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Graham defends argument for impeachment

Durbin: 'Evidence doesn't support' Florida senator's comments

Sen. Bob Graham on
Sen. Bob Graham on "Fox News Sunday"

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Bob Graham defended his assertion that President Bush's actions in making the case for the war in Iraq reach the standard of an impeachable offense set by Republicans against former President Clinton.

"Clearly, if the standard is now what the House of Representatives did in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the actions of this president [are] much more serious in terms of dereliction of duty," the Florida Democrat and presidential hopeful said on "Fox News Sunday."

Graham also charged that Bush "knowingly" misled the American people about the reasons for going to war in Iraq -- both by claiming that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa and by withholding information about the length, danger and expense of postwar reconstruction.

"This president failed to tell the American people what he knew about the consequences of military victory in Iraq," Graham said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "He understood what the cost was going to be. He understood the casualties. He understood the duration of time.

"None of that was shared with the American people. And so we went to war, not only on the basis of weapons of mass destruction that we may or may not find, but [we] went to war without the knowledge of what the full consequences would be."

Graham said on Fox that his comments about impeachment amount to "a very academic discussion" because Republicans control the House, which would have to initiate any impeachment proceedings.

"Tom DeLay and the other leadership of the House of Representatives are not going to impeach George W. Bush," Graham said. "The good news is that in November of 2004, the American people will have a chance to both impeach and remove George W. Bush in one step."

But another prominent Democratic critic of the Iraq war, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, said Sunday that "the evidence doesn't support" Graham's comments about impeachment.

"There is absolutely no evidence that the president knowingly misled the American people," Durbin said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." "I've never made that charge, nor have I heard it made from any credible source.

"But it is clear that those around [Bush] misled him, and misled the American people indirectly, by making certain that there were claims made that couldn't be backed up with evidence."

Graham first made the comments July 17, after the White House conceded that Bush's claims about Iraq's pursuit of uranium in Africa, attributed to British intelligence, should not have been included in his State of the Union address because U.S. intelligence could not verify them.

British officials say they stand behind the information.

Bush and administration officials have argued the uranium claim was not central to their case for removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But Graham said on Fox that the claim was "absolutely" central to the administration's rationale for going to war with Iraq.

"This was described as not a preventive war but a pre-emptive war. And the difference between preventive and pre-emptive is how imminent is the threat," he said. "And the most significant threat was nuclear.

"We've known that [Iraq has] had biological and chemical [weapons] for a long time. But the fact [Iraq] might be on the verge of having nuclear capabilities is what made it so imminent and therefore justified the pre-emptive war."

Graham, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is one of nine Democrats seeking their party's nomination to oppose Bush next year.

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