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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. Charles Schumer

House Judiciary Committee hearing, December 8, 1998

HYDE: The gentleman from New York, Mr. Schumer, the gentleman from New York.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

HYDE: I wanted to say Shuster, and I fought against it very hard, Mr. Schumer.

SCHUMER: Well, thank you, Mr...


HYDE: It's all right.

SCHUMER: Anyway, I thank the witnesses, all three people I know, and particularly my predecessor Liz Holtzman. I guess starting in January, this will be the first time in a very long time our congressional district is not represented by a member in the House Judiciary Committee, Manny Cellar (ph) before you and then me.

And I'm sorry this is the way we're going out, our district is going out of the Judiciary Committee.

My first question relates to a question to all three of the witnesses, which relates to a question that I had asked the previous panel, and that is this. I am still sort of -- more than sort of -- I am still very perplexed by the view of some of the more moderate Republicans. I guess none of them on this committee, but a good number of the swing votes have expressed a view that, well, if only the president would make a fulsome apology. The president believes he has apologized already, but one I guess that's fuller and more direct or whatever, or reiterated again, that then maybe they would vote against impeachment, and for a lesser penalty. And it seems to me that that is a specious standard.

I mean, here we are dealing with impeachment, one of the most serious things this committee, this congress can do. And it should be related to the president and whether they rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, whether they rise to the high level that we have heard so many witnesses talk about, not about either an apology or about whether the president answered the questions to the liking of the members of this committee or to the members of Congress.

So I would just wonder, each of you having gone through this, having thought about this in a historic sense, do you think, did it every cross your mind that, say, if Richard Nixon offered a full apology late in the day that you would then -- I mean, should that have influenced your decision as to whether he deserved impeachment?

Mr. Owens.

OWENS: If impeachment is a political decision, and it is, my sense is that if Richard Nixon, right up to the point of when the Judiciary Committee undertook its debate at the end of July of 174, had he gone public and said, I apologize, I committed serious offenses, I thought I was acting in the public's interest, my sense is the public would probably have forgiven him, and the Judiciary Committee would have voted articles of impeachment, but that, certainly, even if the House passed them, that the Senate would not have convicted.

When the three smoking guns turned up, in which Mr. Nixon was found to have directed the CIA to tell the FBI to back off Watergate, within, as I recall, 30 hours of the break-in at Watergate, until that came out, I think, perhaps, he might have escaped, because I think the public at that time did not want to impeach, even that unpopular president. It's a wrenching decision on the public. Very powerful. Very hurtful.

SCHUMER: You're saying what turned the public's...

OWENS: And I think Richard Nixon could have turned that around.

SCHUMER: But you're saying what turned people's minds were the actions of the president, not an apology or something like that? Is that -- aren't I correct in assuming that?

OWENS: If the president had come clean. I think it would have made a big difference then.

SCHUMER: OK. Father Drinan.

DRINAN: Well, Senator, I think that the crimes then were so appalling, and as I reread our report here, it was just unbelievable the things in which they were involved, with Tony Ilasowitz (ph) and -- the memory -- it's appalling. So I don't think that anybody mentioned censures at that time, and that it was just proceeding. And furthermore, censure is not in the Constitution, and that the Congress has the one decision to make, impeach or not impeach.

People say, well, the Constitution doesn't forbid censure, which is true. And I think that the people would accept censure in this country now, if we would get a Christmas present that this would all go away. But I don't think the concept of censure ever really came up. If he could have apologized again -- well, he never apologized, really. He made more revelations when he was required to do them, but he never really said that he was sorry.

SCHUMER: Ms. Holtzman.

HOLTZMAN: Well, Senator -- I like the way that sounds.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

HOLTZMAN: I think it's very hard to speculate about what would have happened. The fact of the matter is we had those facts. None of us sought, or I think few of us sought the responsibility of sitting in judgment on the president. It was extremely difficult. It was very sad. It was one of the most difficult tasks, actually, to cast that vote. All of us searched our conscience, and all of us felt that a very high standard of evidence had been met. Remember, what we were confronted with...

MCCOLLUM: The gentleman's time has expired, unfortunately. I've let you answer as much as I can, Ms. Holtzman, but...


Investigating the President


Tuesday, December 8, 1998

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