Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) announced that he will introduce a resolution tomorrow to censure President Bush for authorizing an illegal warrantless domestic surveillance program. Feingold said President Bush’s actions were “right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors.” Watch it:
UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist attacks Feingold over censure proposal: “I was hoping deep inside that the leadership in Iran”¦[was] not listening.”
UPDATE II: Feingold has issued a fact sheet on his censure resolution.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tomorrow in the Senate you’ll introduce a resolution to censure George W. Bush. Let me show it to our viewers. It says, “Resolved: that the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, President of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans.” That is a big step. Why are you taking it now?
FEINGOLD: It’s an unusual step. It’s a big step, but what the President did by consciously and intentionally violating the constitutional laws of this country with this illegal wiretapping has to be answered. There can be debate about whether the law should be changed. There can be debate about how best to fight terrorism. We all believe that there should be wiretapping in appropriate cases. But the idea that the President can just make up a law in violation of his oath of office has to be answered.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you know, the President says he was acting on his inherent authority under the Constitution, and even your resolution acknowledges that no federal court has ruled that a president does not have that authority as Commander in Chief, so aren’t you jumping the gun?
FEINGOLD: Not at all. You know, we’ve had a chance here for three months to look at whether there’s any legal basis for this, and they’re using shifting legal justifications. First they try to argue that somehow, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, they can do this. It’s pretty clear that they can’t. Then there’s the argument that somehow the military authorization for Afghanistan allowed this. This has basically been laughed out of the room in the Congress. So the last resort is to somehow say that the President has inherent authority to ignore the law of the United States of America, and that has the consequence that the President could even order the assassination of American citizens if that’s the law. So there is no sort of independent inherent authority that allows the president to override the laws passed by the Congress of the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you’re so convinced that the President has broken the law, why not file an article of impeachment?
FEINGOLD: Well, you know, that’s an option we could look at, if somebody thought that was a really good idea. There are other options out there. In fact, this conduct is right in the strike zone — even though the Founding Fathers didn’t have strike zones, they didn’t have baseball — but it is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors. We have to consider, is it best for the country to start impeachment proceedings? Is it best for the country to consider removing the President? We’re not mandated to impeach a president who has broken the law, but I think we are required to do our job, to live up to our oath of office, and say, wait a minute, there has to be — at least as a first step — some accountability. Proper accountability is a censuring of the President, to say, “Mr. President, acknowledge you broke the law, return to the law, return to our system of government.” That’s what I think we should do.