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

Transcript: Questioning of panel two by Rep. Gekas

House Judiciary Committee hearing, December 8, 1998

MCCOLLUM: Mr. Gekas, you are recognized for five minutes.

GEKAS: I thank the chairman. Congressman Owens, you stated in the recitation of the provisions in the Watergate report or the committee language, that what was being considered there was an attack on the system of government and that is what gave pause to many of you as you deliberated in that era.

And so you felt all of these offenses that were lined up were attacks on the system of government. You further stated, in answer to some of the hypotheticals posed to you by the gentleman from Florida, like fraud and murder and so forth, that really that is up to the Judiciary Committee of the time and of the circumstance on what they then have to deliberate, to determine the -- whether or not an offense was an attack on the system of government. Am I paraphrasing you fairly correctly?

OWENS: If I had the right to revise and extend, I would have said that I think the 25th amendment would have taken care of its first hypothetical before it ever came to the Judiciary Committee.

GEKAS: Yes. The murder, I am not...

OWENS: But the decisions on impeachment...


OWENS: ... and the evaluation of evidence are first given to the House Judiciary Committee.

GEKAS: And if this committee -- or the majority of this committee -- felt so strongly that the commission of perjury by the president of the United States, if proved, in front of a grand jury and/or in front of a deposition in front of a federal judge, if we felt so strongly that they were committed and constituted an attack on the system of government in that this was perpetrated in order to destroy the rights of a fellow American citizen who had instituted a legal case against the president in those courts and where a federal judge was sitting -- or federal officers in the case of the grand jury -- is this not, I say to you, within the realm of our possibility of judging that as an attack on the system of government? Would you second guess us on that?

OWENS: If I, as a member of the committee, felt that strongly and intellectually believed, as you suggest in your hypothetical, then I would vote to impeach.

GEKAS: Thank you. Ms. Holtzman?

HOLTZMAN: Yes, sir.

GEKAS: In your written statement, you said that you felt that Mr. Starr overstepped his jurisdiction by arguing for impeachment -- arguing for impeachment on this ground or any ground. Are you referring to his referral as being an argument of impeachment?

HOLTZMAN: Yes. I believe, Congressman, that when we wrote that statute -- and I was one of the authors -- we had in mind the experience of what happened during Watergate with Mr. Jaworski, in which we received no brief for impeachment. We received no argument for impeachment.

We simply received a factual submission with a -- what is called a "road map" on top of it. And that was it. We had to draw our own conclusions.

GEKAS: I recite from the statute itself that says that the independent counsel is carrying out the independent counsel's responsibility under this chapter that may constitute grounds for an impeachment. That is that the mandate is for the independent counsel shall advise the House and all of these that may constitute grounds for an impeachment.

So when -- he either has one or two choices -- one of two choices: to do nothing or to report that there is nothing impeachable and therefore we close the case or he refers something that may constitute grounds for an impeachment. Isn't that following the mandates of the statute?

HOLTZMAN: With all due respect, sir, no...


HOLTZMAN: ... because there is the third choice, which is what we had in mind. What we had in mind is what Mr. Jaworski did.

What Mr. Starr did was he said, "These are 13 grounds for impeachment." That is not what Mr. Jaworski gave us. What Mr. Jaworski gave us were back up documents and factual statements. It was not an argument for impeachment.

GEKAS: Thank you. I have to ask Father Drinan one question. Father Drinan, in your statement, your written statement, I regretfully -- I cannot find the word "vengeance." But I think that you intoned it, in your direct testimony, that some of us or people who are considering the impeachment of the president or considering the articles of impeachment are driven by vengeance.

Did you mean that? Did you say the word "vengeance?" Or am I -- did I mishear you because it's not in your written statement?

DRINAN: That's not -- no. That term is not in the document.

GEKAS: Pardon me?

DRINAN: That term is not in the document, no.

GEKAS: You used it, though. You used it in your oral statement.


GEKAS: Do you seriously believe that any member of this committee or any member of the House, in the final judgment that he or she will render on impeachment proceedings or articles of impeachment, will be driven by vengeance?

DRINAN: I will leave God to judge that.

GEKAS: And then, maybe God's messengers should not prejudge the God that would make the judgment.

MCCOLLUM: Mr. Gekas, your time is expired.

Investigating the President


Tuesday, December 8, 1998

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