The US Constitution says, "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."
There is a long list of Charges, including lying to Congress and the UN, torture, rejecting the Geneva Conventions and Habeas Corpus, vindictive misuse of official power, and so on. But the main idea is to restore the Constitution, and stop the Republican Reign of Fear. And incompetence.
The House Democratic leadership gives several excuses for not pursuing impeachment, none of which qualifies as a reason.
- It's too late. Ah, so we should have started over a year ago. That works. But what, then, about preparing the ground for the criminal trials to take place after the next election? What about preventing such shenanigans in future? If not now, when?
- There is no Republican support for impeachment. There wasn't for impeaching Nixon, either, until the evidence started to come out in quantity.
- There are too many other things to do. An excuse that could be applied to anything Congress is considering doing, and in many cases should be.
- Democrats are afraid of Republicans. For shame.
- It would interfere with the Democrats' chances in the coming elections. Bush and Cheney are below 20% approval. How would impeachment help McCain, or any of the other Republican candidates for Federal or State offices? A lot of people expect that impeachment would increase Democratic turnout and bring in more swing voters. What, are they going to claim that it's a power grab by Nancy Pelosi? Did the Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton give impeachment such a bad odor that Democrats can't bring themselves to touch it when it is actually needed?
It is said that when you have definitely decided to do something, any reason is good. That's what the Bush Administration does all the time. Is this the best the Democrats can come up with in response?
Given the amount of public trashing of the Constitution that the Bush Administration does, and brags about, we don't really even need hearings. But the political process demands that we begin with hearings, or possibly with hearings on having hearings, as Rep. Zoe Lofgren has proposed.
The House can vote any number of articles of impeachment by a simple majority. If the President, Vice President, or any Cabinet officers are impeached in the House, the case goes to the Senate for trial. It takes a two-thirds vote for any single article to convict the person impeached. Removal from office is automatic on conviction of impeachment, and the Senate can further bar the person from ever holding elected or appointed office in the US Federal government again.
None of this will happen, however, without sufficient public pressure to give House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers political cover for going against Speaker Nancy Pelosi's order to take impeachment off the table. He wants to, but he says you have to make him do it.
Can the new President pardon Bush & Cheney?Edit
Not on the impeachment (removal from office, and being barred from holding office in future). A new President could pardon them in advance or after a trial, or commute any sentences imposed, for any criminal charges that could be brought after a successful impeachment. The President cannot let anybody off penalties from civil trials.
President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon for criminal offenses, but not for impeachment, since he couldn't, and in any case Nixon resigned rather than face certain impeachment and conviction.
- If Bush were impeached and convicted by himself, Cheney would become President, and get to appoint a Vice President of his choosing, with the advice and consent of the Senate.
- If Cheney were impeached and convicted by himself, Bush would get to appoint a new Vice President, much as Nixon did when replacing Spiro Agnew with Gerald Ford.
- If both were impeached and convicted at the same time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become President in accordance with the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 (3 U.S.C. § 19).
Congress and the new Administration will have to undo the damage as best they can, and pass explicit laws against doing such things again, although the War Powers Act enacted after Johnson and Nixon did not prevent Bush's rush to war in Iraq.