House impeaches Clinton
President will face Senate trial on perjury, obstruction of justice charges
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, December 19) -- A deeply divided House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton Saturday on charges of lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice in the Monica Lewinsky affair. The two allegations of "high crimes and misdemeanors" next go to the Senate for trial.
Enough Republicans broke ranks to defeat the two other articles of impeachment recommended one week ago by the House Judiciary Committee. Those accused Clinton of committing perjury in his deposition in the Paula Jones case and abusing his power in his efforts to cover up his sexual relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern.
Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, who will prosecute the case in the Senate, delivered the impeachment articles to the Secretary of the Senate at 3 p.m. ET. The trial is expected to get underway in mid-January after the 106th Congress takes office.
Clinton will be only the second U.S. president in history to face a Senate trial. The last time the House voted impeachment articles was 130 years ago when President Andrew Johnson was impeached following the Civil War.
The president, who vowed to serve out his remaining two year in office, told top aides he was disappointed but not surprised by the House impeachment votes. Clinton said he was committed to seeking a quick bipartisan compromise.
Clinton did not watch the first vote on television; instead he was in the Oval Office with Rev. Tony Campolo, one of his spiritual advisers. But the president later joined Chief of Staff John Podesta and senior adviser Doug Sosnik in the private dining room off the Oval Office and watched the votes on the second, third and fourth articles of impeachment, several sources told CNN.
Following the votes, Democratic leaders rode buses to the White House and stood behind Clinton at a White House event where the president pledged to continue to fight and asked for national reconciliation.
"We need to move beyond partisanship and get on with the business of the country," Clinton said. (Full story)
The first article alleging Clinton lied under oath when he testified before Independent Counsel Ken Starr's grand jury about the details of his extramarital affair with Lewinsky was adopted on a 228-206, largely party-line vote. Only five Democrats voted for that article, and five Republicans against.
Article II failed 229-205, with many more Republican defections.
But the GOP majority again prevailed, 221-212, on Article III accusing Clinton of obstructing justice by tampering with witnesses and taking other steps to conceal his affair with Lewinsky.
That allegation means Lewinsky herself and other principals in the investigation, such as Lewinsky's onetime friend Linda Tripp, Clinton secretary Betty Currie and presidential friend Vernon Jordan, could be called to testify in the Senate.
The fourth article, accusing the president of abuse of power, was defeated more handily on a 285-148 vote.
The House's often heated and partisan floor debate resumed Saturday morning after a nearly 13-hour session Friday.
In the opening moments House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston (R-Louisiana), who was embarrassed earlier this week by the disclosure of past extramarital affairs, made a stunning announcement that would not run for speaker and would quit the Congress.
Livingston called on Clinton to follow his example and resign as president. "I can only challenge you in such fashion if I am willing to heed my own words," Livingston said. (Full story)
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who has been credited with shoring up support within his caucus for impeachment, made an emotional statement in support of his Republican colleague.
"There is no greater American in my mind, at least today, than Bob Livingston because he understood what this debate was all about. It was about honor and decency and integrity and the truth," DeLay said.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), a member of the Judiciary Committee, urged Livingston to rethink his decision: "I believe Bob Livingston's resignation, while offered in good faith, was wrong. It is a surrender to a developing sexual McCarthyism."
For weeks Democrats had failed to convince the Republican leadership to allow a floor vote on an alternative to impeachment in the form of a stern condemnation of the president's behavior. During the 14-plus hours of impeachment debate, the GOP's refusal to do so was a point of deep anger in Democratic speeches.
Between the debate and votes, the Democrats made a last-ditch try, introducing a procedural motion that would have substituted a censure resolution for the impeachment articles by sending them back to the House Judiciary Committee.
The parliamentary manuever was rejected by acting Speaker Ray LaHood (R-Illinois) as non-germane and the appeal vote failed. As they had threatened to do if the motion failed, Democrats then walked out of the chamber to hold a brief demonstration outside the Capitol to criticize what they called an "unfair" process.
"We walked to demonstrate our deep displeasure at the action of the majority party; they disregarded the clear will of the majority of the American people," said House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri).
"People are angry," House Minority Whip David Bonior said. "They are frustrated. They are bewildered. They want to know why a rump in this Congress want to hijack the election and take away the right of the American people to have their president represent them.
"This House is out of touch. It is out of control. And it is so consumed that they have just denied us a chance to vote on the one option -- the one option -- that commands the support of the American people, and that is censure," Bonior said.
The Democrats quickly returned to the chamber to cast their votes on the articles of impeachment.
The surprises and drama did not derail the impeachment debate and the rhetoric was often as fiercely partisan as it was during Friday's 13-hour session.
Speakers from both sides of the aisle repeated their parties' respective mantras: Republicans insisted Clinton forfeited his right to the presidency when he violated the rule of law. Democrats countered that the offenses did not rise to level of impeachment and pleaded for a censure resolution.
One Republican who voted against all of the articles of impeachment, Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut), said it was understandable why the sides would break down that way: "I believe that the impeachable offenses have not been proven and that the proven offense are not impeachable. But they are close.
"And that's why I understand that members that happen to be primarily Democrats concluded that the president should not be impeached and members on my side of the aisle primarily Republicans who believe he should be impeached," Shays said.
When the debate began Friday, Hyde said Clinton betrayed the public trust by lying under oath and should be removed from office.
"The question before this House is rather simple," said Hyde, an Illinois Republican. "It's not about sex ... The matter before the House is lying under oath. This is called perjury."
Hyde said perjury and obstruction of justice "cannot be reconciled with the office of the president of the United States ... The people's trust has been betrayed." (416K wav audio file)
He accused Clinton of a "premeditated, deliberate corruption of the nation's system of justice."
But Gephardt, who appealed to Republicans to allow a vote on censure instead, said it was time to end slash-and-burn, smear politics.
"We can take an important step today back to the politics of respect and trust and fairness and forgiveness," Gephardt said. "All I'm asking for is we get to vote our conscience ... Let fairness reign." (544K wav audio file)
Democrats argued, though, that impeachment was intended for tyrants and traitors, not for a president trying to conceal an extramarital affair.
"I am witnessing, in the most tragic event of my career in the Congress, in effect, a Republican coup d'etat in process," said Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan).
Rep. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) called the impeachment proceedings "a travesty," and asked Republicans, "Where is your sense of fairness?"
"A censure would put an indelible scar on the president's place in history," Menendez said. "Monica Lewinsky is not Watergate. Let he who has no sin in this chamber cast the first stone."
CNN's John King contributed to this report.
Saturday, December 19, 1998
Reaction to impeachment mixed, emotional
DeLay, Gingrich support Hastert for House speaker
Clinton appeals for 'reasonable' compromise
What's next in the impeachment process?
Livingston bows out of the speakership
Poll: Public still prefers censure
Transcript: Clinton reacts to impeachment vote
First lady delivers pep talk to Democrats
White House says GOP's strategy is to get Clinton to resign
House roll call: Article I
House roll call: Article II
House roll call: Article III
House roll call: Article IV
Clinton radio address: U.S. is vigilant on Iraq
GOP radio address: Iraq shouldn't stall debate