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Transcript: Closing arguments by Republican chief counsel David Schippers
House Judiciary Committee hearing, December 10, 1998
HYDE: The committee will come to order. The chair recognizes Mr. Scott.
SCOTT: Mr. Chairman, first I'd like to ask unanimous consent that a statement from former member Congressman Ray Thornton be submitted to the record.
HYDE: Without objection, so ordered.
SCOTT: Second, I have a motion that's been distributed that I'd like considered.
HYDE: Please, the gentleman's recognized for five minutes.
SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The motion is as follows: that I move that the committee establish a specific scope of inquiry prior to the White House's rebuttal to still undefined allegations. If it shall be necessary to expand the scope of the inquiry, then such expansion shall be permitted by a majority vote of the committee. And in addition, once the specific allegations of inquiry have been designated, the committee shall hear from witnesses with direct knowledge of these allegations before it considers any article of impeachment.
Mr. Chairman, this motion was presented before the White House counsel came, and I think it is still timely. It was somewhat unseemly to watch the counsel leave and then have distributed -- actually, while he was here, have taken from him the allegations because he wasn't supposed to get them before he knew what the actual charges are.
Mr. Chairman, I think I owe some of the Republicans an apology because I have been making a mockery out of the suggestion that -- not knowing what the charges were some might even conclude that answers -- legalistic answers to the 81 questions might be impeachable offenses. But I shouldn't have -- I shouldn't have said that, because, of course, when we got the specifics, the 81 questions were, in fact, article -- became articles of impeachment.
Mr. Chairman, the unseemly part was that before the counsel got the actual charges, "Roll Call" newspaper has a headline "Defense Rests," and then he learns the charges. Well, we had our counsel similarly disadvantaged when he had to guess as to what the charges were. He indicated that he was guessing that it might be this and it might be that. Now we will find out after his presentation what he was responding to.
Since most of us in terms of the witnesses believe that -- some of us, anyway -- believe that the allegations, even if they're true, are not impeachable offenses, before we know what the allegations are, we're not able to entertain calling of witnesses. But once we have with specificity what the allegations are, I would hope that we would hear from fact witnesses who have direct knowledge so that we're not depending on one counsel's interpretation of documents that cannot be cross-examined compared to another counsel's interpretation of documents which cannot be cross-examined, so that before we go forward with any articles of impeachment, we ought to hear from fact witnesses.
And if there are no witnesses presented, zero to zero, then, of course, unless there is a presumption of guilt, we certainly cannot go forward. I yield back the remainder of my time.
HYDE: I thank the gentleman. In response, briefly, the -- you have asked that and a specific scope of inquiry be established. That was established in Resolution 581.
You have said, if it shall be necessary to expand the scope of the inquiry -- the inquiry hasn't been expanded. The articles of impeachment are no surprise to anybody. They're based on the referral from the independent counsel.
And as to wanting more witnesses, that has -- that's been overtaken by events. We had time yesterday to call witnesses for the White House. Any witnesses you have ever wanted, you have been permitted to offer them.
So this has really been overtaken by events. And so if there's no further discussion, I'll call for a vote.
WATT: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman.
HYDE: Gentleman from North Carolina.
WATT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I (OFF-MIKE).
HYDE: Gentleman's recognized for five minutes.
WATT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I rise in support of Mr. Scott's motion. This is really not different from what Mr. Scott and I and several members of this committee have been requesting throughout this process.
For those of us who come from a legal background, many of whom got to this committee by virtue of long interest in and involvement with the practice of law, and the procedures that protect individual citizens from abuse by the government, this process has been a very grueling and disconcerting one.
We would never think of calling into court commencing a legal process against any citizen in the United States of America without specifying the charges against that individual. It is a basic precept of our democracy and our judicial system.
And the members of this committee know that. The American people know that. The only way that individual citizens can be protected from the abuses of the legal process, especially the criminal process in this country, is to have that important protection provided to them.
We have given lip service throughout this process to the notion that no person, including the president of the United States, should be above the law or below the law. And yet, this process that this committee has followed throughout this investigation, an ordeal, has consistently treated the president of the United States below any procedural due process that we would ever think of providing any citizen of the United States of America.
And my sense is that although I hear quite often from my constituents that they perceive that this is unfair, that there are a number of people out there who, because this is an impeachment proceeding, feel like we can just slide around that basic protection that we provide to American citizens. I sense that there are people out there who believe that somehow because we are members of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, because they have seen us time after time after time do things that we wouldn't do in a civilized democracy in a court setting, in a judicial setting, in a constitutional setting to any citizen of the country, believe that we think we are above the law.
We make this stuff up as we go along, and that's the feeling that I have had throughout this process, that the rules are just being made as we go along.
This is about protection of the citizens of this country, Mr. Chairman.
HYDE: Thank you. The gentleman's time...
WATT: And I think if we don't provide it in this committee, we have an obligation to tell the American people why we are not...
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman...
HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman?
HYDE: Just a moment, please. The chair would like to inform the gentleman who just spoke and the gentleman who spoke before him that we did call Charles Ruff...
WATT: Mr. Chairman, are we -- what are we doing here? What's the regular order?
HYDE: Well, I am just trying to inform you. But if you don't want to be informed, I won't.
WATT: That's all right.
HYDE: Go ahead.
WATT: The light has not started over for (OFF-MIKE)...
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, I move the previous question...
HYDE: The previous question has been moved. All of those in favor say aye.
HYDE: Opposed, nay.
HYDE: The ayes have it. The previous question is moved. The question now occurs on the motion by Mr. Scott.
All of those in favor will say aye.
HYDE: All those opposed, no.
HYDE: In the opinion of the chair, the nos have it. The motion is not agreed to, and now we go to Mr...
(UNKNOWN): Can I have a roll call, Mr. Chairman?
HYDE: You want a roll call?
Why, absolutely. We'll have a roll call.
The clerk will call the roll.
(UNKNOWN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CLERK: Mr. Sensenbrenner.
CLERK: Mr. Sensenbrenner votes no.
CLERK: Mr. McCollum votes no.
CLERK: Mr. Gekas votes no.
CLERK: Mr. Coble votes no.
CLERK: Mr. Smith votes no.
CLERK: Mr. Gallegly votes no.
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