avenues, each with it's own destination. The sole outcome from impeachment is removal from office - there are no other sanctions. Criminal prosecution could lead to fines or imprisonment, the normal outcome for any citizen receiving equal treatment under the law.
If Starr's report is correct, that a citizen committed perjury and obstruction of justice, then charges should be issued by the Grand Jury, regardless of the employment status of the accused. Whether that citizen is going to be fired or not should have no bearing on the prompt filing of criminal charges. Any delay or deference would be a violation of due process and the equal protection clauses of the Constitution. Those clauses are no less important than the impeachment clause and neither clause does or should preclude the other.
The impeachment process is solely political. The two houses of Congress may impeach any government official for any reason, as long as two-thirds of Senators agree. "High crimes and misdemeanors" may be good reason, but the allegations and findings are not bound by any legal restraint or appeal. In fact, nearly all of the grounds cited against Richard Nixon were not crimes. There are no laws against bald-faced lies or ethical indiscretions.
The President is entitled to hold office for a specified term - unless the representatives of the people decide to remove him. Bill Clinton has no other claim on the office of President than what is granted him under the Constitution. Impeachment simply ends his term of office.
There are laws against perjury and obstruction of justice. The judicial process for finding guilt or innocence are exercised regularly across the country. Defendants are presumed innocent and granted many due process and trial rights. None of these rights apply to the impeachment process, because the sole consequence is termination of employment.
In fact, it is possible that a President could be convicted of a truly heinous crime, even jailed, and continue to hold office. No judge or jury can force him to surrender the powers and privileges of the Presidency. That power is reserved to Congress. Impeachment can never result in a fine or imprisonment, only removal from office.
The proposition that the President cannot be indicted while in office is shallow. The power to pardon was never intended to allow a executive to protect himself from any criminal or civil prosecution. "Ah, excuuuse meee!" won't fly. Of course, the president can file a motion to quash any indictment. He can even appeal it up to the Supreme Court. But, like other efforts to exercise extended Executive Privilege, it would fail utterly. Consider the ludicrous proposition: If the President couldn't be indicted, he could simply murder all of the Republicans in Congress, then pardon himself. He could still be impeached (assuming every Congressperson wasn't cowering in fear), but he would have gotten away with murder. Richard Nixon did not pardon himself, he left that to Gerald Ford. In Al Gore's words, there is simply no "controlling legal authority" for presidential self-pardons.
Actual conviction of a serious criminal offense would short-circuit all the revered, stately and elegant preachments from Congress. Impeachment would be certain and swift. Which is why most politicians hope Ken Starr and the Grand Jury will sit on their hands and exercise much more than civil discretion. Granting purely political deference to any office holder accused of a crime would be an insult to every law-abiding citizen in the nation.
On the other hand, acquital would also certainly and swiftly dispose of impeachment based on criminal allegations. There are feeble arguments that Clinton's misreprentations under oath were neither substantive nor material, precluding conviction of perjury. That's a decision that should be made by a judge and jury considering the facts and the law.
Congress should follow whichever path it thinks suitable toward impeachment, but it should not preclude the wheels of justice from turning through it's own legal course toward indictment and trial of an accused criminal. Each branch of government, the legislative and judicial, should take their own road toward justice.
c1998, William Westmiller
California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus
Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (24CD) Congress
Former National Secretary, California Chairman, Libertarian Party
impeach.c01 ~745 Words