Ellison Says Principles Are Behind Effort to Impeach Cheney


Ellison cites Cheney’s abuses of power as reason to impeach.

Some people say the attempt to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney isn’t anything more than a charade by far-left Democrats.

That’s not the case for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who gets animated about the subject. The freshman Democrat from Minneapolis has joined a dozen or so lawmakers as co-sponsors of a bill to impeach Cheney for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The alleged crimes are yet to be spelled out by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who sponsored the bill late last month. But Ellison accuses Cheney of “abusing his power…and abstracting information.”

Ellison cites two instances in which Cheney classified his role differently each time.

In 2001, Cheney fended off a congressional inquiry into the inner workings of his energy task force, claiming that doing so “would unconstitutionally interfere with the functioning of the executive branch.”

This year, the vice president, dubbed by some as the most powerful in U.S. history, refused to file national security documents with the national archive, saying that his office is not an “entity within the executive branch.”

“If that’s not abuse of power,” said Ellison in an interview with Minnesota Monitor, “I don’t know what is.”

Asked if an impeachment effort is practical and worth his energy, Ellison said: “I didn’t sign on to it for reasons of practicality. It’s about principles and holding [Cheney] accountable for his actions.”

Still, few expect the impeachment effort to gain enough traction.

“I understand how unpopular [Cheney] has become, but that’s no basis for impeachment,” said Michael J. Gerhardt, professor of law at North Carolina State University who testified before Congress as an expert witness on impeachment. “You have to make both political and constitutional calculations. Even the political calculations are not right now in favor of moving forward on it. I don’t think there’s much taste for it in Congress.”

President Bush’s recent decision to commute the sentence of Scooter Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff, “broke the camel’s back for me,” said Ellison. “Cheney had everything to do with that decision.”

Asked why not impeach President Bush then, Ellison said, “I haven’t ruled that out, though I haven’t ruled it in either. I just haven’t addressed it yet.”