News Release

Accountability and the Bush Administration

In a piece today, Editor & Publisher reports that Sean Penn “hit the media and called for impeachment of the president in receiving the 2006 Christopher Reeve First Amendment Award from The Creative Coalition Monday night in New York City.”

In his speech, Penn said: “Now, there’s been a lot of talk lately on Capitol Hill about how impeachment should be ‘off the table.’ We’re told that it’s time to look ahead — not back. … Can you imagine how far that argument would go for the defense at an arraignment on charges of grand larceny, or large-scale distribution of methamphetamines? How about the arranging of a contract killing on a pregnant mother? ‘Indictment should be off the table.’ Or ‘Let’s look forward, not backward.’ Or ‘We can’t afford another failed defendant.’

“Our country has a legal system, not of men and women, but of laws. Why then are we so willing to put inconvenient provisions of the U.S. constitution and federal law ‘off the table?’ … Unless we’re going to have one set of laws for the powerful and another set for those who can’t afford fancy lawyers, then truth matters to everyone. And accountability is a matter of human and legal principle.”

Penn’s remarks were first published at: The Huffington Post.

Two former prosecutors released comments this afternoon to the Institute for Public Accuracy about Penn’s speech and are available for interviews:

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN
Holtzman is a former Congresswoman and was the district attorney of Brooklyn; she was a member of the House panel that impeached Richard Nixon. Holtzman is co-author with Cynthia L. Cooper of the new book The Impeachment of George W. Bush: A Practical Guide for Concerned Citizens.

Holtzman said today: “Penn is right; the principle here is holding our leaders accountable for their actions under the law, just as citizens are held accountable under the law for theirs. There is plenty of evidence President Bush has committed what the Constitution calls ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ the remedy for which is impeachment. Congress needs to get the Constitutional machinery started, first by formally investigating the evidence, then executing the required procedures for impeachment and removal from office.”
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ELIZABETH DE LA VEGA
Elizabeth de la Vega served as a federal prosecutor in Minneapolis and San Jose for more than 20 years. She is author of the new book U.S. v. George W. Bush et. al.

De la Vega said today: “Sean Penn is absolutely correct in his call for accountability. ‘The law is no respecter of persons,’ meaning, of course, that both the protections and the obligations of our laws apply equally to plumbers, preachers and presidents — of corporations and of the United States. That is the bedrock principle of our justice system. Prosecutors who are trying to enforce the laws of our country will have a difficult task indeed if we allow the President and his senior administration to violate them at will, simply because our representatives, Democrats and Republicans alike, are more concerned about political strategy, however misguided, and protecting their power than about carrying out their sworn duty to oversee the Executive Branch.

“Even without having had hearings, we in the United States now have far more than enough evidence, based on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report, and other documents, to know that the President and his senior administration officials used all of the same techniques used by fraudsters everywhere to deceive the American people and Congress into authorizing an invasion of people 8,000 miles away who had not harmed us in any way and were not threatening to do so. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell and others suppressed material information, repeated half-truths, used artfully-worded misleading statements and asserted ‘facts’ with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity.

“Around this country every day, those who use such deceit to defraud people into making decisions they would not otherwise have made — purchases of swampland in the Everglades or unneeded house repairs — are prosecuted. Yet, in the case of the most egregious and horrific fraud imaginable, perpetrated by our highest elected officials, our Congress seems to have strategized itself into paralysis. In their obligation to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch, Congress stands in the shoes of law enforcement. We are calling 911 and we need them to respond.

“It is long past time for everyone who loves this country and who cares about the Constitution to be on their feet saying ‘I object!’ to the conduct of this President and his entire administration. This is not a radical position, nor is it a partisan one. On the contrary, it is a conservative and patriotic stance that shows deep reverence for the ideals and tenets that inform our legal system.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167