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

Transcript: Opening statement of Rep. Chabot

House Judiciary Committee hearing, December 10, 1998

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio): Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, every member of our committee recognizes that this is likely the most important vote we will ever cast. And all of us would prefer that the president's actions had not led us down this fateful path.

However, we have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, and we must fully accept that responsibility.

As a father of two children, I am deeply troubled by the events of the last year. My children, who were taught at home and in church and at school that honesty and integrity do matter, have witnessed the president of the United States shamelessly lie to the American people.

As a member of Congress, and as an attorney, I'm very troubled because every day in courthouses throughout this nation, Americans raise their right hands and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

They do so under the penalty of perjury. Yet in this case, the president of the United States, the chief law enforcement officer of this land, has made an utter mockery of that fundamental precept. That is a travesty.

No person stands above the law. All Americans -- no matter how rich, how powerful, how well connected -- should be held accountable for their actions. Every American must be held accountable.

Back in 1972, I cast my first ballot in a presidential election. I was 19 years old, a college student. Like a majority of Americans that year, I voted for a Republican -- Richard Nixon. Four years later, however, I voted for a Democrat, Jimmy Carter.

That dis -- that decision stemmed from my profound disappointment over Watergate, and a strong conviction that President Nixon should have received a pardon, that he should have gotten away with his actions. Since that time, I'd always hoped that our country would never again be confronted with an impeachment proceeding against an American president.

But President Clinton's actions have, again, brought us to the brink of impeachment and he has no one to blame but himself.

The grand jury did not force the president to commit perjury, Judge Starr did not encourage the president to obstruct a lawful investigation, and in fact, this committee did give the president innumerable opportunities to refute the evidence before us. Instead, the president chose to run from the truth, justifying his lies with twisted definitions of "is" and "alone."

But despite President Clinton's linguistic contortions, the evidence is strong, convincing and clear. The president of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, has engaged in a pattern of cover- up and deceit. Standing alone, each individual offense in extremely serious, collectively they are overwhelming.

It has become clear to me that the president lied under oath before a federal grand jury. He lied under oath in a sexual harassment case and he obstructed justice and he abused his constitutional authority.

Let me again review the facts. President Clinton lied to a federal grand jury. He lied about whether or not he committed perjury in a civil deposition and about the extent of his relationship with a subordinate government employee. President Clinton lied in a civil deposition in order to defeat a civil rights suit in which he was a defendant. He attempted to mislead the plaintiff's attorneys, relying on contrived cover stories and embracing false repetitions of "I don't recall." He clearly did.

President Clinton obstructed justice by encouraging others to lie in judicial proceedings. He sought to influence the testimony of a potentially adverse witness, with job assistance. And he attempted to conceal evidence that was under subpoena.

Finally, in constructing this cover-up, President Clinton used the power of his office to mislead, impede, and obstruct a federal grand jury, a civil deposition, and the American people. He used government resources, including government attorneys and staff to disseminate his deceitful story to the public and to the grand jury.

Back in 1974, Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the Judiciary Committee during Watergate, said that she would vote to impeach President Nixon, in part because, and I quote, "The presidential cover-up is continuing even through today." We find ourselves facing a similarly unfortunate situation.

To this day, President Clinton continues to deny and distort. He continues to dispute the undeniable facts before our committee and before the American people. The president refuses even to admit what several prominent democratic members in this committee have publicly concluded to be true: President Clinton lied under oath. Several Democratic members of this committee have acknowledged that.

The historic record, the law, and the Constitution tell us that the charges against the president do indeed rise to the level of impeachable offenses. They constitute serious violations of criminal law and fall squarely within our Founding Fathers' definition of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Mr. Chairman, impeaching the president is an extremely serious matter. Throughout these proceedings, I've tried to keep an open mind. Giving the president every opportunity to refute the facts that have been laid before our committee.

But now, all of the evidence is in and the decision is at hand. It has become apparent to me, that impeachment is the only remedy that adequately addresses this president's illegal and unethical acts. Allowing the president's actions to go unpunished would gravely damage the office of the president, our judicial system, and our country.

I've not reached this decision lightly. I've done my share of soul-searching, I've listened carefully to the views of my constituents and I've reviewed the evidence in excruciating detail.

And much of it wasn't particularly pleasant, I can assure you. And I've been guided by our Constitution. In the end, the appropriate course is clear: impeachment. That is regrettably our only option. The argument has been made by the president's defenders that voting for articles of impeachment would set a terrible precedent. I respectfully disagree.

To the contrary, burying our heads in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the gravity of the president's crimes would set a far more dangerous precedent. Given the president a pass or a censure would set a dangerous precedent for future presidents, for those who testify in our courts and for our children whom we try to raise with respect for the truth and a sense of what's right and what's wrong.

I ask my colleagues to search their hearts and answer this question: What message are we sending the youth of America if we abdicate our constitutional duty and allow perjury, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power to go unpunished? When we cast our votes, we are not voting as Republicans or Democrats, we're voting as Americans. Our allegiance does not lie with any one president, but with our country. Our charge is not handed down from any one political party, but from the Constitution.

Every member of this body is duty bound to put politics aside, follow our conscience, and uphold our oath of office. William Jefferson Clinton has disgraced the sacred office of the president. I've come to the conclusion that it is our duty to impeach.

You'll back the balance of my time.

Investigating the President


Friday, December 11, 1998

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