Times Reporter Forgets That Gonzales is Impeachable

I spotted a real howler in this morning's NY Times, and emailed the following request for a correction:

In “On a Very Hot Seat With Little Cover and Less Support” Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes,

“Congress has no power to remove the attorney general”

[URL]

This is not accurate. The Constitution provides a mechanism by which all civil officers of the United States can be removed by Congress. It is called impeachment. Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution specifies that “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The Congress has only used this power against a Cabinet member once — William W. Belknap, secretary of war, was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate in 1876 — but the power unquestionably exists.

While this may seem a small matter, to a law professor, and I'd imagine any lawyer, it's a pretty big one. It may even matter politically.

Please run a correction in the print edition (I spotted the error in the print version) and append a fix to the online version.

Thank you.

Don't reporters who cover the federal government have to know the Constitution?

Oh well, Stollberg is still better than Elisabeth Bumiller whom Stollberg replaced on the White House beat.

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9 Responses to Times Reporter Forgets That Gonzales is Impeachable

  1. Joe says:

    Did the Times re-hire Jason Blair? As a Maryland graduate, he probably knew that government officials could be impeached.

  2. Hawthoren says:

    Hmmm…. guess it depends on one’s view of the “Constitution” in the real world.

    For example under that constitution, the President absolutely can not suspend Habeas Corpus — but obviously he has done just that. NY Times reporters & Law professors mildly tsk-tsk about it … but don’t march on the White House, or lose any sleep over it.

    In the real world, there is zero chance that Congress will impeach the AG (… nor the president, nor any other official). Perhaps NY Times reporters quite well understand the practical impact of the Constitution on Potomac Federal processes.

  3. Brett says:

    Is this error the result of (a) carelessness or (b) a background presumption of expansive executive power, or (c) both? I’m sure there are other options.

  4. KarenMcL says:

    Yeah I caught that *slip-up* too. But I’m more bothered that some Senators (like Arlen Specter) don’t seem to know their obligations, duties or the Constitution either! *fey* or WHAT they can do to get new leadership and restore the confidence of the public in the Office of the Attorney General of the United States…by removing Abu Gonzo.

  5. KarenMcL says:

    Yeah I caught that *slip-up* too. But I’m more bothered that some Senators (like Arlen Specter) don’t seem to know their obligations, duties or the Constitution either! *fey* or WHAT they can do to get new leadership and restore the confidence of the public in the Office of the Attorney General of the United States…by removing Abu Gonzo.

  6. BroD says:

    Actually, it sounds like a damn good idea to me–we’ve got to start somewhere.

  7. Phill says:

    Not only does Congress have the power to impeach, it is difficult to see how a claim of executive privilege could be made in an impeachment proceeding. The Constitution gives Congress the power to hold impeachment procedings against the executive branch, end of story.

    In practice it is virtually impossible to impeach a Cabinet officer other than the President or Vice President for one simple reason, they are going to resign or be fired long before the impeachment gets to the Senate. Belknap would have been convicted if he hadn’t already resigned.

    Another tactic that the Democrats could use here is to simply impeach Gonzalez and drag the trial out for month after month, scheduling hearings sporadically, a day here and there. They certainly have the power to ensure that Gonzalez does not get the opportunity for any further damage even if thay can’t find the supermajority required to convict.

    Given the Belknap precedent the Democrats could continue the trial even if Gonzalez did resign. The advantage for the Democrats being the trumping of any and all claims of executive privilege. In effect the impeachment trial of Gonzalez would become the first installment of the Bush-Cheney impeachment trial.

    All of which is why the Bushies simply cannot keep Gonzalez or for that matter any cabinet officer in the government if there is a realistic prospect of impeachment. It starts a much more dangerous clock for the Bushies.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful. It’s nice to know that we have reporters on the Washington beat who couldn’t pass eighth-grade civics…

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