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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Transcript: Questioning By Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA)

House Judiciary Committee hearing, December 8, 1998

SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Boucher.

BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I share the view that this morning was very eloquently expressed by General Katzenbach, that the impeachment power was not intended for the punishment of an individual for his conduct. He can be punished, even if he's president, in the same manner as any other citizen in our criminal courts.

The impeachment power is designed to advance the nationa those harms be consi dered by the members of the House in deciding the proper course on approving articles of impeachment, given that the protection of the nation is the ultimate test?

And I would like to begin with Professor Ackerman.

ACKERMAN: I think that the standard, so far as evidence is concerned, should be clear and convincing evidence. This is not a normal grand jury indictment. You are indeed correct, Congressman Boucher, that what you are doing is deciding whether the nation's political attention will be diverted for a year. A normal grand jury -- there is no public, great public interest, in preventing an indictment. Here there's a great public interest in diverting -- against diverting attention. So you're absolutely right that the standard has to be high. The evidentiary standard should be clear and convincing. And it's therefore very difficult to evaluate little snippets of testimony without understanding the much larger context.

The second crucial point is that the -- that a vote of impeachment is itself a terrible political precedent for the next generation or two. If this dramatic lowering of the standard from the historical examples is tolerated, every time we have one party -- let's call them the Democrats in control of Congress, and a Republican president in the year 2001 -- there's going to be an overwhelming political temptation to exploit a moment of political vulnerability for the president to, once again, use a low standard for high crimes and misdemeanors.

BOUCHER: Professor Wilentz, let me just ask you, if I might, in the time remaining. Would you care to comment on the harm of the nation that the mere act of the House passing articles of impeachment might cause?

WILENTZ: I have little really to add. I mean, it's true that it will open up the possibility for future presidents to be subject to harassment by Congress' caprices, if it so desires.

But also, I should add that as representatives of the people, you should be well aware that the public has shown again and again and again that it has no stomach to watch this nauseating spectacle continue. And to ignore that, I think, is something that no congressman ought to do.

SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman's time has expired.

BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Investigating the President


Tuesday, December 8, 1998

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