A Brief History of GOP Calls for Obama’s Impeachment, From Benghazi to Bergdahl

Allen West is hardly alone.

Rep. Allen West talks to reporters while flanked by his fellow house republican freshman about an extension to the payroll tax cuts, in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011.
National Journal
Emma Roller
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Emma Roller
June 3, 2014, 9:50 a.m.

Al­len West wants Pres­id­ent Obama to be im­peached over the Taliban pris­on­er swap.

In a blog post titled, “The case for im­peach­ment of Barack Hus­sein Obama,” the Flor­ida Re­pub­lic­an and former con­gress­man wrote that ex­chan­ging “trait­or” Army Sgt. Bowe Ber­g­dahl for five Afghan Taliban mem­bers should be an im­peach­able of­fense.

After sup­posedly go­ing AWOL, Ber­g­dahl was cap­tured by the Taliban and held in Afgh­anistan for five years. The five seni­or Taliban mem­bers who were re­leased had been de­tained at Guantanamo Bay, and will now spend an­oth­er year in Qatar. (As a re­fresh­er, un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion, the pres­id­ent may be im­peached for “treas­on, bribery, or oth­er high crimes and mis­de­mean­ors.”)

“Why would the United States ac­qui­esce to the de­mands of a non-state, nonuni­form ter­ror­ist or­gan­iz­a­tion — the Taliban? The Taliban is our en­emy and it is not a na­tion-state with whom we should enter in­to ne­go­ti­ations,” West wrote on Tues­day. “Ladies and gen­tle­men, I sub­mit that Barack Hus­sein Obama’s uni­lat­er­al ne­go­ti­ations with ter­ror­ists and the en­su­ing re­lease of their key lead­er­ship without con­sult — man­dated by law — with the U.S. Con­gress rep­res­ents high crimes and mis­de­mean­ors, an im­peach­able of­fense.”

Back in 2010, Jonath­an Chait pre­dicted that by the end of Obama’s second term, the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives would vote to im­peach him. “Wait, you say. What will they im­peach him over?” Chait wrote. “You can al­ways find something. Mini-scan­dals break out reg­u­larly in Wash­ing­ton.”

The Ber­g­dahl af­fair (and West’s as­ser­tion that it’s an im­peach­able of­fense) is the latest it­er­a­tion of these “mini-scan­dals.” The dif­fer­ence is that, un­like the scan­dal sur­round­ing Benghazi and the IRS’s per­ceived polit­ic­al tar­get­ing, this presents an on­go­ing threat. If one of the re­leased Taliban op­er­at­ives were to be­come in­volved in a fu­ture ter­ror­ist at­tack, that’s when it evolves in­to a full-grown, adult scan­dal.

Here’s a short run­down of oth­er White House scan­dals (or “scan­dals”) that have led Re­pub­lic­ans to call for Obama’s im­peach­ment (and for the full list, Wiki­pe­dia has you covered):

Few things get tea-party con­ser­vat­ives’ blood boil­ing faster than Benghazi, the IRS scan­dal, and the Af­ford­able Care Act. But it’s not just middle-class Joes at tea-party ral­lies who get ex­er­cised about the idea of im­peach­ing the pres­id­ent. Last week, McKay Cop­pins wrote about up­per-crust con­ser­vat­ives’ ef­forts to join the Im­peach Obama move­ment. At a tony event at the Har­vard Club in Man­hat­tan, elite con­ser­vat­ives cel­eb­rated the re­lease of a new book titled Faith­less Ex­e­cu­tion: Build­ing the Polit­ic­al Case For Obama’s Im­peach­ment.

The book’s au­thor, An­drew Mc­Carthy (a former fed­er­al pro­sec­utor), does not dir­ectly ar­gue for ac­tu­ally im­peach­ing Obama. In­stead, Cop­pins wrote, he “makes a more sub­dued ar­gu­ment; that Obama has ab­used his of­fice, and that act­ively threat­en­ing im­peach­ment is the best way for Con­gress to reign in the powers of the ex­ec­ut­ive branch.”

In this way, Re­pub­lic­ans can con­cede that im­peach­ing Obama is an un­likely scen­ario — but they’re good at stay­ing on mes­sage non­ethe­less.

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