John Podesta calls for impeaching Jay Bybee

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Head of Obama's transition team calls for Bybee impeachment

Raw Story April 26th, 2009

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee

Another voice has joined the chorus calling for federal judge and 'torture memo' author Jay Bybee to either resign or be impeached.

John Podesta, who oversaw Obama's transition team and was former president Clinton's chief of staff, said Sunday that "a simple matter would be to remove [Bybee] from office." Support for impeachment from Podesta, who heads the Center for American Progress Action, a think tank with close ties to the Obama administration, could foreshadow support for such a step from the president himself.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" program Sunday morning, Podesta said: "...[T]here is a distinction between going back and prosecuting in the criminal courts the actors who were involved in these memos and letting Judge Bybee continue to sit on a court one step removed from the Supreme Court. He's acting and listening to cases and making judgments of others, and we know that he authorized things that were illegal under U.S. law and violated the U.S. obligations under international treaties..."

The other panelists on the show, David Gergen and former Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein, disagreed with Podesta's call for impeachment; pressed by show host John King about whether the Obama administration would support impeachment proceedings, Podesta said "You'll have to ask them, but I suspect they don't."

Obama this week signaled his openness to the possibility of prosecutions of Bush officials who wrote legal opinions supporting torture, even while voicing his opposition to a special congressional investigation into the matter.

The Center for American Progress is petitioning for Bybee's impeachment; Podesta this morning sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), laying out the case for impeaching Bybee. The letter (PDF link), reprinted below, includes the names of nearly 20,000 people who have signed the petition.

On Tuesday, Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on Bybee to resign, while deferring to the House of Representatives on the question of impeachment. (Also on Tuesday, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) also suggested that the torture memos may provide "grounds for impeachment" of Bybee.) Under the Constitution, the House has the sole power to initiate impeachment proceedings.

The video below aired Sunday, April 26, on CNN's "State of the Union."

-Jeremy Gantz

Dear Chairman Conyers,

I am writing to ask you to consider holding impeachment hearings against 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee, should he decide not to voluntarily resign.

As you are well aware, Judge Bybee is the only architect of the Bush administration's torture program to currently hold public office.

A legal memorandum signed by Judge Bybee when he was the head of the Office of Legal Counsel and recently released by the Obama administration approved the use of cruel, inhuman, and degrading techniques, including waterboarding, slamming a detainee into a wall, depriving a detainee of sleep for up to eleven days at a time, and trapping a prisoner in a "confinement box" with insects in order to induce terror. The techniques endorsed by Judge Bybee's memoranda violated U.S. law and our commitments under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

On March 13, 2003, Judge Bybee was confirmed by a 74-19 vote in the Senate. During his Senate hearings, Mr. Bybee stonewalled the Judiciary Committee when asked about his role in national security matters. He said at the time, "As an attorney at the Department of Justice, I am obliged to keep confidential the legal advice that I provide to others in the executive branch." A number of Senators have now acknowledged that, had they known then what they now know, Judge Bybee would not have been confirmed.

Jay Bybee currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals, one level removed from the U.S. Supreme Court. He has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution. Yet, having issued opinions that violate the Constitution and concealed relevant aspects of his legal views and professional conduct from the Senate, Bybee has neither the legal nor moral authority to sit in judgment of others.

My organization, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, has collected signatures from approximately 20,000 Americans (see attached) who have expressed their deep-felt and sincere desire to see that Judge Bybee is held to account for authorizing torture. It is unacceptable to allow him to continue to serve in his current role. Judge Bybee should resign, but if he fails to do so, I urge you to begin impeachment proceedings against him.


John Podesta
President and CEO, Center for American Progress Action Fund

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