Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, presented a unique argument in today's House Judiciary Committee hearing: Plenty of other presidents engaged in impeachable conduct who were never impeached.
Addressing the Republican witness, law professor Jonathan Turley, Buck asked a series of rhetorical questions about bad actions by past presidents, from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama, that he argued rose to the level of impeachable based on the standards set by Democratic members.
Here’s a brief list of some of the arguably impeachable actions Buck listed:
“Lyndon Johnson directed the Central Intelligence Agency to place a spy in Barry Goldwater’s campaign.”
- The facts of this claim are in some dispute, but reporting out of the Senate Watergate committee in 1973 was that E. Howard Hunt, one of Richard Nixon’s infamous “plumbers” who plotted the Watergate burglary, told investigators he also spied on the 1964 Goldwater presidential campaign on behalf of Johnson’s White House. Hunt was a CIA employee at the time. In 1975, CIA director William Colby testified to Congress that spying on Goldwater’s campaign did take place but attributed the idea to a CIA officer.
“Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when he was president, directed the IRS to conduct audits of his political enemies. Namely Huey Long, William Randolph Hearst, Hamilton Fish, Father Coughlin.”
- There is evidence Roosevelt did use the IRS to investigate a number of his political opponents, some of whom were listed here by Buck.
“How about when President Kennedy directed his brother Robert Kennedy to deport one of his mistresses as an east German spy?”
- Ellen Rometsch was thought to be an East Germany spy when she was deported by John F. Kennedy’s Justice Department, headed by his brother Robert Kennedy, in 1963. There were also allegations she was a girlfriend of JFK, but that’s never been proven and Rometsch reportedly denied being both a spy and a Kennedy mistress.
“When Barack Obama directed, or made a finding that the Senate was in recess and appointed people to the National Labor Relations Board and lost 9-0, Ruth Bader Ginsburg voted against the President on this issue, would that be an abuse of power?”
- Obama’s 2012 recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were controversial at the time because the Senate had not recessed for long enough. Republicans argued the appointments were unconstitutional. The case made it to the Supreme Court after the DC Circuit Court ruled against Obama. The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
"How about when the President directed his national security adviser and the secretary of state to lie to the American people about whether the ambassador to Libya was murdered as a result of a video or was murdered as a result of a terrorist act?”
- This refers to the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. There is a dispute about why Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, publicly stated the attack was a spontaneous reaction to an inflammatory anti-Muslim online video when others in the administration had concluded the attack had been premeditated. There’s no evidence Obama directed Rice and Clinton to lie.
“How about when Abraham Lincoln arrested legislators in Maryland so they wouldn't convene to secede from the Union?”
- Federal troops did have orders to arrest pro-Confederate members of Maryland’s General Assembly during a special session in 1861 to consider secession, according to the Maryland state archives.