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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. Bill McCollum

House Judiciary Committee hearing, December 8, 1998

HYDE: The gentleman from Florida, Mr. McCollum.

MCCOLLUM: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Owens, I believe I'm reading your testimony correctly in hearing it that you do not believe anything is impeachable or should be impeachable that isn't directly related in some way to the president's powers -- official executive authority.

Do you think then that, if the president of the United States went back home on vacation to Arkansas and murdered two of his best friends, having no connection whatsoever to his office in any official capacity, that we should ignore that? Or would we be derelict -- should we impeach him for that if we knew he committed murder while he was sitting as president?

But certainly, murder is an offense, in my mind, an impeachable offense if it's a president or a vice president or a congressman from Florida. Certainly.

MCCOLLUM: Well, let's hypothetically assume then that the president of the United States did not commit murder, but that we elect the president someday, and find after we've elected that indeed prior to his election to office he had committed several crimes of fraud and bilking senior citizens out of millions and dollars. Would that be an impeachable offense? That certainly doesn't go to his official conduct.

OWENS: I think these issues are issues of gravity. And I would think that a Judiciary Committee would have to look at that, a group of wise men and women like this one, and make a decision on whether it rose to the level of impeachability.

And I think that's a subjective judgment...

MCCOLLUM: Ms. Holtzman...

OWENS: ... based on who's before the committee in its docket.

MCCOLLUM: Ms. Holtzman, I'm sure you're aware because it was in today's paper that Henry Ruth (ph) wrote an article about Watergate and cited specifically the income tax fraud charge against President Nixon, and cited your vote and Mr. Conyers as having voted to impeach on that article, although I think perhaps others on this panel voted against it.

Yet, you've testified today -- I can't imagine that was related to his official duties -- that indeed, you think that impeachment needs to be related to the president's official duties. How do you square your vote back in 1974 on President Nixon on the income tax fraud question to your testimony today?

HOLTZMAN: I'm sorry. I haven't had the pleasure of reading Mr. Ruth's (ph) article. I assume it would be a pleasure to read it.

MCCOLLUM: Well, it's in today's "Wall Street Journal."

HOLTZMAN: OK, but in any case, my answer to you is several-fold. One, I went back, because I had remembered the article of impeachment with regard to taxes when this issue of Mr. Clinton came up, and I looked at what I had written at that point in support of that. And in my writing, I said that I believed that there was a misuse of the power of his office.

My reviews, unfortunately, don't back that up -- don't provide the support. I didn't write those views. I signed those views. And I haven't had time to support, find the exact support...

MCCOLLUM: I understand.

HOLTZMAN: But I want to make one other point, sir. And that is that that article also contained question of emoluments in which the president of the United States as president enriched himself with a variety of additions that were made his homes at taxpayers' expense. So you did have an abuse of governmental office.

And I want to say a third thing in response to that. That was not the sole ground of impeachment. We had Article I, which had some 32 separate counts of obstruction of justice. You had Article II, which had five or six separate counts.

So I don't know that one would have voted or that I would have voted -- if that were the only ground for the impeachment of the president of the United States, I cannot say that (OFF-MIKE).

MCCOLLUM: Well, I think what my point about all of the questions that I've done just now with this panel is simply to point out the fact that what may be considered to be official conduct or not is not really the ultimate criteria we should be judging impeachment on, even though with great respect that's what some of you are advocating.

The fact is that even in this case, the president if he committed perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and so forth, did something very closely related to his job as the chief law enforcement officer. He set an example which is something that none of us should want to have out there.

And it's very difficult to see how the court system can function and the justice system can function if the chief executive officer of the nation is permitted to get away with not being impeached, to have that kind of conduct tolerated.

And so I would suggest that really -- the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice while he's sitting in office as president -- are very integral to his duties as president.

So it occurs to me and also many other charges that are out there. But saying it's not connected with his office is not in and of itself a reason not to vote for impeachment.

HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.

Investigating the President


Tuesday, December 8, 1998

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