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Rangel Threatens Articles of Impeachment Against Rumsfeld

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), a lead critic of the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq, said Thursday that he will seek Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s impeachment if the administration’s chief war planner does not resign amid Congressional outrage over the Pentagon’s handling of charges of prison abuse by U.S. soldiers.

“I think that this rises to the point that it’s a high crime and misdemeanor if he disappointed the president, kept information from the Congress and kept this information from the American people,” Rangel said on the House floor. “I’m preparing articles of impeachment today.”

In a brief interview, Rangel, who is not yet seeking co-sponsors for the effort, offered a sheet of paper listing 10 prospective charges against the Defense secretary, including the allegation that he “contributed to an atmosphere of lawlessness” that permitted the abuses to take place, and that he “abdicated his role” as Defense chief in allowing such a breakdown in discipline.

“As a result of his malfeasance the Secretary of Defense has offended and embarrassed the American people; undermined U.S. credibility around the world; and increased the danger to American troops and civilians around the world,” the document concluded.

Republicans, however, dismissed suggestions that Rumsfeld’s impeachment was warranted — or had the slightest chance of success.

“I think to bring up impeachment under these circumstances is ludicrous and absurd,” said Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee.

Chabot, echoing remarks that have resounded among GOP lawmakers, praised Rumsfeld for his overall handling of the Iraq war. “I think he’s done an exemplary job.”

Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), a military reservist and a key player in defense matters, described calls for impeachment as a “reach” and an “overreaction,” noting that Congress was still awaiting the results of investigations into the prison abuse.

Buyer also cited the dismissal of several key members in the military chain of command as evidence that the military is working through the problems Rangel cited. Among those dismissed was the brigade commander responsible for Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, where many of the abuses are alleged to have taken place.

“That’s no small matter,” Buyer said, noting that the commander was a one-star general.

Rangel’s remarks came on a day of wrenching floor debate over how the House would respond to the mushrooming abuse scandal.

Republicans and Democrats fought over the wording of a resolution condemning the actions of soldiers implicated in the scandal thus far, with Democrats calling for a full Congressional investigation.

Some Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), demanded Rumsfeld’s resignation.

Much of the opprobrium surrounding the Defense secretary resulted from a disclosure, earlier, that the Pentagon withheld information from the White House and Congress about ongoing and months-long investigations into abuse of detainees in Iraq.

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