Posted on Thursday, December 08, 2011 1:56:39 PM by jiggyboy
Article II of the Constitution grants Congress the power to impeach “the president, the vice president and all civil officers of the United States.” The phrase “civil officers” includes the members of the cabinet (one of whom, Secretary of War William Belknap, was impeached in 1876).
A cabinet officer, like a judge or a president, may be impeached only for commission of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But as the Nixon and Clinton impeachment debates reminded us, that constitutional phrase embraces not only indictable crimes but “conduct … grossly incompatible with the office held and subversive of that office and of our constitutional system of government.”
An attorney general called before Congress to discuss the workings of the Justice Department can claim the protection of “executive privilege” and, if challenged, can defend the (doubtful) legitimacy of such a claim in the courts. But having elected to testify, he has no right to lie, either by affirmatively misrepresenting facts or by falsely claiming not to remember events.
The real question is whether Republicans and Democrats are prepared to defend the constitutional authority of Congress against the implicit claim of an administration that it can do what it pleases and, when called to account, send an attorney general of the United States to Capitol Hill to commit amnesia on its behalf.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com …