Saturday, August 04, 2018

Impeachment Petition

Note: Accidentally came upon this document today. While still a federal official I presented this Petition to members of the U.S. House of Representatives in October 1973 urging the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. I just barely remember doing it. It seemed worth republishing in this way. One can read it looking for the similarities with what could be the content of a similar document regarding President Donald Trump. Moreover, it's timely: August 9th we commemorate the 44th anniversary of President Nixon's resignation. -- N.J., August 4, 2018.

A Petition to the House of Representatives Regarding the Impeachment of
President Richard M. Nixon
Federal Communications Commissioner Nicholas Johnson

October 29, 1973

In the course of history of men and nations there are times when citizens must take a stand.

The tumultuous, exciting experiment called the United States of America has brought a number of decision points to its citizens. The Declaration of Independence of our colonies from England was one of the first and hardest choices we had to make as a people. Each war—the Revolution, Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Southeast Asian War—has called for a personal commitment of support, or opposition, from each citizen. And so today, as we ponder the initiation of impeachment proceedings against our President, must each American man, woman—and, yes, even child—ponder the facts and issues as he or she is best able, and come to some judgment.

It is crucial to our decision that we understand what we are, and what we are not, called upon to judge at this time. A conviction following the impeachment of the President—that is, his removal from office, or not, based upon findings by the United States Senate as to his guilt or innocence of charges—is not the issue at this time. Presidents are no more beneath the protections of the law than they are above its prohibitions; President Nixon is entitled to the same presumption of "innocent-until-proven-guilty" as any other citizen.

No, the only question that is now before the American people—and it is they who are the ultimate actors in this drama—is whether the House of Representatives should send to the Senate for trial the allegations against the President regarding the constitutional grounds for impeachment: "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” To borrow an analogy from our more conventional court proceedings, we are not sitting as a jury deciding guilt or innocence; we are merely sitting as a grand jury, deciding whether or not to indict and bring to trial. [President Richard Nixon departing White House August 9, 1974, following resignation; photo credit: U.S. Government; public domain.]

Prejudgments of guilt or innocence should no more frighten us into motionless inaction than should outrage propel us to judgment.

If ever there was a time to put aside partisan considerations, this is such a time. And I believe that, to the extent partisanship has been evident on these issues, it may have been evidenced in the reluctance of Congressional Democrats as much as Republicans. it is charged that some Democrats may have hesitated to act because the polls did not yet indicate majority support for a conviction of impeachment, that others may be fearful they will be charged with precipitate and partisan action, and that all are mindful of the political disadvantages of running a Democratic nominee against an incumbent Republican President in 1976.

I must admit that I am not free of fault on this score. Richard Nixon's political career has been a part of my consciousness for 25 years. During the course of his Presidency, I have detailed some of the offenses that we must now consider in evaluating the propriety of House hearings—his manipulation of the media, the role of big money, and the war in Camobdla. [2] The evidence regarding the conduct of President Nixon's 1972 Presidential campaign has been available to all of us for over a year. The uproar following the resignations and firings in the Department of Justice the weekend of October 20, 1973 was the moment of decisions for millions of Americans. Through all these events I have remained silent.

I can no longer.

As a Presidential appointee [3] and currently active federal official, I recognize the seriousness of this action. But I also recognize the seriousness of continued silence, that “not to decide is to decide.”

Accordingly, I am today sending a copy of this statement to members of the House of Representatives, urging them to support the prompt initiation of House proceedings regarding the allegations of impeachable conduct by President Richard M. Nixon. I am simultaneously urging those of my fellow citizens who share my views to write their Representatives.

It seems both appropriate and necessary that the reasons for my action be set forth.

It is with deliberation that this decision, and statement, have been delayed until the “resolution" of the tapes issue; because, in my view, the allegations compelling House action on Presidential impeachment are unaffected by the events and issues surrounding the tapes. And it has been my desire to present the case without the diversionary complications of that issue.

In the flashing headlines surrounding burglaries, buggings, bribery, and break-ins, the most serious allegations have often been shadowed or ignored. it seems to me useful to review them here.

War. President Nixon ordered a land invasion of the sovereign state of Cambodia by American troops in May 1970 without the Constitutionally-required approval of Congress, and in violation of Cambodia's neutrality, as recognized by principles of international law and the United Nations which the United States is pledged to support. Even prior to that time, he authorized a secret bombing war against Cambodia which was undisclosed and overtly misrepresented to the American people, the press, members of the Senate and House, and even the civilian officials of the Department of Defense.

Free Press. President Nixon has waged a systematic campaign against the news media, including, but not limited to, the subpoenaing of newsmen's notes and films, wiretapping of Washington correspondents, the unprecedented effort to enforce "prior restraint" of publication (the Pentagon Papers), the jailing of newsmen, fraudulent FBI investigations of newsmen (the Daniel Schorr case), frightening non-complaint networks and stations with ominous recriminations (while promising economic protectionism for good behavior), attempting to control the lyrics of popular songs, and trying to influence the funding, programming, personnel, and administration of the Public Broadcasting Corporation.

Impoundment. The degree to which President Nixon has used the impoundment process to defy the authority of Congress to fund legislative programs is unprecedented—over 640 billion for health care, housing for the needy, assistance for children of working mothers, and the handicapped.

Electoral interference. During President Nixon's 1972 campaign there were violations of federal law in the collection and illegal use of campaign funds; a list of “enemies” was compiled for purposes of harassment by the Internal Revenue Services; fraud, espionage, libel, burglary, wiretapping, extortion, false reporting, bribery, and perjury were designed to—and very probably did—have an Impact (whether or not decisive) upon the outcome of that election.

Use of Government Property. Unanswered questions remain regarding the use of government funds to improve private homes in California and Florida—as well as the private financial and tax transactions involving the acquisition of those properties.

Invasion of Privacy. Widespread use of wiretapping (including the wiretapping of his own employees), the secret taping of his own conversations with others, the investigations and spying on private citizens, the maintenance of dossiers on civilians by the military, all indicate a less than full commitment to the letter and spirit of the privacy guarantees of the Fourth Amendment. The President's July 23, 1970 approval of the interdepartmental intelligence project (subsequently abandoned at FBI Director Hoover’s insistence) and the 1971 creation of a special investigative unit (“the plumbers”), indicates an affirmative intention to violate such rights.

Legal Procedures. While Daniel Ellsberg was on trial, White House aides burglarized his psychiatrist’s office for possible evidence, and discussed with the Judge presiding over that trial his possible Directorship of the FBI. In May 1971 over 13,000 people were arrested in a Washington dragnet, on direct orders of the White House, and in a manner subsequently found by the courts to have been unconstitutional. Having agreed to abide by a court ruling regarding his tapes, the President subsequently refused to either appeal from, or comply with, a lawful order of the Court of Appeals—a position from which he subsequently retreated. Grand juries have been urged to return politically motivated indictments.

Intelligence Independence. There is evidence that the President and his aides sought to subvert the independence of the FBI and CIA, using those agencies to serve their own illegal, personal, and political ends.

Bribery. The evidence is not yet fully complied regarding the relationship between the $60 million that was collected for the President's 1972 campaign and every governmental decision that may have been influenced thereby. Sufficient facts have already come to light, however, to suggest that there were at least some instances in which “bribery" may have taken place for which the American people are now paying the high price of a government-ordered “inflation” of "regulated” prices.

Many of these items are, at this point, only allegations that may be proven to be false. They are, however, illustrative of the "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" referred to in Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution as grounds for Impeachment.

it is precisely because of—and not in spite of—my patriotism that I believe these charges cannot be Ignored. My childhood was not so different from that of Richard Nixon. I, too, made an early commitment to public life, to study and participate in government, politics, law and law enforcement. I, too, was active in student government from the time of my grade school years. I, too, have participated in party politics throughout my adult life (though in much lesser roles than he). I, too, keep a flag in my office, and can sing the national anthem with the best of them. I, too, have studied the lives of our great American leaders, and have had the privilege of feeling the personal influence and inspiration of some of them—in my case, men like Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black and President Lyndon B. Johnson. I too, have served the federal government during the past decade.

And so I can say that it is precisely because I do love America, because I have a commitment to the genius of its Idea that is sentimental as well as intellectual, personal as well as professional, pragmatic as well as Idealistic, that I cannot sit by silently and watch its decline and fall.

Without a commitment to our Constitution, without a defense of our dream, without the inspiration of our Ideals, America is nothing but another authoritarian industrialized state with rapacious rich and ravaged poor, freeways and factories, and neon signs amongst the natural beauty.

We cannot say “politics has been ever thus.” That is simply not true. The Presidents of my lifetime—Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson—may not have been paragons of virtue in every aspect of their lives. But I take pride in the fact that the cumulative allegations against all of them combined do not equal in seriousness the significance of any one of the nine categories of charges I have itemized regarding President Nixon.

We owe it to those who look to us for leadership to assert unequivocally that the past few years have not been "business as usual” in the land of Jefferson and Lincoln, that the lamp of liberty still burns bright from the Statue of Liberty to the eternal flame in Arlington Cemetery. We owe it to the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free” who look to us from across the seas, we owe it to our children—before the sparkle of youthful hope and Idealism turns forever to the hard, cold stare of cynical despair. And, not least of all, we owe it to ourselves— those of us in “the establishment,” the opinion leaders, the captains of industry, the educators, the ministers, the officials—who, If we are to lead, must feel of ourselves that we are fit to lead.

For America never promised the world it would be perfect. We are a bustling, brawling, boisterous people. We have a history of more materialism than is good for us, and more wars than have been good for anybody. All we have ever guaranteed is that "all men are created equal” and that no one would be bored. And, with occasional backsliding, we’ve struggled to make good on those promises.

We never said our Presidents, judges, and legislators would be free of fault. indeed, the genius of our system of government is that it quite candidly creates checks and balances to deal with fault. Our leaders are not figures descended from royalty, gods or angels who “can do no wrong.” They are quite human, "of, by and for the people,” with all the strengths and weaknesses of the other mortals they serve and represent.

Thus, the great shame of the actions leading to the charges against President Nixon has not yet come. That the charges have surfaced, that the press has reported them, that the Senate and courts have investigated them, should be a matter of greatest national pride. No, the great shame will come to our nation If, and only If, knowing the charges, the House of Representatives refuses to act.

And so I conclude as I began. It is not my judgment that the President should be convicted after a trial. Under our Constitution, it is the United States Senate that will hear that case and consider the question. And just as all American citizens now sit as an advisory panel to the House, so will we then all sit as judges with the Senate. The only issue before us now is whether the facts, charges, and allegations I have summarily outlined here are sufficient cause for the House to send the matter to the Senate. That they require such action seems to me clear beyond doubt—although I expressly reserve judgment on whether the President should be removed from office following his Senate trial.

It is encouraging and commendable that the House judiciary Committee has begun hearings. I urge every Member to support the efforts of that Committee and to expedite the transmission of this case to the Senate, where it belongs.


1. The text of this petition was taken from Congressional Record, October 31, 1973
[]. The heading was:
Wednesday, October 31, 1973
Mr. DRINAN. Mr. Speaker, all of us are aware of the achievements of Nicholas Johnson, a distinguished Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission. Mr. Johnson has taken the very bold and brave step of speaking out before the House of Representatives on the subject of an impeachment inquiry of the President of the United States. I am hopeful that my colleagues will read carefully Commissioner Johnson's petition to the House of Representatives regarding the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon. The petition follows:
2. For example, "Government by Television: A Case Study, Perspectives and Proposals," Earth (March 1971), pp. 50-69, 92-93; "Subpoenas, Outtakes and Freedom of the Press: An Appeal to Media Management," reprinted as "Stations Are Standing By While News is Threatened,” Television/Radio Age (April 6. 1970), pp. 69. 114, 116, 118, 120, 124, 126. 128. 132; “Dear Vice President Agnew," The New York Times, Oct. 11, 1970, p. D-17; “The Power of the People and the Obligation to Dissent,” Los Angeles Free Press (May 29, 1970). p. 15; "Evil Times and Great Wealth,” speech delivered at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Oct. 15, 1973.

3. July 1, 1966, by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, not President Richard Nixon.

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