Transcript provided by FDCH
Transcript: Questioning of second panel by Rep. David Boucher
House Judiciary Committee hearing, December 8, 1998
HYDE: Thank you very much. On that high note, the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Boucher.
JACKSON LEE?: Peacefully.
BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I was pleased to note in the statements made by our distinguished former colleagues who are here with us this afternoon, references to the concern that we all should have about members of the House who might apply a lower standard to determining whether or not articles of impeachment should be approved in this matter. Several of our witnesses suggested that members might consider themselves to be a grand jury and apply a standard on the order of probable cause to making that determination.
The committee on which you served in its 1974 report in the Watergate matter established a standard that I think is far more appropriate. And the standard that was adopted by your committee on a bipartisan basis would make impeachment available only for conduct that is, and I'll quote the language, "seriously incompatible with our constitutional form of government or the performance of the constitutional duties of the presidential office." And that is the standard which I think is much more appropriate for the House of Representatives to employee as well as for the Senate to employ.
It occurs to me that the reason that some members of the House may be considering applying this lesser standard of probable cause is because there has not been a sufficient focus so far on the kinds of harms that can occur to the country just by virtue of the House itself voting for articles of impeachment. And those harms apparently, to me, apparently would be, first of all, a polarization of the nation way beyond what it is today.
Secondly, a diversion of the Congress and the president from their basic responsibilities of tending to our urgent needs. A possible immobilization of the Supreme Court while the chief justice presides at a Senate trial. The lowering of the standard for future impeachment inquiries and there probably is a longer list. Today is an opportunity for us to begin in a serious manner that dialogue about what these harms really are.
And so I want to welcome our former colleagues who have much to say on that subject. You have broached that in your testimony. And I'd like to provide you with the balance of this time to talk, if you're inclined to do so about what you see those harms being, and why the House of Representatives ought to apply the higher standard, well beyond probable cause. The standard announced by your committee in 1974 as we consider whether or not to vote articles of impeachment. Mr. Owens.
OWENS: I think that the increased polarization which incidentally already exists. More than two-third of the people in every poll I've seen recently do not want this president impeached. The polarization would increase dramatically if the House passes articles of impeachment and sends them to the Senate to be tried. Father Drinan mentioned the slowing down, the stoppage of much of the government, the taking over of the time where the justice and the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the terrible feelings and passion that depriving the president of his time in office, which the people have bestowed upon him. I think it would have a terrible impact on the public. I don't think there's any question about it.
Hence, we tried to apply in 1974 the standard for testing of whether we would pass articles not by the clear and convincing that one thinks of as typical evidence for an indictment, but rather beyond a reasonable doubt so that the Senate would in fact have the evidence on which to convict. And it was clear that Richard Nixon would be convicted by the Senate and removed from office. And only under the circumstances should you put the country to this kind of a test.
BOUCHER: Ms. Holtzman.
HOLTZMAN: I think I addressed that in my arguments. I think all of us felt -- well, I can't speak for everybody. I know I felt that way. I think many of my colleagues felt that we had to vote as if we were in the Senate. That we couldn't just simply say, look, guys and gals, this is your job.
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