Transcript: House Judiciary Committee meeting
JACKSON LEE: We must first figure out for ourselves what actually happened. The information already before us suggests we cannot rely automatically on the OIC report. There is no fourth branch of the government. And then we must ask whether any of these facts establish an impeachable offense. A Yale scholar, Charles Black, said, in short, only serious assaults on the integrity of the processes of government and such crimes that would so stain a president as to make his continuance in office dangerous to the public ought to constitute impeachable offenses.
Second, the Founding Fathers included impeachment as a constitutional remedy because they were worried about presidential tyranny and gross abuse of power. They did not intend impeachment or the threat of impeachment to serve as a device for denouncing the president for private misbehavior or for transforming the United States into a parliamentary form of government in which Congress can vote no confidence in an executive whose behavior it dislikes.
All presidents of this nation are elected by the president of the United States, and it is not the prerogative of this committee to undo that election.
Third, the framers of the Constitution never intended the availability of impeachment as a license for a fishing expedition. Never before has this House authorized a free-ranging, potentially endless investigation in a public official's private behavior or his behavior before he attained federal office. The Republican resolution calls that today.
As the Watergate Committee report explained, in an impeachment proceeding, a president is called to account for abusing powers that only a president possesses. In Watergate, as in all prior impeachments, the allegations concerned official misconduct.
And finally, while not every impeachable offense is necessarily a crime, the opposite is also true. Not ever potential crime is an impeachable offense. The Founding Fathers deliberately chose the phrase "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" to convey their view that impeachment was to be limited to abuse of power or serious breach of trust. As James Wilson explained in the Pennsylvania ratification...
HYDE: The gentlelady's time has expired.
JACKSON LEE: May I have an additional 15 seconds, Mr. Chairman?
HYDE: Yes, ma'am.
JACKSON LEE: Thank you. In that convention, far from being above the laws, the president is amenable to them in his private character of citizens and in his public character by impeachment. Finally I say, Mr. Chairman, as was indicated in the words of Martin Luther King, a legal scholar trained in injustice, who said from the Birmingham jail: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Whatever attacks one directly affects all indirectly."
I would simply say that truth matters. But in this instance, Mr. Chairman, the Constitution matters as well. I yield back. HYDE: I thank the gentlelady, and I want to congratulate the members. They have been doing very well in keeping within the five minutes.
It is the proposal of the chair, intention of the chair to proceed with all of the opening statements and then have a short lunch break and then come back with the briefings by the respective counsel, just so you know where we're headed and can plan accordingly.
And the chair now recognizes the learned gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Buyer.
BUYER: I thank the chairman. I think that the issue before us is very clear, and that's whether the Congress should continue to inquire about the conduct of the president to determine whether or not an impeachment is warranted. And I want to agree with Mr. Inglis of South Carolina.
What is obvious here to everyone should be that with the Democrat minority now offering an alternative that the issue here is about scope and its duration, but there is no question, it appears, by this committee that we should conduct the inquiry of impeachment. I think that's what's most noteworthy of this action today by listening to the remarks and especially to Mr. Conyers.
So what we have here on a baseline question of whether we should proceed with an inquiry of impeachment, there is overwhelmingly bipartisan support on this committee. We may disagree about the details on scope or time, but what is important for the American people to listen here is that there's overwhelming bipartisan support to conduct the inquiry of impeachment.
The office of the president of the United States is one in which is reposed a special trust with the American people. Due to his position and powers of his office, any president entitled to the benefit of the doubt. The president takes an oath to see that the laws are faithfully executed.
If the president as the chief law enforcement officer of the land violates this special trust by using the powers of his office to impede, delay, conceal evidence in, or obstruct lawsuits, investigations of wrongdoing, could that not be subversive to the constitutional government, doing great prejudice to the cause of law and justice, thus bringing injury to the people of the United States?
Many might argue that the Starr report is sufficient on its face for Congress to determine its course of action. I would respectfully disagree with this assessment. The Judge Starr report and other aspects raise troubling questions that Congress needs to address.
Every citizen is entitled to equal access to justice.
Everyone is entitled to a day in court. The courts are not for the rich and the well-connected. Neither are the courts to be manipulated by the powerful, no matter who they are in our country.
Paula Jones was seeking her day in court as a victim of an alleged sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Starr report has raised allegations that the president may have lied, conspired to hide evidence, suborned perjury in an effort to deny Miss Jones her due process right, her day in court.
If the president as the chief law enforcement officer of the land deceives the courts, could that not be subversive to the constitutional government, doing great prejudice to the cause of law and justice, thus bringing injury to the American people?
I also have concerns related to the president's role as commander in chief. The United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8 -- "The Congress shall have the power to raise and support the armies, provide and maintain the Navy, make rules for the government, and regulations for the land and naval forces."
I, as chairman of the Personnel Committee of National Security Committee, am detailed with the oversight function to do just that.
America was appalled not long ago when it heard of incidents of sexual misconduct regarding Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Jackson, Fort Leonard Wood, where drill sergeants were having consensual relationships with trainees. And rightfully so, the American people and members of Congress were outraged by these drill sergeants.
You see, these drill sergeants -- even though they had consensual relations -- by virtue of the power relationship, superior to subordinate, the court-martials ruled that it could not have been consensual and the drill sergeants went to prison on rape.
Under Goldwater-Nickles Act, which sets forth the national command authority, it runs from the president as commander in chief to the secretary of defense, to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, all the way to a lowly recruit.
In the enforcement of these rules, I am charged to eliminate real and perceived double standards in the enforcement of laws and regulations that pertain to sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and fraternization in the United States military.
Is it worthy of our inquiry to consider it a misdemeanor in office that the president, while acting in his role as commander-in- chief of the military -- it is alleged that he was on the telephone with a subcommittee chairman of the Appropriations Committee discussing sending troops to Bosnia when he had a subordinate perform a sex act upon him.
The discussion and decision of sending America's sons and daughters abroad into harm's way is very, very serious. While I recognize that the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to the president, clearly his conduct, at a minimum, would be unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman.
In the military, even a consensual relationship between a superior and subordinate is unacceptable behavior, prejudicial to good order and discipline.
HYDE: The gentleman...
BUYER: Should we ask the members of the armed forces...
HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.
BUYER: May I conclude?
HYDE: You may have a final 15 seconds.
BUYER: Should we ask the members of the armed forces to accept a code of conduct that his higher for troops than higher for the commander in chief? Should we accept a double standard -- one for the president and one for others?
There are many questions that are left to be asked in this inquiry, Mr. Chairman. The objective of the committee should be as torchbearers. The light of truth should never be feared.
HYDE: I thank the gentleman. The gentlelady from California, Ms. Waters.
WATERS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to thank you and our ranking member.
As policy-makers, we find ourselves in the difficult and sad position of deciding whether or not we should proceed with an inquiry to impeach the president of the United States.
We're being asked to do this before we define what constitutes an impeachable offense.
However, before this body advances toward an impeachable -- an impeachment inquiry, let us consider this: Increasingly, Americans are suspicious of their government and our ability to be fair. And I truly believe that Americans want us to be fair.
As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, I have insisted on making fairness the top priority from the moment the office of the independent counsel delivered the September 9, 1998, referral to the House of Representatives.
The members of the Congressional Black Caucus have assigned ourselves the role of fairness cop because our history demands we must be the best advocates for insuring that this process recognizes the rights of everyone involved.
African-Americans feel strongly about the issue of fairness because we've had to fight hard for fairness in the criminal justice system. Democracy is threatened when a fair legal process is sacrificed to appease the passions of a few.
After all the pontificating, posturing and debating, let's think about what is happening to the rights of individuals.
Let's take a look at the actions of the independent counsel who appears to be gathering evidence by any means necessary.
How would you feel if your daughter or your son was apprehended without an arrest warrant; held for 10 hours; discouraged from calling legal counsel; mocked for wanting to talk with you as a parent; lied to; mislead; and frightened and pressured to be wired to entrap the president of the United States?
Further, we must be concerned about the manner in which Ken Starr recklessly sought his evidence working with Linda Tripp.
It appears that Ken Starr offered to assist Linda Tripp avoid indictment by calling the Maryland authorities on her behalf, even though he knew she had committed a felony. He further wired her and sent her back to tape Monica Lewinsky so that he could get more evidence. And it appears that he may have known for longer than has been indicated that illegal wiring was going on.
Simply put, fundamental fairness and due process requires that we adhere to reason and precedence or else we risk being viewed as no different than the lynch mobs which denied justice to the accused.
Let's have a review of what the majority has done to date.
First, it dumped 445 pages of a report needlessly filled with explicit sexual details on the public.
Next, they released the president's videotaped grand jury testimony, along with more than 3,000 pages of similar materials. When that fizzled, Republicans then released 4,600 pages of transcripts and other grand jury testimony.
The Republicans did this without giving the president the opportunity to review the materials prior to their release. However, when it came to one of their own -- Speaker Gingrich -- the Republicans afforded him the opportunity to review and respond to charges of perjury before disclosure to the public.
Speaker Gingrich's documents remain under seal even today.
Since September 9th, the American public has witnessed a political party that has been willing to bombard the public with sexually explicit materials to further their partisan objectives. Ken Starr has spent over $40 million of the taxpayers money and 4 1/2 years investigating the president with the last eight months devoted to the Monica Lewinsky matter.
What this party is doing is undermining the process. Impeachment is the most serious decision for Congress to decide other than declaring water.
In the words of George Mason, the man who proposed the language adopted by the framers, "Impeachment should be reserved for treason, bribery, and high crimes and misdemeanors where the president's actions are great and dangerous offenses or attempts to subvert the Constitution and the most extensive injustice."
HYDE: The gentlelady's time has expired.
WATERS: Fifteen seconds, please.
HYDE: Fifteen seconds.
WATERS: I want this committee to consider this carefully.
The power to impeach a president should not be casually used to remove a president and overturn an election simply because we don't like him or his policies.
The Constitution is on trial, and I hope that we will uphold the Constitution and the civil rights of everybody involved.
HYDE: Thank the gentlelady. The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Bryant.
BRYANT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Before this committee today is an issue of process -- a process which is designed to seek the truth. While we apparently now agree that an inquiry is necessary, all of us -- or none of us -- tread lightly in this area.
The president of our country has been accused of 11 counts of violating the provisions of our Constitution, as defined by the standard "high crimes and misdemeanors," many of which, if true, would have disastrous effects on our third branch of government, the judiciary.
Now, for some of my colleagues in this Congress, the issue simply boils down to the separation of the president's private life as opposed to his work as chief executive officer of our nation.
If that were the case, we would not be looking into the allegations of wrongdoing brought to us by an independent counsel appointed by a three-judge panel and supervised by the attorney general.
This is not a matter of private affairs, nor is it a question of infidelity between the president and his wife.
This is also not about politics or polls; it's not about the economy; it's not about who is going to get more Democrats or Republicans elected in November, or even the possibility of a President Gore.
No, this is about seeking the truth. And at the end of the day, we may or may not achieve a bipartisan work, but many of us on this committee can assure the public that it will be done in a nonpartisan fashion.
My experience as one of three former federal prosecutors on this panel has taught me that some matters cannot be rushed to judgment. Justice cannot be rushed, and we should not place arbitrary timetables on such an important task as this.
And this, in fact, was the concept that was thoroughly rejected three times during the Rodino hearings of 1974. We must work as a committee to preserve the integrity of that third branch of government, the judiciary. We must also set an example that truth is what we seek, and lying -- especially under oath -- is not permissible.
Now, we have impeached judges for similar offenses, and there are some Americans that are even in jail today for such offenses. So we cannot simply ignore that portion of the rule of law, which states that no man is above the law.
The American people deserve more. And we, as a judiciary committee -- and ultimately, as a Congress -- must and shall resolve this matter in a fair, nonpartisan and expeditious manner.
And I yield back my time.
HYDE: Thank the gentleman.
The distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Meehan.
MEEHAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to express my appreciation for your willingness to accommodate the minority on the issue of subpoena power and committee rules. Though there will be many deviations from bipartisanship today, I hope that we can build upon whatever consensus does exist and eventually proceed in a fully bipartisan manner.
Mr. Chairman, three fundamental facts frame the challenge this committee faces today. The first fact is that the president's behavior was wrong. He had an adulterous relationship with a White House employee half his age.
He then misled the American people about the nature of that relationship and engaged in a dangerous game of verbal twister in his sworn testimony.
The second fact confronting us is that not all wrongdoing amounts to treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
The founding fathers set a threshold for removing a president at a high level to prevent Congress from easily reversing the express will of the people.
Finally, the third fact with which we must come to terms is the cost of an extensive inquiry into the president's relationship with Monica Lewinsky will impose on our nation.
Indeed, a full-scale extended impeachment inquiry will come at a steep cost to our country. And the members of this committee should weigh these costs before voting for an endless impeachment inquiry, including the costs to public discussion in our country.
People are having x-rated conversations with their children at kitchen tables all across America, conversations they don't want to have.
We already need V-chips to prevent our children from watching the evening news, or reading newspapers, two things we used to encourage children to do.
The cost to the institution of the presidency -- future presidents will be saddled with the dangerous precedence that this committee has set and will set today.
Meanwhile, the courts have already eroded presidential power in ways that both liberal and conservative legal experts find alarming. No one has heeded Justice Holmes time-honored warning that the so- called "great cases" make for bad law.
The cost to America's global leadership at a time when the world faces unprecedented economic and political upheaval, erratic international financial markets, terrorism and bloodshed around the world.
Americans want us to address the issues that affect their every- day lives and the lives of their children, yet calls for action on these fronts have not made it even close to the headlines of papers across America, which seem, instead, to be reserved for the detail of the day about Monica and Bill.
Given these facts, our responsibility's clear: we must conduct an inquiry that is thoughtful and fair, and we must insure that this inquiry does not drag on any longer than it is necessary to sanction the president in a matter comencerate with the seriousness of his wrongdoing.
The means the committee should first -- this means that the committee should first ascertain reasonably specific constitutional standards for impeachment, and then ask ourselves whether Ken Starr's best case against the president surpasses or falls short of that standard. If we fail to ask ourselves this fundamental question at the beginning of our inquiry, we fail the American people, prolonging an impeachment investigation that inflicts daily damage to our country where the independent counsel's face on its face fell short of high crimes and misdemeanors would be a wholesale abdication of our responsibility to pursue the public interest.
The minority alternative before the committee would address threshold issues first where they should be addressed. A minority resolution also imposes reasonable time limits for our examination of the president's conduct on the Lewinsky matter.
The reality is that the committee already has all the evidence it needs to resolve the Lewinsky matter. In fact, American people know more than they ever need or wanted to know about this tawdry affair. Leaving the timing and scope of this inquiry open-ended is certain to permit excursions into far-flung matters which we have not even received a single page from this independent counsel. It is not in our country's best interest to have this committee be a stage for revivals of Dan Burton's and Al D'Amato's performances earlier this year.
Mr. Chairman, we've heard a lot today about the Watergate precedent. Individuals who served on this committee in 1994, like Peter Rodino, Cadwel Butler and Bill Cohen, knew their responsibility was not to make a case against a man, but rather to analyze facts in the law with a neutral eye and do what was best for our country. As the committee moves forward, I can only hope that we reverse the present course and put the national interests ahead of partisan interest. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
HYDE: Thank the gentleman. The distinguish gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Chabot.
STEVE CHABOT (R-OH), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I thank the chairman.
Like most of my colleagues and, I suspect, most of the American people, I would prefer that the president's actions had not forced this hearing today. Regardless of how this committee and this Congress chooses to dispose of this serious matter, the nation will have paid a dear price. The office of the presidency has been demeaned, the standards of public morality and decency have been diminished and the American people have been forced to endure a painful process that could have been avoided.
We must determine today if the evidence before us warrants further investigation. Today, we do not sit in judgment. Our role is not to convict or punish or sentence; it is only to seek the truth. To fulfill our constitutional duty, we must determine if the evidence presented to date strongly suggest wrongdoing by the president and if the alleged wrongdoing likely rises to the level of an impeachable offense, that is, a high crime or misdemeanor.
Now, let me turn to the facts and the law on these two important issues. The materials submitted by the independent counsel have been the subject of intense public scrutiny and debate. What has emerged is a simple fact that, for whatever reason, it appears that the president was not truthful in giving testimony in a civil case, and in all likelihood, he was not truthful in subsequent testimony to a grand jury. Few have denied these conclusions.
Those who would urge an end to this inquiry before it even starts frequently argue that impeachable offenses are only those which results to an injury to the state. They contend that perjury, or at least perjury relating to sexual matters in a civil action that was subsequently dismissed, results only in an injury to a private litigant and is not impeachable.
That argument is wrong. It is a misstatement of the historic record. And since this is so important in determining whether President Clinton may have committed an impeachable offense, I'm going devote the balance of my opening statement to just that issue.
Perjury has long been considered a crime against the state. By committing perjury, a person has interfered with the administration of justice. In 1890, the Supreme Court said in Thomas vs. Loney (ph) that, and I quote, "perjury is an offense against the public justice of the United States."
The U.S. Court of Appeals expressed similar sentiments in United States vs. Manfordonia (ph). When referring to perjury, the court stated it is for wrong done to courts and administration of justice that punishment is given, not for the effect that any particular testimony might have on the outcome of any given trial.
As a crime against the state, perjury was directly described as a high misdemeanor at its inception in 15th century in England. The high misdemeanor description of perjury is significant. While considered a serious offense, perjury was not labeled a felony because the common law courts would have commanded exclusive jurisdiction. Instead, perjury was classified as a high misdemeanor.
In Ourery vs. State (ph), the Maryland Supreme Court gives us a historic perspective on what it called the high misdemeanor of perjury. The courts said that, and I quote, "The phrase high misdemeanor connoted a new crime that was just as grave in terms of its social consequences, and in terms of its potential punishment as the more ancient felonies themselves."
When state governments were first being established in the early days of the American republic, perjury was also regularly listed in their constitutions as a high crime or misdemeanor or in some very phrase of that nature. The Kentucky constitution ratified in 1792, for example, stated that laws shall be made to exclude from suffrage, or voting, those who shall therefore after be convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery or other high crimes or misdemeanors.
The House and the Senate have impeached federal judges for perjury. Strong evidence exists that President Clinton may have committed perjury, and the historic record clearly demonstrates that perjury can be an impeachable offense.
Based on the facts and the law, I have concluded that this committee has a constitutional duty to proceed to a formal impeachment inquiry. It is my sincere hope that we can proceed and work together in a bipartisan fashion to complete this task as expeditiously as possible and do what is in the best interest of our country.
HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. The distinguish gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Delahunt.
DELAHUNT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Many references have been make today to the conduct of the president. The issue before us today is not just about the conduct of the president. The real issue, the overriding issue, is how this committee will fulfill its own responsibilities at a moment of extraordinary constitutional significance.
Some three weeks ago, the independent counsel, Mr. Starr, referred information to Congress that he alleged may constitute grounds for impeaching the president. But it is not the independent counsel who is charged by the Constitution to determine whether to initiate impeachment proceedings. That is our mandate. He is not our agent and we cannot allow his judgments to be substituted for our own or we will fail in our constitutional responsibility.
I am profoundly disturbed at the thought that this committee would base its determination solely on the Starr referral. Never before in our history has the House proceeded with a presidential impeachment inquiry premised exclusively on the raw allegations of a single prosecutor, nor should it now.
It is the committee's responsibility to conduct our own preliminary review to determine whether the information from the independent counsel is sufficient to warrant a full-blown investigation and we have not done that.
If we advocate that responsibility, we will turn the Independent Counsel Statute into a political weapon with an automatic trigger aimed at every future president. In the process, we will have turned the United States Congress into a rubber stamp. Just as we did when we rushed to release Mr. Starr's narrative within hours of its receipt before either this committee or the president's counsel had any opportunity to examine it. Just as we did when we released thousands of pages of secret grand jury testimony before either this committee or the president's counsel had an opportunity to examine it.
And when we did that, we put at risk individual constitutional rights, jeopardizing future possible prosecutions and subverting the grand jury system itself to be -- by allowing it to be misused for a political process. And just as we are about to do again by launching an inquiry when no member of Congress even now has had sufficient time to read, much less analyze, all of the Starr referral.
For all I know, there may be grounds for an inquiry. But before the committee authorizes proceedings that will further traumatize the nation and distract us from the people's business, we must satisfy ourselves that there is probable cause to recommend an inquiry. That is precisely what the House instructed us to do.
The chairman of the Rules Committee, himself, anticipated that we might return the following week, and I'm quoting, "to secure additional procedural or investigated authorities to adequately review this communication." Yet the committee never before sought those additional authorities. Apparently, we had no intention of really reviewing and examining the communication.
That is the difference between the two resolutions before us today. The majority version permits no independent assessment by the committee and asks us instead to accept the referral purely on faith. Our alternative ensures that there is a process, one that is orderly, deliberative and expeditious for determining whether the referral is a sound basis for an inquiry.
If we adopt this approach, I submit, I am confident that the American people will embrace our conclusions, whatever they may be. I yield back.
HYDE: Thank the gentleman. The distinguished gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Barr.
BARR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman and all Americans, imagine a place where a dictator, a king, a prime minister or a president could walk into your home at any time and force you to accede to any demand, however unreasonable. Throughout history, including 18th century Britain, such regimes have been the norm. The system of rule by law under which we live stands as stark exception to the historically prevalent notion that a ruler can take whatever he wants whenever he wants it from any subject.
As we so quickly, however, forget in times of stability and prosperity our system is a fragile one, a brief flicker of light in an otherwise dark march of human political history. If we drop our guard, even for a moment, and allow a president to demand citizens gratify his personal desires and let him place himself in the way of laws designed to protect -- to prevent such conduct, that light will be greatly dimmed, if not snuffed out.
Our founding fathers understood the importance of restraining unbridled power because they grew up in a system that did not.
The Constitution includes explicit provisions that protect us from the abuse of power, including provisions to prevent us from being forced to quarter soldiers, to stop the government from imprisoning us without cause, and to protect us from involuntary services.
The facts of the case before us are not complex. Bill Clinton, first as governor and then as president, using power entrusted to him coarsely demanded personal favors from individual citizens. When one of those citizens refused, our Supreme Court voted unanimously to allow her access to the courts.
Yet, instead of apologizing, Bill Clinton continued to abuse his office to smear that citizen's name and block her access to justice. Instead of telling the truth to the court and the grand jury, the president lied. Instead of cooperating with the court, he obstructed its efforts.
At this very moment, government and private employees are working under his direct orders to block this committee's efforts.
We are witnessing nothing less than symptoms of a cancer on the American presidency. If we fail to remove it, it will expand to destroy the principles that matter most to all of us.
Any system of government can choose to perpetuate virtue or vice. If this president is allowed to use the presidency to gratify his personal desires in a way that -- in the say way a corrupt county or parish boss solicits money for votes, future occupants will sadly do the same.
If the proposition that perjury is sometimes acceptable is allowed to stand, in the blink of eye, it will become acceptable in every case. Such a precedent would hang forever as an albatross around the neck of our judicial system.
If we stand by while a president obstructs justice and destroys his enemies, our entire government will be contaminated with cynical disdain.
The president of the United States controls at his fingertips the greatest arsenal of destructive power ever assembled in human history, just as the governor of a state controls the state's police power. He has the ability to destroy one life or billions. He is the singular individual charged with the constitutional duty of faithfully enforcing the laws, all the laws, of the United States.
When evidence emerges that he would abuse that power or fail in that duty, it is a matter of gravest constitutional importance. If we fail to address such charges, we will soon be left standing dazed and befuddled among the smoldering ruins of a great democracy.
We will count the cost of choosing temporal stability over permanent justice and policies over principle in diminished freedoms -- lost policies, lost lives and ruined institutions.
History is littered with the records of nations whose leaders buried their heads in the sand as adversity appeared on the horizon. The U.S. of -- America, in 1998, must not suffer the same fate.
In America, we have a right not to be tapped on the shoulder and escorted to a room where a mayor, a governor or a president, endraped (ph) with absolute power, mistreats us.
When such conduct occurs, it is the right of any citizen to seek ultimate redress in the one -- the only form -- designed for that purpose, where each of us is on a level playing field with any other: our courts, the ultimate equalizer in our system of government.
Mr. Chairman, I also would say that anyone who has made it their goal to hide the truth, obstruct this process today or use it for political gain, should summon up whatever tattered remains of honor they have left, stand up and walk out of this room, taking with them such erroneous arguments as that the need to include graphic detail in the Starr referral was based on whim rather than the need to rebut the president's sorry attempt to deny reality and common sense alike.
Mr. Chairman, imagine if all the journalists, lawyers and staff who fill this room today disappeared. Imagine if they were replaced with the faces of all the great American heroes who have come before us -- the patriots who pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to create a republic; the men who gathered in Philadelphia 211 years ago to solidify that with a Constitution.
HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.
BARR: Would ask 15 additional seconds.
HYDE: Fifteen seconds.
BARR: The men who gathered in Philadelphia 211 years ago to solidify with a Constitution; the young soldiers who bled to death on foreign shores to protect it; the prosecutors who put their lives on the line to enforce its laws; every teacher who has led her class in reciting "The Pledge of Allegiance."
Could anyone look into the faces of those people and tell them it really doesn't matter that the president abused his power, lied to the American people, perjured himself and subverted the rule of law? Anyone who can answer yes to that question does not have the right to sit here today.
HYDE: Gentleman's time has again expired. The distinguished gentleman from Florida, Mr. Wexler.
WEXLER: Mr. Chairman, many of our colleagues have referred to our role here today as the most important work a member of Congress can perform. I sincerely hope not.
This may be the most attention that this committee will ever receive. This may be the biggest news story in which we will ever play a part. But God help the nation if this is the most important work we will ever do in Congress.
Our work today is not about providing health insurance for more Americans. It is not about peace in the Middle East or ending genocide in Kosovo. It is not about saving Social Security, reducing class sizes for our children, or improving the quality of life for even one single American. I am not proud of what we are doing here today, and I would like to tell you why.
I am not proud of the personal conduct of the president that has cheapened our national discourse, confused our children, disillusioned our idealists and empowered our cynics. While I'm very proud of this president's accomplishments, I am not proud of his moral lapses in judgment.
I am not proud of this prosecutor Ken Starr, who has turned government in upon itself, distorted our system of justice in a politically inspired witch hunt that rivals McCarthyism in its sinister purpose, that asks mothers to betray daughters, Secret Service officers to betray their highest charge and lawyers to betray their clients, dead or alive -- all in search of a crime to justify five years of work and more than $40 million of taxpayers' money.
I'm not proud of the political attack culture in Washington that stops at nothing to destroy the lives of public servants and spawns the likes of Linda Tripp, whose concept of friendship I would not wish on my worst enemy. Nor am I proud of those in the media, who have fueled this indecent explosion and left objective journalism in its wake.
Now, I'd like to tell you what I am proud of. I'm proud of this document, the Constitution of the United States of America.
I am proud of the Founding Fathers who authored it, and envisioned a standard for removing a president high enough to prevent it from ever being used for political purposes to overturn the will of the people. In the words of Alexander Hamilton, George Mason and James Madison, "A president shall be impeached for treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Make no mistake about it. "Or other high crimes and misdemeanors" means only those offenses that have the gravity and impact of treason and bribery.
I am proud of the millions of Americans who have sifted through mounds of disturbing material to reach the commonsense conclusion that this behavior does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, and who have asked us in a loud and clear voice to move on to the nation's real business.
I'm also proud of the basic decency of the American people, who intuitively understand that morality is a complex equation, that good people sometimes do bad things, that moral people sometimes commit immoral acts. None of us should be defined only by our mistakes.
Finally, impeachment is not about adultery. It is rooted in a constitutional standard that has met the test of time. It is about subversion of government. The president had an affair. He lied about it. He didn't want anyone to know about it. Does anyone reasonably believe that this amounts to subversion of government? Does anyone reasonably believe that this is what the Founding Fathers were talking about? For more than 200 years since that convention in Philadelphia, Congress has never, never removed a president from office. Is this where we want to set the bar for future presidents? I plead with this committee to end this nonsense. We have real work to do for the people who sent us.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your indulgence.
HYDE: Thank the gentleman.
I think I'm supposed to admonish you against spontaneous demonstrations, but we will waive that perquisite of the chair.
HYDE: The distinguished gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Jenkins.
JENKINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I recently visited Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I went to see again the battlefield there and the cemetery, and to stand near the spot where President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.
That place, in my mind, brings thoughts of hardship and sacrifice, and courage and suffering and death on both sides of that great conflict. Our nation survived that ordeal that divided us. And in time, we grew strong as a result of it.
Today, this committee begins an undertaking with the potential to again divide our nation. We should resolve at the beginning, and as long as it lasts, that our thoughts must be about our nation and its well-being. If what we ultimately discover justifies it, the Congress should have no hesitation to say shame upon anybody who would defile our nation, proceed to a judgment and hasten to administer the constitutional punishment provided.
Under our system of government, every individual is important. All are entitled to fairness. But none is more important than any other. And that includes the president of the United States.
If the evidence shows offenses that require action, we should have the courage without fear or favor, without submission to threats or intimidation, to do our duty. If none are shown, we should abandon these efforts and proceed with the serious and important business of our nation.
In my mind, the task, although painful, is simple. We're bound by the constitution and the laws. We have information; we have evidence; we have recent precedents. These are ingredients that make up all the trials that have been conducted in the courts of our land for as long as we have a nation. The object of every trial is to learn the truth and to render justice.
Our role today -- and it's been said many times in this hearing -- is elementary. It is much like a preliminary hearing. It is to determine if we should recommend to the House of Representatives whether an inquiry should take place. The burden required for this is far less than will be required at other stages, if any, of this proceeding.
I hope to be fair; I hope to be impartial; I hope to be nonpartisan; I hope to follow the constitution; I hope to follow the law; and I certainly will study the evidence carefully. And I'll be mindful, in all these deliberations, of the memories of those who suffered and died and were left at Gettysburg, and in all our nation's conflicts -- because it's those soldiers who have afforded us throughout history the privilege to engage in self-government. And today, we're engaging in self-government.
To them and to every American citizen, we owe the courage to do the duty that has been thrust upon us.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
HYDE: I thank you, Mr. Jenkins.
The distinguished gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Rothman. ROTHMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Over the past several weeks I've had a rare opportunity. It has been the opportunity to step into history and to try to learn from one of those who has set the standard for American fairness and fairness for the Judiciary Committee, the former chairman of this committee, New Jersey's Congressman Peter Rodino.
Over the past several weeks, we have talked on the telephone for hours, but last Thursday I had the great privilege of meeting him in his Newark office. And I must say I walked out of his office with an even greater awareness of our shared commitment to our constitutional form of government and how the decisions this committee will make must be made without partisanship.
After a four-year investigation, the independent counsel, Mr. Starr, has presented the House with 11 allegations of presidential misconduct.
Our goal to be resolve these 11 charges without further delay. However, I will not give my consent to another blank check, open-ended investigation of the president. That is not the role of our committee. It is not fair to the president; it is not fair to the country; and it is not in our national interests.
If Mr. Starr has more charges, let him bring them forth now, or else we should resolve these Lewinsky charges before the end of this year.
President Clinton engaged in morally -- in a morally wrong relationship with Ms. Lewinsky and engaged in highly inappropriate conduct in trying to hide that relationship.
He must be given an appropriate punishment that fits his offenses.
But the questions for our committee and the nation are two: What is the constitutional input of the president's misconduct? And No. 2, what is the most appropriate punishment for the president's actions?
No one wants to be partisan. Democrats, independents and Republicans want any inquiry into these matters to proceed fairly. I hope that as we vote on the motions of today and tomorrow and as we conduct ourselves in the future, we will remember and be guided by the works Chairman Rodino spoke in this very room some 24 years ago, "Our own public trust, our own commitment to the Constitution is being put to the test."
Let us leave the Constitution unimpaired for our children as our predecessors left it to us. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
HYDE: Thank you, Mr. Rothman. The distinguished gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Hutchinson.
HUTCHINSON: Mr. Chairman, let me begin by reflecting back almost 25 years to a time in our history when young lawyers rose to positions of power in our nation's capitol, lawyers with talent, intellect and pedigrees from the best schools, lawyers such as Dean, Magruder, Liddy, Colson, all of whom wielded enormous power, but none valued or respected the rule of law.
Those lawyers were influenced by a president, Richard Nixon. During that time, I, like many Americans, judged their actions and found them wanting.
I observed the national ordeal from afar. I was studying law at the University of Arkansas.
As a student, it was drilled into me that lawyers should have the highest ethical standards, that we are officers of the court, that we have a high responsibility to seek the truth, and that we should never allow a fraud to be committed upon the court.
One of the brightest and most respected young law professors at that time was William Jefferson Clinton. The rule of the law was the mantra and Watergate was a real-life case study.
Now I know many are saying this is not Watergate and I agree. The facts are different. But are not the important questions the same? Is the rule of law less significant today than 25 years ago?
Is unchecked perjury, if proven, less of a threat to our judicial system today than when Watergate was the example? In my judgment, these are not insignificant questions that our committee and the American people must answer.
I'm always asked what do people in Arkansas say. Well, as Arkansans, we'd just assume change the subject. But we are first Americans, and we know that, as a country, if we ask the right questions and if we follow the Constitution, we will come to the right conclusion.
Today I want to assure my colleagues and my fellow Arkansans that I do not know the conclusion of this matter. I do not have all the answers. But in my judgment, the first step is clear: We must seek out those answers.
And based upon my own independent review of the evidence, it appears there exists reasonable cause to conduct a formal inquiry that is independent, that is fair and leads to a speedy resolution. Now let me address some of the arguments I've heard this morning.
First of all, they say the president has admitted his error, let's move on. We must remember he has not admitted anything from a legal standpoint. He has denied legal wrongdoing.
The independent counsel has submitted evidence that the president committed perjury, tampered with witnesses, obstructed justice and abused the power of his office.
In responding, the president has done what every citizen is entitled to do -- he has proclaimed his innocence and challenged the proof on each charge. The denial on behalf of the president does not allow this committee to accept the charges as stated, but rather formal hearings are necessary to weigh the evidence and determine whether the proceedings should end or whether impeachment is warranted.
I also hear: This is just about sex; let's shut it down and go home. If the premise of that statement is correct, I agree.
But when the president testified before the grand jury, the federal grand jury last January -- it should be last August -- I recollect everyone was emphasizing to the president, tell the truth. They were not encouraging him to lie. They were not saying: Mr. President, it's only about sex; don't worry about it.
These are not questions posed by friends in the locker room. These are questions presented before citizens vested with the responsibility to enforce the criminal laws of our land. Truth was expected by the American public. Truth was required by the law of our land. And truth was demanded by all who hold the presidency in high esteem.
Did the president tell the truth? He says yes. The independent counsel says he did not. And so it is necessary that we enquire further.
The cynics complain that this is a partisan struggle. Let me assure you that this is not about following our party, but it's about following the law and the Constitution wherever that path may lead. It's not about which party has the votes. But it is about which position is closest to the concept of justice, equity and historical precedence.
Partisan loyalties must be checked at the door of this great institution we all serve. Now we must abide by our oath of office.
The Constitution gives us a standard to follow. We cannot define impeachable offenses to a greater degree than the language of the Constitution. But we all agree the issue is the public trust. Our duty is not to punish anyone. And our challenge is to avoid pettiness.
But our goal should certainly be to determine whether a breach of the public trust has occurred, and if so, how do we best repair it.
As the prophet Nehemiah devoted his life to rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem in times of old, let this committee commit itself to the maintenance of the wall of public trust.
Thank you. I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
HYDE: I thank the gentleman.
The distinguished gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Barrett.
BARRETT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This is my first public hearing as the newest member of this committee, Mr. Chairman, and I am honored to serve on this committee under your leadership and the leadership of Mr. Conyers.
Like the other members of this committee, I recognize the seriousness of the job before us. We must seek the truth.
I also recognize that the American people expect us -- in fact, demand from us -- that we do our job not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans, because ultimately, what is at stake here is not Bill Clinton. But what is at stake is the future of the office of the presidency and its relationship with the Congress and the American people.
When I first entered this hearing room only two weeks ago, that's how I honestly expected we would operate -- simply as Americans. Of course, I recognized that we all came here either as Democrats or Republicans, but I sincerely believed that we would rise above that, that we would leave our partisan coats at the door and conduct these proceedings as 37 independent American jurors. I was wrong.
I am convinced that every decision pertaining to the release of documents was made before any of us ever entered this room. And I believe that decision was based on the perceived impact that that release would have not only on President Clinton, but also on the congressional elections only four weeks from now. That's wrong, too.
Our decisions should not be based on partisan advantage. Our decisions should be based on what's right for our country.
So I have been disappointed, Mr. Chairman. But I'm an optimist. I believe that we can work together, that we must work together if our work is to have any credibility.
Many comparisons have been made between Watergate and the issues before us. Some of those comparisons are valid; some are not. But even more instructive to our role, I believe, are the recent comments of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, the two national leaders most responsible for helping this country move beyond the Watergate nightmare.
Jimmy Carter had a strong message. He criticized President Clinton for his actions and for not being truthful -- a sober reminder that the president of the United States must provide moral leadership. Gerald Ford had an equally strong message. He stated, "The time has come to pause and consider the long-term consequences of removing this president from office based on the evidence at hand." He does not call for impeachment, but instead suggests that a public rebuke in the well of the House would be a very appropriate resolution, commensurate with the offenses of President Clinton.
Gerald Ford's concern is for our country and the damage to the institution of the president -- not Bill Clinton.
The comments of our two former presidents provide a framework to move forward. President Clinton's conduct was wrong, and he must be held accountable. But it would hurt our country in the long run to drag this matter out endlessly.
It's time, Mr. Chairman, therefore, for a focused and fair inquiry. And there must be finality to this process -- for if there is one common thread tying the views of virtually every American together, it is this: The time has come to put this chapter of our history behind us and move on to the matters that affect the lives of citizens throughout our country.
Let's do it, Mr. Chairman. I yield back the balance of my time.
HYDE: Thank the gentleman. The gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease.
PEASE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Today we address a subject which I suspect no member of the committee wishes were before us -- whether to begin an inquiry of impeachment against the president of the United States.
No matter what we may think regarding the actions of the president or the many others who have been much in the news these past months, it is not a good thing for the nation that we find ourselves in the situation we now face. The days ahead of us, no matter their outcome, will be trying for each of us, for this institution, for the president, for our people.
And yet wishing it were otherwise will not make it so. For whatever reason, we are where we are, and it is our responsibility to make the best of it. Most of my thinking over the past month has been focused on how to do so.
As an undergraduate at Indiana University, I had the good fortune to study with one of the nation's great political scientists, Dr. Charles Heyneman (ph). My life was affected deeply by his course in political philosophy, as we studied the great thinkers from Plato to the present. Much of our time was spent on the British and American writers: Hobbes and Locke and Burke, Jefferson and Madison, and the collective publius (ph) of the Federalist Papers.
I came to understand then and believe even more firmly today that the God-given freedoms which we enjoy are dependent on man-made mechanisms for their protection.
In our system, those mechanisms are found in the Constitution and the laws adopted pursuant to the procedure it sets forth. And despite the temptation to trivialize procedure in the legal proceedings of the land, or to complain about technicalities in process, a system of laws is at the heart of protecting the freedoms we cherish.
In that course with Professor Heyneman (ph), though, we did more than talk and write and theorize. I remember well his announcement one day that we would begin our field work the next Saturday, meeting at his home for breakfast and being out the entire day.
He gave us no details, and I recall thinking it odd that a philosophy course would be conducting field work, but since I was a freshman, I was dutifully present.
Two hours later, a half dozen of us were scattered across the steps of the courthouse at Vevay, Indiana, the place where the local townspeople gathered on Saturday mornings to do the shopping and simply to talk: about families and friends, about the ball game the night before, about the crops, about current events. And we listened.
And I think I learned from that experience and many others like it since what the common values are that we share as a people. What the things are that are important in the lives of everyday Americans, what they expect from themselves, their neighbors and their government.
Among them are these: that they love their country; that the understand the need for heroes and hope that some of them are in the nation's leadership; that they believe that all people are entitled to be treated fairly; that their government will ensure both fairness and freedom.
As I've struggled with today's questions, I return to the things affirmed for me in the hills of southern Indiana years ago and reinforced through the years since -- an appreciation of the common sense and the values of the people I represent, and an understanding of the absolute necessity of a process to protect liberty.
As a people, we share a heritage which provides a system for the determination of truth -- for everyone who has an interest also has the opportunity to be heard.
Our duty as members, in the matter before us, is to ensure that this heritage is sustained and enhanced here. It can only be so if we remain firm in our resolve to find the truth, no matter the political consequences.
The Constitution provides our compass; I intend to follow it wherever it may take us.
And I yield the balance of my time.
HYDE: Thank the gentleman very much.
The distinguished gentleman from Utah, Mr. Cannon.
CANNON: I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I would like to begin, first of all, by expressing my appreciation to you for the thoughtful manner in which you have handled this matter. And I believe that Americans generally are recognizing the thoughtfulness of your attempts to meet the reasonable demands of the Democrats.
I was pleased to see that The Washington Post and New York Times were kind in support of your positions on even those difficult issues of scope and duration.
A few days ago, I held a townhall meeting in which Lori Updike (ph) spoke of her two sons in the military. Paul (ph) is in the Navy and is stationed in Washington. He has served on ship in the Gulf. John (ph) is an Army marksman, who is currently on his way to Russia, and is then going to go to Bosnia.
She shed tears while she spoke of her sons -- not because she isn't willing for them to risk all in the defense of freedom, as embodied in our constitution and our American way of life. She, along with the 600 or so other people that packed the audience and gave her a standing ovation, is concerned that the sacrifices her sons may have to make may be in support of decisions that have to do more with the president's will to retain power than with our national interests.
Lori Updike's (ph) distrust of the president is a small insight into the gravity of what we are doing here today. It is the conduct of the president which has caused us to convene. This conduct has been decried in the most extreme terms by members of both parties.
It deserves condemnation; for instance, the president of the United States was apparently engaged with Ms. Lewinsky while he was on the phone trying to convince Sonny Callahan, the chairman of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, to support his plans for Bosnia.
In addition, it appears that a number of women have taken the position that they had not had sexual relations with the president only to later acknowledge that they had. Are they lying now trying to enter some sort of exclusive club, or were they pressured earlier? Their reluctance and apparent shame suggests the latter.
What force may have been brought against them to influence their earlier decisions? Was that force derived from public office?
Paula Jones had, she felt, the right to redress in the courts for sexual harassment. The president fought those claims, but in doing so, he appears to have lied. Can we allow those who disagree with our claims against them lie in court?
Our debate is just beginning as to whether that conduct which these examples demonstrate is so reckless as to justify impeachment. And yet, my colleagues on the other side are demanding ad nauseum a clear standard for what constitutes an impeachable offense. They speak of the rule of law as requiring such a standard because they apparently misunderstand the meaning of the core concept of the rule of law. It does not require clarity. The law makes clarity paramount only in some narrow circumstances.
For instance, it is a defense to a criminal charge that a statute is ambiguous. The president may in the future be subject to criminal charges, and then all of his and his lawyer's parsing of words and terms may be relevant. In most other areas the law is evolving. Just last year, the Supreme Court expanded the law of sexual harassment to include a supervisor of the same sex.
In opposition to the clarity necessary in criminal matters, the rule of law is simple: that no person or position or organization is above the law. Here we have the burden to determine, each according to his conscience, after the facts are as clear as we can make them if the president's conduct falls short of the standard the founding fathers left intentionally vague.
Here we may be partisan in the highest sense. We must argue our views. We must look for facts and characterizations the favor our side.
Mr. Barrett's recollection of the party-line vote differs from mine, frankly. Not that that's inappropriate, but as I recall, the Republican acceded to virtually every -- in fact, to every motion for redaction that was made in the last hearing that we had. There was a great deal of partisanship and bipartisanship in that hearing.
But after the argument, we must set aside the partisan drive and vote for truth as we see it.
Our duty is to assure that the president is not above the law as set out in the Constitution. We, as a committee, are sitting to judge. But at the same time, we will also be judged.
Historians with the aid of hindsight are often harsh. But our children will be our harshest critics. Our children and their children's children, they must know that we know the difference between right and wrong.
If we proceed unjustly, our colleagues will reject our determination. If we urge drastic action, our rationale must be clear. If we judge rightly, we will be honored.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back the balance of my time.
HYDE: Thank you very much, sir. The distinguished gentleman from California, Mr. Rogan.
ROGAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Today the House Judiciary Committee embarks upon a significant moment contemplated by our founders over two centuries ago.
In offering my limited contribution to this morning's collection of thought, I want to set forth my own standards as we proceed.
First, for as long as this matter remains within our jurisdiction, I shall speak of it not as a Republican, but as an American. To use or manipulate these proceedings for any partisan advantage would be a national tragedy of manifest proportions. In times like these, each of us is obliged to check our party affiliation at the door.
No member of this committee inherited their present responsibilities by swearing allegiance to any political party, to any president or to any congressional leader. The common bond that connects us each to the other is our mutual oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States. We must view this oath with nothing short of reverence.
Second, I enter these proceedings with no fixed conclusions as to whether the president committed potentially impeachable offenses.
As a former gang murder prosecutor and trial court judge, I know the presumption of innocence is not a courtesy we grant to the president. It is his as a matter of right.
He need not beg our leave to obtain it. Rather we must passionately respect and defend it.
Third, despite some suggestions to the contrary, the purpose of this hearing is not for us to sit in moral judgment over the president's personal lifestyle. If this president or any president has engaged in marital indiscretions, this appropriately is the concern of a limited universe of people. It is the concern of his spouse. It is the concern of his family. It may well be the concern of those who entrusted him with high office.
But it is not the concern of the House Judiciary Committee nor is it the concern of the Congress of the United States.
It is not our right or purpose to officially contemplate such matters in the abstract.
However, it is both our purpose and our legal obligation to review the president's alleged conduct within the framework of the rule of law and whether such conduct violated his obligation to faithfully execute the law.
This is a very critical distinction, because up until now, the heritage of American jurisprudence has been that no person is above the law. Yet despite the two centuries of tremendous sacrifice for this legacy, the ghosts of patriots past cannot compel us to maintain the standard that no person is above the law.
Each generation ultimately makes that choice for itself.
Theodore Roosevelt understood this when he said that "No man is above the law and no man is below it. Nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it."
His words are important, because Roosevelt made no exception to this ideal for those who happened to share his party affiliation or his political agenda. Roosevelt knew the rule of law had to apply to all men or it would apply to no man.
President Kennedy echoed that sentiment shortly before his death when he said that for one man to defy a law or court order he does not like is to invite others to do the same. This leads to a breakdown of all justice. Some societies respect the rule of force. America respects the rule of law.
Mr. Chairman, as we now proceed, may our committee, our Congress and our people heed the call of our heritage to respect the rule of law and to uphold the truth, no matter where it shall lead. In doing so, we will honor our constitutional duty, and we surely will fulfill our ultimate obligations, both the conscience and to country.
I yield back.
HYDE: I thank the gentleman. The distinguished gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Graham.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The good news is me and Mary Bono stand between lunch, and we'll try to get through this thing.
As you talk about history -- and history will judge what we do -- people are having to execute history, and we're all tired. I'm getting hungry, and I want to get on with this. The public wants it over.
That buzzing sound you may hear on your television is hopefully not me, but the spin machine is about to crank up here. Both parties on October 5th, 1998, have come to this conclusion. They both have a resolution to investigate the conduct of the president. That is good news.
Now, some of the questions we may have to ask later on to get to the truth are distasteful at best. But the truth is I have no clue what I'm going to do yet. Now, I can tell you that and look you in the eye and honestly mean it. I don't know if censure is appropriate, we should just drop it or we should throw him out of office.
Nobody knows yet, in my opinion, who's really got an open mind about this thing. Is this Watergate or Peyton Place? I don't know.
Let me tell you, if I followed the polls, I know what I would do. In my district -- people have no use for this president. None. Zero. Zip.
Eighty-two percent of the people in one part of my district want to throw him out of office. If I followed the polls, I could sit up here and rant and rave and become governor at home.
I don't want to be governor that way. I want to be a good congressman who 30 years from now, not just 30 days from now, people thought did the right thing. And the right thing is to take this seriously.
And why are we here? We're here because some time ago in Arkansas, some young lady was summoned up to a room where the governor of Arkansas allegedly dropped his pants and asked her to do some very disgusting things. I have no idea if that's true. But thank God I live in a country where that young lady can go to court.
If it had been a member of my family who had that happen to him, a lawsuit would have been the last thing that person would have had to worry about.
Now, this lady made a serious allegation. Her case was dismissed, and that shows you maybe the rule of law works even for the powerful.
But why are we here today? Somewhere between the room in Arkansas and October 5th something happened. They called the president into a deposition, because a lot of times in sexual harassment lawsuits the conduct is behind closed doors with just the man and the woman, and it's who do you believe. That happens more times than not in sexual harassment lawsuits.
So in this country, the litigant is allowed to look at the person and their activity and their behavior. And that's exactly what was going on in Paula Jones' lawsuit. Does the president have a pattern of conduct of approaching people that work for him and soliciting sex mildly or forcefully? And the judge allowed that conduct to be investigated, and the president was placed under oath in the Paula Jones case.
And Miss Lewinsky comes up. That's why we're here today.
How would you like it in your lawsuit if you found out later on that he lied through his teeth about a member of your family; that the gifts that you wanted to prove an essential part of your case wound up under the secretary's bed of the guy you're suing; that as soon as he leaves the deposition, he goes back and he coaches a witness about what to say; and your government, after knowing all that, said, we're tired of it, let's quit?
That is one scenario that may play itself out.
The other scenario is that this guy just has a problem and he can't control himself and it's about human failings and censure is appropriate, and we don't need to turn the country upside down.
Nobody can tell me yet whether this is part of a criminal enterprise or a bunch of lies that build upon themselves based on not wanting to embarrassing the family.
If that's what it is -- about an extramarital affair with an intern and that's it -- I will not vote to impeach this president, no matter if 82 percent of the people at home want me to, because it will destroy this country.
If it is about a criminal enterprise where the operatives of the president at every turn confront witnesses against him in illegal ways, threaten people, extort them, that there's a secret police unit in this White House that goes after women or anybody else that gets in the way of this president, that is Richard Nixon times 10, and I will vote to impeach him.
HYDE: I thank the distinguished gentleman.
The wedding feast at Cana (ph), the good Lord saved the best wine to last. And we, in addition to following the Rodino format, we're following the wedding feast at Cana (ph) by having the best at last. Ms. Bono.
BONO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You know, this past year has been a very difficult time for our country, and it has been a very difficult time for me personally. For the past nine months, we have become increasingly consumed by this one issue, and it has wounded us as a people.
Finally, today we have the opportunity to begin a healing process that will put this issue behind us. It is very important that the truth does not get lost in the process.
This is not about Republicans and it's not about Democrats. This is also not about sex. It is bigger than that, because it's about the public trust.
The abuse of trust is what fuels the cynicism of politicians. This process is about the fundamental trust that is so important to the country's conscience.
People hope to point to the White House with pride. We believe that presidents told the truth and set an example through their actions. We parents want our children to respect and admire our president and our leaders. It is as simple as the old story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree.
These lessons have expired my kids to dream about becoming the American president when they grow up, my son and my daughter. And I want my kids, I want all kids to be able to have that dream. But the message they are hearing today makes me lose faith that they will have this goal after all of this is done. That is how damaging this has been.
Our forefathers decided more than 200 years ago that we would no longer be under the rule of a king. And many paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of that freedom. They wanted a president who would be held accountable for his behavior under the law. And that is why we have the process that brings us here today.
I have avoided any prejudgment during this process, and I have focused on uncovering the truth. After all, that is what the American people hope for, the truth.
We have grown all too weary of the constant media frenzy that has surrounded this process. The people are tired of lawyers who try to cover up the truth with hyperlegal hairsplitting and clever rhetoric.
And so we have grown weary of the political gamesmanship and perpetual spin because they obscure the facts. The time has come for the American people to get the facts.
And it's time to get beyond emotional reactions here. If we allow ourselves to, we can know the difference between the truth and a lie, or even the truth and a misleading statement. And I am certain that the American people will know the truth when they hear it. And I am also certain that we are capable of handling the truth.
Over the past year, I learned a very valuable lesson from the most important people in the world to me. They are my children.
This year, they taught me that from the deepest adversity, there can be found a ray of hope. From that hope, we can draw our strength.
So what can we do now that will make us better as a people?
As a nation, it is time to find that needed strength, to endure a process that I hope will be fair. Our goal is to learn the truth. Perhaps the truth will mean that this process ends sooner rather than later.
But if at the end of the day, we find it warrants further action, then we must proceed. That is why I'll listen closely with an open heart and an open mind to the upcoming presentations.
Many important issues are raised by Judge Starr's report, and many new, important questions may also surface.
There are too many questions that need to be answered. I'm at a loss to pick the right remedy to cure our national crisis, although several have been suggested. Yet, I believe the committee has taken the right path with this inquiry.
But honestly, I would just like to know whether the president committed perjury. I would like to know whether he committed -- excuse me -- whether he obstructed justice. I would like to know whether he abused power. I would like to know whether we are good enough as the House Judiciary Committee to come together on this issue.
But I do know that we are good enough as a country to work to get past this. I also know that without this process, none of us will ever know the answers to these questions, and without these answers, our country cannot put this issue behind us.
The time has come now for the healing process to begin.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
HYDE: I thank the gentlelady.
The chair would like to announce that we will adjourn -- or recess, rather, for 45 minutes -- until 1:15, when we will resume promptly because we wish to finish this, this afternoon.
I want to commend the committee. Both sides have done extremely well -- informative, and if we can continue, we can finish this, this afternoon.
So the committee stands in recess until 1:15.
Monday, October 5, 1998
Quotations from the Judiciary Committee meeting
White House asks Supreme Court to hear dispute with Starr
Key aides leaving White House
No access to Lewinsky papers, court says
Lott wonders about prospects for another government shutdown
High court to tackle census, gangs
Schippers, Lowell briefings before Judiciary panel, part 1 | 2
House Judiciary Committee meeting opening statements, part 1 | 2 | 3
Poll: Race for South Carolina governor tightening
Elderly vote swings Florida elections