Sen. Bunning's closed-door impeachment statement
Released into Congressional Record, February 12, 1999
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky): This is my first speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. I had hoped my opening speech would be about Social Security. This year, in my opinion, we have a golden window of opportunity to reform and strengthen this vital program and I had hoped to use my first comments on the Senate floor to help open the debate on real Social Security reform.
Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way. Of necessity, my opening speech in this body is about the Articles of Impeachment against President Clinton. It was not my choice!
In fact, none of us have much choice in this matter. Here in the U.S. Senate, we have been charged with the responsibility of looking at the facts as presented by the managers from the House of Representatives. Each of us took an oath to do impartial justice.
And the Constitution doesn't give us much wiggle room when it comes to choices. The Framers were pretty explicit about out options. If we determine that the President is guilty of the charges as outlined in the two Articles of Impeachment, the penalty is removal from office. We have no other choice.
Because we are all political animals, I think it is natural that the legitimacy of this process and the outcome of this debate will be clouded to some degree by the perception that it is a partisan exercise.
Many of the President's defenders and many of our friends in the media, in fact, have insisted all along that the whole process has been driven by partisan Republicans who are intent to removing a Democrat President they do not like from office.
The difficulty you run into when you start throwing around the term 'partisan' politics is that is seldom a one-way street.
Is it any more 'partisan' to blindly support the impeachment of a President of the other party than it is to blindly support a President of your own regardless of the facts? Of course not. Just as each of us, in keeping with our oath to do impartial justice, must strive to avoid a partisan, knee-jerk solution to the process, we must also not let ourselves be deterred from doing what we feel is right simply to avoid charges of partisanship.
So, hiding behind the charge that the process has been tainted by political partisanship gives us no relief from our responsibility to look at the facts nor does it expand our choices.
So, it is the facts that matter. And each of us must weigh them individually. We are not taking about public opinion polls. They should have no bearing on the case at this point. It is a question of facts pure and simple.
Each of us must weigh those facts individually. We might reach different conclusions. But if I determine that the president is guilty, and if you determine that the president is guilty, based on those facts we don't have any options. We must vote to convict and to remove the President from office.
I am personally convinced that the President is guilty under both of the Articles of Impeachment presented to us by the House Managers.
The managers from the House have presented a strong case that President Clinton committed perjury. The circumstantial and supporting evidence is overwhelming that Bill Clinton did lie under oath to the grand jury when he testified about his attorney's use of a false affidavit at his deposition. He lied under oath to the grand jury when he testified about the nature of his relationship with Miss Lewinsky. He lied under oath about what he told his aides about his relationship with Miss Lewinksky. He lied under oath to the grand jury when he testified about the nature of his relationship with Miss Lewinsky. He lied under oath about what he told his aides about his relationship with Miss Lewinsky. He lied under oath to the grand jury about his conversations with Betty Currie.
That is perjury. That is a felony. We cannot uphold our reverence for the rule of law and ignore it.
The circumstantial and supporting evidence is also overwhelming that the President did willfully obstruct justice when he encouraged Miss Lewinsky to file a affidavit in the Jones case; when he coached Betty Currie on how to respond to questions about his relationship with Miss Lewinsky.
When he lied to aides whom he knew would be called as a grand jury witnesses, when he promoted a
job search for Miss Lewinsky, and when he encouraged Miss Lewinsky to return the gifts he had given her, he was attempting to obstruct justice.
After listening to the facts and the evidence, and after listening to the President's defense team try to refute the charges, I have determined that he is guilty as charged.
I have tried to the best of my ability to reach this determination impartially without being biased by my political affiliation. Have I been successful? I believe so.
I am encouraged in the belief that I have reached the proper conclusion for the proper reasons by the harsh wording of the resolution being circulated by some of the defenders of the President, senators who oppose impeachment but support a censure resolution.
The most recent version of a censure resolution that I have seen admits that the President engaged in shameless, reckless and indefensible conduct. It goes on to say that the President of the United States deliberately misled and deceived the American people and officials of the United States government.
It also says that the President gave false or misleading testimony, and impeded discovery of evidence in judicial proceedings and that, as a result, he deserves censure.
These are the people who are opposed to the Articles of Impeachment.
The Constitution doesn't really give us that kind of choice. If the President is guilty of these charges, he must be convicted and he must be removed from office. Censure is not an option.
I would rather be speaking about Social Security but I wasn't given a choice in the matter.
I would prefer not to vote to convict any President of Articles of Impeachment. But I don't have a choice in that matter either.
If he is guilty, he must be convicted. And I believe he is guilty as charged.
There is one central, elemental ingredient that is necessary to the success of our ability, as a nation, to govern ourselves. That is trust.
Before a President takes office, he swears a solemn oath, to 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'
We accept his word on that.
When the Vice President, United States Senators and members of the House of Representatives take office, they are required to take an oath 'to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.'
We trust that they will live up to that oath.
We administer these oaths and we accept them as binding because government, at least in this nation, is, above all else, a matter of trust. Trust is the glue that holds it all together. If that trust is destroyed or tarnished, it seriously undermines the basic foundations of our government.
The President's defenders try to excuse him by saying that if he did lie under oath and obstruct justice, he did it to protect himself and his family from personal embarrassment about sexual indiscretions, and somehow this makes the lies all right.
It doesn't. When he lied and when he tried to hide his lies from the grand jury, he broke trust with the nation's justice system. He broke faith with the American people.
Not only did he break the law, he also violated the sacred trust of the office of the President. And in so doing, he violated his oath of office.
And that raises the two Articles of Impeachment to a level that definitely justifies his removal from office.
It is a matter of trust. And it leaves us no choice but to vote for conviction.
Friday, February 12, 1999
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