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

Transcript: Questioning of second panel by Rep. Howard Coble

House Judiciary Committee hearing, December 8, 1998

COBLE: Well, I hope I have better luck than you did, Mr. Chairman.

Let me ask you a question to the panel. You all may not know this. Do you know how many presidents have been accused of lying to a grand jury while in office -- a, and b -- how many presidents have been accused of lying to a court of law, under oath, while in office -- if you know? Does anyone know the answer to that?

Well, I take it silence indicates that you do not. Let me move along then.

OWENS: Mr. Coble.

COBLE: Yes, sir, Mr. Owens.

OWENS: I would only point out that the lies which President Nixon made were not under oath, but they were material and they were devastating because he was assuring the American people that he was enforcing the law, that investigators were getting to the bottom of the break-in. They were not under oath but they were devastating because of what they dealt with.

COBLE: My time is running. The reason I ask you -- much has been made about the historical significance and connection to impeachment. I wanted to get that historical fact in, if anyone knew.

Now, many people have compared this crisis to Watergate. There are similarities and there are distinctions.

I recall, during the days of Watergate, those who opposed impeachment simply said -- My gosh, it's only a second-rate burglary. What is the big deal?

Well, it was, indeed, a big deal because it involved cover-up. It involved obstruction of justice. It involved abuse of power. It involved the use of government employees, taxpayer subsidized by the way -- paid by the taxpayers -- to lie, to evade, to deceive. So it extended far beyond a second-rate burglary.

Now nearly a quarter of a century later, we hear people who are opposed to impeachment in this instance. Well, my gosh, it only involves consensual sex among consenting adults. What is the big deal?

Well, the big deal may be a duplication of Watergate problems -- coverup, evasion, lying, deception, using government employees -- paid for by the taxpayers, I might add again -- to cover-up. It may go beyond that.

And I resent the fact that some accuse us of vengeance. I don't mean to speak for anyone, but I suspect very few in the Watergate era, who sat on that House Judiciary Committee, were gleeful about that exercise. Now, there may have been one or two firebrands. There may be one or two firebrands here today who are gleeful about it.

But I daresay that the great majority of Democrats and Republicans alike on this Judiciary Committee are not gleeful at all about this. But I don't think we can afford to dismiss the facts that have been laid at our feet.

The Constitution requires us to respond. And if we vote in favor of impeachment, then we are accused of being partisan firebrands.

COBLE: And I resent it. And I think most Americans will probably resent it. And I'm getting a little carried away, Mr. Chairman. But I think I need to say this. And many people have made a big point, a salient point about the partisanship of this committee. Well this is an energized, spirited, polarized group I will admit. And when the television lights are illuminated, that energy seems to intensify. But for the benefit of our views, we get along pretty well with another once those TV lights are extinguished, pretty good group, pretty good men and women together I might add. Most folks don't know that because they see the other side of it.

But we're going about our business. And if anybody thinks that vengeance is involved, I'll meet them in the parking lot later on tonight.


HYDE: Thank you very much.

Investigating the President


Tuesday, December 8, 1998

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