Sen. Stevens's closed-door impeachment statement
Released into Congressional Record, February 12, 1999
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska): I thank our majority leader. Throughout this ordeal, no one has tried to poll me on any substantive matter or influence my vote. That, to me, means a great deal. I view this process as the most serious task I have faced as a Senator over the past 30 years, and I appreciate the recognition by the leadership of the solemnity of our duties under these circumstances and the fact that we each must reach our own conclusions based on the evidence.
As Senators, each of us joined in this oath:
I . . . do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
And now, we took an additional oath:
[I] solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, now pending, [I] will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help [me] God.
As free citizens of the world's most successful democracy we are inexorably tied to the pledges and commitments we make. These obligations, and the unlimited benefits they bestow on us, depend on our willingness to be truthful with one another. The President took the two most serious oaths any American ever encounters: the oath to faithfully execute our laws, administered by the Chief Justice, our Presiding Officer, on the steps of this building, and the oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to a jury of his peers.
I am most concerned that the action we take here to day not denigrate the role of oaths and truth in our society. To be fair to the President, I feel he believed that he admitted to the Grand Jury that he had not testified truthfully under oath in his deposition. In fact he did not, and he did not tell the truth to the grand jury either.
Both the House Managers and the President's lawyers have seized on apparent conflicts in the evidence and recorded testimony before this Court of Impeachment. Nonetheless, the evidentiary record and the presentations of both sides, as supplemented by their responses to our questions, leave no doubt in my mind that if I were sitting as a juror in a criminal case I would find that the accused is guilty of perjury as charged in Article I. Following the jury's verdict, it would then fall to the judge to determine appropriate punishment within the bounds of the federal sentencing guidelines provided by Congress.
But an impeachment trial is no ordinary proceeding. We sit as judge and jury--rulers on law and triers of fact. The Constitution charges us with a great responsibility. Section 4 of Article II of the Constitution requires that the President be removed from office upon conviction of high crimes and misdemeanors. No President has ever been removed under these circumstances. To me, that history alone should make each of us seriously consider whether the facts presented to us require that the Senate exercise this awesome power.
The process by which our Founding Fathers determined that this power should be vested in the Congress is adequately briefed in the record. I found particularly helpful the testimony and scholarly papers from the hearings before the House Judiciary Committee on November 9, 1998.
Remember in the House committee deliberations, the minority submitted a joint resolution of censure for consideration in lieu of the Articles finally voted upon. It restated:
Expressing the sense of Congress with respect to the censure of William Jefferson Clinton. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That it is the sense of Congress that--
(1) on January 20, 1993, William Jefferson Clinton took the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States faithfully to execute the office of President; implicit in that oath is the obligation that the President set an example of high moral standards and conduct himself in a manner that fosters respect for the truth; and William Jefferson Clinton, has egregiously failed in this obligation, and through his actions violated the trust of the American people, lessened their esteem for the office of President, and dishonored the office which they have entrusted to him;
(2)(A) William Jefferson Clinton made false statements concerning this reprehensible conduct with a subordinate;
(B) William Jefferson Clinton wrongly took steps to delay discovery of the truth; and
(C) in as much as no person is above the law, William Jefferson Clinton remains subject to criminal and civil penalties; and
(3) William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, by his conduct has brought upon himself, and fully deserves, the censure and condemnation of the American people and the Congress; and by his signature on this Joint Resolution, acknowledges this censure and condemnation.
On December 19, 1998, the House minority in the full house offered this resolution on the House floor which stated:
That it is the sense of the House that--
(1) on January 20, 1993, William Jefferson Clinton took the oath prescribed by the constitution of the United States faithfully to execute the office of President; implicit in that oath is the obligation that the President set an example of high moral standards and conduct himself in a manner that fosters respect for the truth: and William Jefferson Clinton, has egregiously failed in this obligation, and through his actions violated the trust of the American people, lessened their esteem for the office of President, and dishonored the office which they have entrusted to him:
(2)(A) William Jefferson Clinton made false statements concerning his reprehensible conduct with a subordinate:
(B) William Jefferson Clinton wrongfully took steps to delay discovery of the truth, and
(C) inasmuch as no person is above the law, William Jefferson Clinton remains subject to criminal and civil penalties and
(3) William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, by his conduct has brought upon himself and fully deserves the censure and condemnation of the American people and this House.
As a former United States Attorney, Solicitor of the Department of the Interior, and defense attorney, I believe I understand the rule of law. The conduct which the President engaged in was clearly wrong, and his actions clearly warrant his Impeachment, which the House of Representatives has done. But with regard to the allegations in Article I, I do not believe his criminal activity rises to the level of 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors' which require his removal from office by this Senate.
Article, II, charging obstruction of justice, to me, involves a very different matter than the perjury charge in Article I. Article II involves the use of Presidential powers to impede or imperil the impartial administration of justice in a civil as well as before the grand jury. We have pledged to 'Support and Defend the Constitution,' and I suggest that in our present roles we must do so by fulfilling and reaffirming the freedoms and obligations of all Americans under that document. By micromanaging the briefing of witnesses and the concealment of evidence and by testifying before the grand jury to what he knew was not the whole truth, the President has obstructed justice. His oath as President requires him to faithfully execute laws, and by his actions he has violated this oath.
In his 1992 book 'Grand Inquests,' the Presiding Officer of this Court (and the Chief Justice of the United States) wrote:
The framers [of the United States Constitution] and the authors of the Federalist Papers had not envisioned political parties as we now know them . . . Would the dominant role played by political parties make the Senate a partisan tribunal which would be willing to undermine the fundamental principles of the Constitution in order to remove a political enemy from office?
I also wonder whether the Framers anticipated that in 85 of the 106 Congresses, the minority party has held more than the necessary one-third strength to prevent the removal of a President?
The action of the House of Representatives was not partisan. But, it is obvious from the final vote that future generations could reach such a conclusion. In fact, it is obvious that many of our Democratic Senators have done so. In this Senate, a final vote strictly on party lines should not occur. The fundamental principles referenced by the Chief Justice--particularly the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of our Federal Government--should not be undermined. The most basic principle at issue is the obligation of each branch to dedicate itself to protect the separation of powers of our three branches of Government.
In my judgment, the power of the Senate to reach across to the executive branch and remove a President of the United States may be exercised only when the President's actions seriously threaten our nation's security, when he violates his oath to 'faithfully execute the law of the United States,' or does such violence to the rule of law that removal from office is clearly the only way to protect our nation from the possibility that he might do great harm to our people.
While I believe the President violated his oath, it does not necessarily follow that he must be removed. For myself, if I knew my vote would be the deciding vote here, I would not vote to remove this President, despite his unlawful acts. He has not brought that level of danger to the nation which, in my judgment, is necessary to justify such an action.
The President remains answerable, as all Americans should be, to the criminal processes of our justice system. We do not have the power to convict him of a crime; the Constitution forbids it. Instead, the Constitution provides that the Senate, by a 2/3 majority of those voting, may remove him from office. For me, that makes this more than a factual issue, so I do not vote as I would were I a juror in a criminal case.
As I prepared my decision, it was apparent to me that there was no alternative that will dispose of this matter consistent with the sanctity of oaths and the importance of truth other than to adopt findings of fact. Not to do so and to not remove the President undermines the great success of a nation based upon observance and loyalty to our oaths.
Having no other alternative, I shall vote guilty on Article II. As I previously pointed out, I would not do so if I knew such action would remove the President from office. I do so to demonstrate my firm conviction not only that the President has obstructed justice, but also that we should have followed the procedure which would establish the facts clearly and then determine if the President should be removed from office.
When we had our first meetings on this issue, I told my colleagues we had forces in Kuwait on high alert, forces in Bosnia, an alarming situation in North Korea, and Asian flu plaguing the economies of emerging nations, and Pakistan and India drawing closer and closer to conflict. President Yeltsin, when I saw him yesterday, was a very ill leader, a leader of a nation that has the ability to threaten our freedom. NATO could well order an assault in Kosovo if negotiations there break down.
The world has one stable superpower--the United States of America. Removal of the President by the Senate for the first time in history could destabilize our nation--leaving him in office will not.
The long national ordeal our country has undergone over the past year has been agonizing for all of us. Since the Senate convened as a Court of Impeachment, I have received thousands of e-mails and letters from every reach of my state, from the most remote Eskimo village to our largest urban center.
I have literally received letters from every walk of life: from doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs. Many are filled with advice on how I should cast my vote, the most important vote I will ever cast as a Senator. But whether they believe the president should be removed from office or not, all express deep concerns about the future of our country and the example we set for future generations. I have laid awake many nights pondering those very questions, and I share the anguish that many have felt.
When I was appointed to the Senate 30 years ago Christmas Eve, I had a motto that I have tried to live by. 'To hell with the politics. Just do what's right for Alaska.' Today, as one of 100 men and women who have been chosen to exercise this mighty power that our founding fathers conveyed on us over 200 years ago, I modify my creed: 'To hell with the politics. Just do what's right for the nation.'
There are many who will disagree with the votes I cast in this historic trial. But I hope all will know that I have done my best to live by the oaths that I took, and to do what I think is right for the nation.
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