By Ray McGovern, January 10, 2019
If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi trashes the Constitution by not allowing Jerold Nadler, D, NY, chair of the Judiciary Committee, to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, the Constitution will become, in effect, what George W. Bush called it in 2005 — “just a goddamned piece of paper.”
The crucible is now — today, when it appears likely that Trump will declare a state of emergency to usurp the sole authority given to Congress to appropriate funds — all of this simply to satisfy his Captain-Ahab obsession to build a wall on the southern border.
Pelosi is not a profile in courage. She chickened out when the Democrats won back the House in 2006. She would not allow impeachment for reasons both crassly political and personal.
After the life of Casey Sheehan, peace activist Cindy Sheehan’s son was squandered in Iraq early in the war and Cindy insisted that Bush explain the “noble cause” for which Casey died, then-Congressman John Conyers, D, Michigan, offered her more sympathy than many of his colleagues did. After Conyers regained his chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee, he agreed to meet Cindy in July 2007.
Cindy got permission to include Rev. Lennox Yearwood and me at the meeting in Conyers’s office in the Rayburn Building. It turned out to be a very instructive experience, the upshot of which seems likely to re-occur today as President Donald Trump abuses the Constitution in as flagrant way as imaginable. Consortium News published my account of that meeting. https://www.consortiumnews.com/2007/072407a.html It may be worth a re-read.
After we congratulated Conyers on winning back his chairmanship, we suggested that he start the process of impeaching then-President Bush. We were astonished that he seemed taken aback that we would suggest such a thing. His first reason for inaction was a suggestion that he would not be able to get the votes in the House. We thought that was bogus, and I said so.
Conyers then proceeded to explain what he said was the real reason: “Nancy [Pelosi] has ruled out impeachment.” When we asked why, Conyers explained “Nancy says that if we appear divisive, Fox News will have a field day, and we Democrats will not win as big in the next election.”
I reminded Conyers that the Founders anticipated that a president could well start acting like a king, and to prevent that they mentioned the orderly political process of impeachment no fewer than six times in the Constitution. And I shocked Conyers’s four lawyers in the room by saying, “Mr. Conyers, it is your duty as head of the Judiciary Committee to begin to impeach. You will find it easy to get the votes.”
It was immediately clear that people are not supposed to talk like that to a committee chair. When we refused to leave his office, he called the Capitol Police and we were quickly arrested. I insisted on being arraigned; it is the only time I have been convicted; I am proud to tell my grandchildren about it.
In retrospect, it was an important juncture. War criminals Bush, Cheney, and the others responsible for what the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal branded “the supreme international crime,” a war of aggression, with its “accumulated evil” (think torture, for example) were to be let off scot free so the Democrats could “win bigger” in the next election.
I was surprised not only at Speaker Pelosi’s justification for failing to discharge her duty to the Constitution, but also that Conyers would nonchalantly instruct us on that political reality, as though we would surely understand. All that was quite bad enough.
Pelosi’s Personal Reasons
When I shared our Conyers encounter with those in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity who had been senior officials at the National Security Agency, they smiled and told me that I did not know the half of it. They reminded me that the CIA and NSA have the book on Nancy Pelosi — and, of course, not only on her. Their procedure is to write up memoranda of conversation immediately after briefing the two top members of the intelligence “oversight” committees and also the two top members of the House and Senate leadership.
You are unlikely to see it in the New York Times, but it is on the record that she was briefed early not only on the massive illegal surveillance of American citizens but also on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The Deep State can always pull those memcons out of the file, leak them to the media, and destroy the reputations and political careers of people like Pelosi whom they cleverly render complicit.
In May of 2009, with Barack Obama as president and disclosures about torture hot and heavy, Pelosi held a press conference in which she claimed that the intelligence people “mislead us all the time.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYwZa8jvNp4 Her body language shows better than words can convey that she had guilty knowledge of the torture techniques and that she did not demur. As the video clip shows, she utterly failed to overcome the skepticism of those in attendance.
Blackmail potential remains for the CIA, NSA, or the FBI to put into play as they see fit. So does the fear of appearing “divisive.” What will Nancy Pelosi feel it is politically and personally wise to do at this key juncture, with the very Constitution at stake? We should know soon.
Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A CIA analyst for 27 years, in January 2003, he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and remains on its Steering Group.