Reagan lawyer: Impeach Cheney

FEIN: IMPEACH CHENEY….As part of the Washington Post’s multi-part profile on Dick Cheney, Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, accused the Vice President of having made “monarchical claims” on power.

In an interesting Slate piece, Fein, a self-identified conservative, follows up on these concerns and explicitly calls for Cheney’s impeachment.

In grasping and exercising presidential powers, Cheney has dulled political accountability and concocted theories for evading the law and Constitution that would have embarrassed King George III. The most recent invention we know of is the vice president’s insistence that an executive order governing the handling of classified information in the executive branch does not reach his office because he also serves as president of the Senate. In other words, the vice president is a unique legislative-executive creature standing above and beyond the Constitution.

The House judiciary committee should commence an impeachment inquiry. As Alexander Hamilton advised in the Federalist Papers, an impeachable offense is a political crime against the nation. Cheney’s multiple crimes against the Constitution clearly qualify.

Fein presents quite an indictment, describing multiple “crimes,” including Cheney’s role in creating military commissions, initiating torture policies, authorizing legally-dubious “signing statements,” engineering the warrantless domestic surveillance program, and generally usurping the power of the presidency outside the standards of the 25th Amendment.

There’s nothing wrong with Fein’s argument, of course, but I’m not going to get my hopes up. Dems have a busy policy agenda, and this isn’t on it. What’s more, even if Dems went for Cheney impeachment, unless there are 67 votes in the Senate to remove the VP from office, Cheney, alas, isn’t going anywhere, scuttlebutt from Sally Quinn notwithstanding.

That said, defunding Cheney’s office is another matter entirely. Debate begins on Rahm Emaneul’s amendment in about 20 minutes.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.