Sheehan, activists booted from Judiciary hearing
Update: Veteran, other activists kicked out of hearing
At several points in Friday's Judiciary Committee sort-of-almost-not-really impeachment hearing, members of the audience erupted in applause after one of the dozen-plus witnesses delivered a particularly incendiary indictment of President Bush.
The committee's Republicans were none too amused by these displays, and they whined several times that such outbursts were inappropriate. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the committee's ranking member, at one point asked Chairman John Conyers to clear the hearing room after one particularly rousing ovation from Code Pink activists. They were responding as author Vincent Bugliosi outlined his case that the Justice Department should bring first degree murder charges against the president for illegally invading Iraq.
Conyers decided not to boot the boisterous activists from the room, but he did remind the entire audience to refrain from any demonstrations of approval or disapproval of the proceedings. Less than an hour later, Bugliosi, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor who recently wrote The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, fired up the crowd again.
"By taking this nation into war on a lie, all of the killings of American soldiers in Iraq became unlawful killings, and therefore murders,” Bugliosi said.
Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan had been sitting in the crowd, and she shouted, "Thank you Vince."
Conyers seemed flustered, reminding Sheehan and others that some "members are urging me to take more action than merely reminding our audience," before trying to move on to the next witness.
"I urge you to take action," said Sheehan, who is among the most visible activists pushing for impeachment. After losing her son in the Iraq war, Sheehan became famous for her roadside vigil outside Bush's Crawford ranch in the summer of 2005, and she has mounted a long-shot bid to unseat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in this year's election.
"OK then, Sheehan, you're out," Conyers said, but the northern California native was already on her way out the door.
"I’m going," she said. "Good-bye."
Later in the hearing, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) complained about "the fifth time there's been a reaction" when no response from the audience could be heard.
"You have ppl in the audience who have signs that are inappropriate to be here, and I wish the chairman would have the rules of the House respected and enforced," King groaned.
Conyers instructed committee staff and Capitol police officers to "ask anyone with such signs to either remove them or leave the hearing room from this point on."
This request kicked off more than three minutes of disruption and commotion as blue-clad police officers entered the crowd to escort out a man wearing camouflage fatigues and an button with an anti-war button.
"Your hassling a veteran for wearing a pin? That's an outrage!" another spectator shouted, before escorting himself from the hearing room.
Another woman in a pink T-shirt started to leave before declaring that she had done nothing wrong and retaking her seat. A Capitol Police officer tried to grab her and force her from the room before abandoning the effort and letting her stay.
King at one point implored the Congress to simply recess the hearing if he was unable to obtain order. With all the abuse the Republican president was taking throughout the day, perhaps this request had a dual motive.
This video is from C-SPAN, broadcast July 25, 2008.
This video is from Nick Juliano.