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

Transcript: Opening statement of Rep. Goodlatte

House Judiciary Committee hearing, December 10, 1998

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia): Mr. Chairman, this is a somber occasion. I am here because it is my constitutional duty, as it is the constitutional duty of every member of this committee, to follow the truth wherever it may lead.

Our founding fathers established this nation on a fundamental yet, at the time, untested idea that a nation should be governed not by the whims of any man, but by the rule of law. Implicit in that idea is the principle that no one is above the law, including the chief executive.

Since it is the rule of law that guides us, we must ask ourselves what happens to our nation if the rule of law is ignored, cheapened, or violated, especially at the highest level of government. Consider the words of former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Brandeis, who was particularly insightful on this point.

"In a government of laws, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. If government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law. It invites every man to become a law unto himself."

Mr. Chairman, we must ask ourselves what our failure to uphold the rule of law will say to the nation, and most especially to our children who must trust us to leave them a civilized nation where justice is respected.

The charges against the president include perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power. These are serious charges deserving serious consideration. The question before the committee is, whether the president intentionally misled our judicial system and the American people as part of a calculated, ongoing effort to conceal the facts and the truth and to deny an average citizen her day in court in a sexual harassment lawsuit? And did the president betray the public trust by perjuring himself before a federal grand jury and obstructing justice? Let's take a minute to examine the facts of this case.

On January 17, 1998, the president swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in a deposition given before a federal district judge. The president testified that he did not know that his personal friend, Vernon Jordan, had met with Monica Lewinsky, a federal employee, a subordinate, and a witness in the Jones' case in which the president was named as a defendant and talked about the case. The evidence before the committee clearly indicates that the president lied under oath. The president testified that he did not recall being alone with Miss Lewinsky. The evidence before the committee clearly indicates that the president lied under oath.

On August 17, 1998, seven months after his deposition in the Jones' case, the president swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, before the federal grand jury. The president testified that he did not allow his attorney to claim that his affidavit in the civil case was true when he knew it was false. The evidence before the committee clearly indicates that the president lied under oath. The president also testified before the grand jury that he did not give false testimony in his deposition in the Jones' case. The evidence before the committee clearly indicates that the president lied under oath.

While the president's lawyers have denied the facts against him, they have not, because they apparently cannot, provide new evidence that rebuts those facts. Many of the legal scholars testifying at the request of the president have admitted that the president lied in both the Jones' case and before the grand jury, but argue that those offenses are not impeachable. If the committee were to adopt that position, however, it would create a double standard that places the president above the law. Virtually every public official in America, including our nation's governors and virtually everyone in private employment, would lose their job if they committed perjury or obstructed justice. In fact, many already have. We have had before the committee average Americans who have suffered these consequences and even incarceration because they committed perjury. And as more than one witness testified before this committee, a person with those charges against them would not even be nominated for a position in state or federal government. If we truly respect the presidency, we cannot allow the president to be above the law. Millions of law-abiding Americans from all walks of life, including my constituents, put in an honest day's work, follow the rules and struggle to teach their children respect for the law and the importance of integrity.

When a factory worker or a medical doctor or a retiree breaks the law, they do so with the knowledge that they are not above the law. This same principle must also apply to the most powerful and privileged in our nation, including the president of the United States. To lose this principle, devastates a legacy entrusted to us by our founding fathers and protected for us by generations of American families.

Some of my colleagues have decided that a resolution of censure is the only appropriate remedy for the president's action. Their resolution admits that the president made false statements concerning his reprehensible conduct with a subordinate and wrongly took steps to delay discovery of the truth. For those who might support this resolution, I would like to raise two key points.

First, censure would set a dangerous precedent without foundation in the Constitution. Second, if you truly believe the allegations contained in the censure resolution, how can you not vote to impeach? The evidence against the president shows clearly and convincingly that he committed perjury and obstructed justice, and the consequences of ignoring the facts in this case for simple, political expediency or of adopting an unconstitutional and ineffective censure resolution, far outweigh the consequences of moving forward.

I have a constitutional duty to follow the truth wherever it leads. The truth in this case leads me to believe that the president knowingly engaged in a calculated pattern of lies, deceit, and delay in order to mislead the America people, impede the search for truth, deny the right of his accuser to have her day in court, and protect himself from criminal prosecution. Therefore, I have no alternative but to support articles of impeachment against President Clinton.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for the way in which you have conducted this inquiry.

It has not been easy. Your fairness and dedication to duty has been rewarded by personal attacks from the White House. Throughout this process, you have remained faithful to your oath of office and to the Constitution. That is what history will remember, and that is what each of us should strive to follow. When called to duty, you rose to the occasion and we thank you.

The decision I have reached, while a sobering one is I believe also the correct one. I have heard from many constituents who are deeply concerned that action be taken in this matter. And I appreciate them sharing their thoughts. One of those constituents is a 12-year-old sixth grade student from Link Horn (ph) Middle School in Lynchburg, Virginia named Paul Eng (ph). He recently wrote, "I am a boy scout who is concerned about the leadership of the president of the United States of America. It is my understanding that other ordinary citizens who lie under oath are prosecuted. The president should not be any different. He should also have to obey the laws.

"As a boy scout, I have learned that persons of good character are trustworthy and obedient. I feel that the character of the president should be at least as good as the leaders that I follow in my local troop and community. Is this too much to ask of our country's leaders?"

The precious legacy entrusted to us by our founders and our constituents is a nation dedicated to the idea of freedom and equality for all her people. This committee must decide whether we will maintain our commitment to the rule of law and pass this precious legacy to our children and grandchildren, or whether we will bow to the political pressure for the sake of convenience or expediency. Much of our hopes and dreams for our children like Paul Eng (ph) and for the integrity of our nation depends on the answer to that question. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Investigating the President


Friday, December 11, 1998

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