Magazine article Insight on the News

Damn the Protocols! Investigate - and Pronto

Magazine article Insight on the News

Damn the Protocols! Investigate - and Pronto

Article excerpt

As we've said in this space before, the Constitution has conferred upon the House of Representatives and the Senate certain authorities and powers that cannot be abrogated. These, in turn, have created congressional responsibility and accountability on behalf of the American people.

Now come allegations that the president of the United States may have committed adultery, perjury, subornation of perjury and obstruction of justice -- and then lied to the world about it. These are serious charges that create an aura of mistrust about his moral, political, ethical and legal leadership.

Trust is important. Democrats were thrown out of power in both houses of Congress three years ago because their moral, political, ethical and legal problems created a perception of betrayal. Leadership and trust were shifted to the Republicans.

The Republican Party now stands at a historic crossroads beyond which it either will secure a long-term majority or see the balance of power shifted back to Democrats. This is a pivotal year. And to hold the GOP majority in the Congress, Republicans on Capitol Hill must recall their own experience during the Watergate scandals and do the right thing.

What is needed is a joint fact-finding committee to exonerate or expose the latest allegations of presidential misbehavior that have created the current crisis of trust. We are not suggesting a joint panel of impeachment -- the Constitution leaves impeachment to the House and trial to the Senate. That may come later.

But now is the time to set aside protocols of decorum that long have shielded the executive branch from a thorough probe of alleged malfeasance, ethical lapses, criminal behavior and moral turpitude. Congress must do the following:

* Create a special joint and bipartisan committee to find the facts.

* Invest this special committee with full subpoena authority.

* Command the chairman of the special committee to depose and otherwise call under oath every member of the White House staff (including past employees during this administration), every special agent of the U.S. Secret Service with responsibility for presidential protection, every uniformed officer of the U.S. Secret Service assigned to such duty, every person who has worked or otherwise "volunteered" within the Executive Office of the President and every detailee such as FBI or military personnel who has seen White House duty during the Clinton years.

* Set a time limit of, say, six months and provide whatever resources might be called upon to support such an investigation. …

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