ad info

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards



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

Transcript: House debates articles of impeachment

December 18, 1998

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to recognize now the gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Kind, for two minutes.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Wisconsin is recognized for two minutes.

House impeachment debate

Page 1: Adjournment debated

Page 2: ; LaHood sets rules;

Page 3: Gephardt (D); Hutchinson (R)

Page 4: Bonior (D); Frost (D); Menendez (D); Frank (D)

Page 5: Edwards (D); DeLauro (D); Gekas (R); Bryant (R) Boucher (R)

Page 6: Skelton (D); Lewis (D); Barr (R); Johnson (R) Schumer (D)

Page 7: Cunningham (R); Nadler (D); Graham (R); Barrett (D) Buyer (R)

Page 9: Sensenbrenner (R); Jackson Lee (D); Bliley (R)

Page 10: DeGette (R); Gallegly (R); Wexler (D); Campbell (R); Rothman (D); Petri (R)

Page 11: Waters (D); Bono (R); Fazio (D); Brady (R); Kennelly (D); Hulshof (R)

Page 12: Lofgren (D); Johnson (R); Kennedy (D); Linda Smith (R); Christian-Green (D); Bachus (R); Tony Hall (D)

Page 13: King (R); Owens (D); McCollum (R); Jefferson (D); Bryant (R); Manton (D); McHale (D)

Page 14: Lantos (D); Riggs (R); Meek (D); Myrick (R); Jackson (D); Linder (R); Horn (R)

Page 15: Obey (D); Goodling (R); Slaughter (D); Ros-Lehtinen (R); Kildee (D); Ewing (R); Filner (D); Coble (R)

Page 16: McGovern (D); Talent (R); Stearns (R); Kilpatrick (D); McInnis (R); Markey (D); Fawell (R); Klink (R); Whitfield (R); Hastings (D); Hansen (R)

Page 17: Lowey (D); Waxman (D); Houghton (R); Wynn (D); Kingston (R); Pelosi (D); Wicker (R); Eshoo (D); Deutsch (D); Greenwood (R); Doggett (D); Jerry Lewis (R); Boehner (R)

Page 18: Kind (D); Chabot (R); Woolsey (D); Lazio (R); Sawyer (D); Goss (R); Green (D); Callahan (R); Cannon (R); Evans (D); Kucinich (D); Olver (D); Rogan (R)

Page 19: Wilson (R); Cardin (D>; Clayton (D); Farr (D); Aderholt (R); Weygand (D); Baldacci (D); Sanders (I); Jenkins (R); Stokes (D); Kennedy (D); Davis (D); Carson (D); Diaz-Balart (R); Skaggs (D)

Page 10

UNKNOWN: (OFF-MIKE) revise and extend.

SPEAKER: Without objection.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RON KIND (D-WI): Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to these articles of impeachment. And as a former prosecutor and special prosecutor, the rule of law -- and if this process of impeachment's going to have any credibility, it has to be applied fairly and consistently. But I'm afraid the double standard against the president today is anything but fair, anything but consistent.

In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee, when Congress was controlled by Democrats, drafted articles of impeachment against President Nixon based upon fraudulent tax returns. But the Judiciary Committee, in a bipartisan fashion, determined that it didn't rise to the level of an impeachable offense because it was private, as opposed to public, misconduct.

Well, then, what's this all about, if it isn't really about perjury? If it's just about punishing and holding the president accountable and retribution, we can do that short of punishing the country, as well, and paralyzing this government of ours for the next six to eight months, through censure, through private prosecution once the president leaves office. But we don't even have a vote on censure, which is fundamentally unfair.

I don't believe the Founders intended impeachment to be a tool of punishment, but rather to preserve and protect the country against a rogue president who, through his public duties, is jeopardizing the very structure of our government. And no one can claim that that is happening here today.

Mr. Speaker, I have two young boys who are not old enough yet to comprehend the gravity of this situation. And my only hope is when they are old enough, and reading about this in the history books, that they're going to have confidence that every vote that was cast was done in the best interests of the country, rather than short-term political gain. And I'm not confident that that's the story that they will read.

In fact, the one person in this country who probably has the best, realistic assessment of what's going on is the young mother of two young children who said, "Listen, I can educate my own children. I can teach them not to lie. But I can't protect them against the destruction of the presidency." Only we in this body can do that, and I'm afraid we're going to fail her in the next 24 hours. Please don't destroy the 210 years of history in this country.

I yield back.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield 15 seconds to the gentleman from Florida, Mr. Canady, for a rebuttal.

SPEAKER: The gentleman (OFF-MIKE)

CANADY: I thank the gentleman for yielding. I want to make the point again, which I made earlier today, that in 1974, the Judiciary Committee did not -- did not -- determine that tax fraud is an unimpeachable offense. They simply determined that there was insufficient evidence that the president of the United States was, in fact, guilty of tax fraud.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield five minutes to the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Chabot, a member of the Judiciary Committee.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Ohio is recognized for five minutes.

UNKNOWN: I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

SPEAKER: Without objection.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE STEVE CHABOT (R-OH): Mr. Speaker, every member of the House now recognizes what members of the Judiciary Committee have come to realize over the last few months. This is likely the more important vote that we, as members of Congress, will ever cast. It also comes at an especially difficult time, a time when our nation's brave sons and daughters are actively defending our nation's freedom overseas.

I share many of my colleagues' concerns about this unfortunate timing, but just as we have a responsibility to our troops, we now have a responsibility to keep our word to the American people and put this matter behind the country as soon as possible.

Throughout the Judiciary Committee's consideration of this very serious matter, I worked to uphold my constitutional duty to fairly and thoroughly investigate the charges brought against the president. Throughout the proceedings, I tried to keep an open mind, giving the president every opportunity to refute the evidence. But the president made a calculated decision to avoid the facts. Instead, he presented witnesses that could offer little more than excuses, insults and historical perspectives tainted by partisan politics.

The president's attorneys did not fare much better. They, too, decided to hide from the truth, consistently adhering to the company line. "The president didn't really lie under oath," they testified. "It depends on how one defines the word `alone."' "The president wasn't paying attention when his attorney offered false evidence to the court."

The president has continued to rely on these absurd explanations and linguistic contortions for one reason and one reason alone: He cannot dispute the facts. The evidence against President Clinton is conclusive. The president lied under oath before a federal grand jury. He lied under oath in a sexual harassment case. He obstructed justice, and he abused his constitutional authority.

Standing alone, each individual offense is extremely serious. Collectively, they're overwhelming. After months of painstaking review, it has become apparent to me that impeachment is the only remedy that adequately addresses the president's illegal and unethical acts. The president's actions have gravely damaged the office of the presidency, our judicial system and our country.

This was not an easy decision to reach. Impeaching a president cannot be taken lightly. But in this case, our constitutional duty is clear. Some of my colleagues have come to the floor today using inflammatory rhetoric and attacking members for voting their conscience. This is unfortunate and does not reflect the dignity that we owe this debate. It is the president, by breaking his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, who has violated the trust bestowed upon him by the American people.

As to those who mistakenly claim that this body is seeking to overturn an election or we're involved in a coup d'etat, let me remind my friends on the other side of the aisle that it is the Democratic vice president, Al Gore, who would become president if the Senate decides to remove President Clinton because of his crimes and remove him from office.

I ask every member of the House to consider the question I posed to my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee last week. What message are we sending to the youth of America if we abdicate our constitutional duty and condone perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power by the president of the United States?

I have two children at home, a daughter and a son.

CHABOT: With the help of their teachers and their church, my wife and I have tried to teach them about honesty and integrity. We've tried to instill in them a belief that character does indeed matter. We've taught them to obey the law.

Sadly, they've seen these principles corrupted by the chief law enforcement officer of this land, the president of the United States. William Jefferson Clinton has disgraced his sacred office. He has cheapened the oath. He has disillusioned an entire generation of young Americans, and he refuses to accept responsibility for his actions.

Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our nation's greatest president, once said: "Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us dare to do our duty as we understand it." Today, we must fulfill our constitutional duty and vote to impeach the president.

I yield back the balance of my time.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Chairman -- Mr. Speaker, I'm delighted now to recognize the gentlelady from California, Ms. Woolsey for three minutes, and I would ask her to yield to me.

WOOLSEY: I will yield.

SPEAKER: The gentlewoman is recognized.

CONYERS: Thank you for yielding.

Could I point out to my friend my Florida, Mr. Canady, who took exception to why the income tax charge was not brought against Mr. Nixon in 1974, if you'd read our report of the minority at page 10, you would learn that it wasn't for lack of evidence, it was because we determined that this was not a high crime or misdemeanor.

CANADY: Will the gentleman yield?

CONYERS: And we were joined by Republicans, Lawrence Hogan, Republican, Maryland; Wiley Mayne, Republican, Iowa; and others.

CANADY: Would the gentleman yield for a brief question?

CONYERS: And Tom Railsback of Illinois. I cannot yield because I do not have the time.

SPEAKER: The gentlewoman is recognized.

WOOLSEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this past Sunday while attending church in my home town of Petaluma, California, I was struck by how utterly sad I am -- sad about the president's behavior; sad about the Judiciary Committee's unfair decision to not allow censure as an alternative; and the impact all of this will have on our nation.

Today, my heart is even heavier because we are conducting this debate while our troops are in harm's way. My heart aches for the division separating us in this House; the distraction from the work of government that we were elected to do; the threat of this unfair process on our democratic system.

And I am heartsick about the shame and waste of this impeachment process. Shame because the president's conduct, while reprehensible, does not fit the definition under the Constitution. Waste because while we carry on, we are not working for the important business of our nation, and we ignore our young men and women fighting abroad.

With these thoughts in mind and these feelings, I would like to share with you the prayer that I prayed Sunday in my church:

Please, Lord, give wisdom, strength and compassion to every member of the House so that we do not turn against our country in our need to punish one man. Please help every member of this House see that the real mistake would be to push forward without the alternative of censure to punish our nation for one man's personal weakness. And please, help us to remember the difference between partisan politics and leadership so that we will not make a decision against the people of this country. We will make a decision for Americans based on fairness, based on forgiveness, not against one person, our president. Dear Lord, help us through compromise and conscience. Heal our nation. Amen.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield 15 seconds to the gentleman from Florida, Mr. Canady, for rebuttal.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

CANADY: I thank the gentleman for yielding. And I would yield to the gentleman from Michigan for a question. Isn't it true, Mr. Conyers, as a member of the Judiciary Committee in 1974 that you voted in favor of the tax fraud article against President Nixon.

CONYERS: Yes, absolutely true.

CANADY: So you believe that tax fraud was an impeachable offense.

CONYERS: That is absolutely correct ...

CANADY: Thank you.

CONYERS: ... and it doesn't contradict what I correct you about.

CANADY: Well, thank you very much. I (OFF-MIKE).

SENSENBRENNER: Reclaiming my time and on that happy note, I yield two minutes and 15 seconds to the gentleman from New York, Mr. Lazio.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for two minutes and 15 seconds.

LAZIO: Mr. Speaker, I think that nearly all that could be said has been. Across party lines, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the principles and the values that brought us here. This should be neither personal nor a partisan decision. It's difficulty lies in the rare but important conflict between what is expedient in the short- term and what resonates as a guiding principle for all time.

It is not about the fate of one man, but the value of truth itself -- the principle that no man, no matter how rich or how powerful, is above the law. It is about the notion of accountability.

LAZIO: It is about the values of duty, honor, trust and sacrifice.

When I was a Suffolk County prosecutor, my entire duty was based on the integrity and the conduct of the men and women who took an oath to tell the truth. In many cases it was difficult for these people to testify honestly, sometimes even disastrous. But when they were sworn in, they understood that this was different; that here the truth was required. That upon their respect for their oath would ride many things, including justice, our government of laws, equality of one citizen with another, and not the least, their own honor.

These were ordinary people, Mr. Speaker. They understood. In many cases they sacrificed, in many cases they suffered, but they told the truth.

If an anonymous citizen can abide by his oath, what about a president? When a president fails in his duty and an ordinary citizen does not, the failure is catastrophic. Should less be expected of the president than of you or me? Here the trustee of the greatest of world powers knows that he will be in a sworn legal proceeding, consults with advisers and lawyers for many months, has full notice, appears voluntarily before a criminal grand jury and can stop questions at any time, and still cannot bring himself to do what the government he heads insists upon every day from the people who take an oath: Tell the truth.

With this vote, we will help set a standard of acceptable presidential behavior. Will we judge presidential perjury to be acceptable? Is it asking too much of the president that when he takes an oath he tell the truth?

With our votes we will send a compelling message one way or the other to the children in classrooms across this country who are watching their democracy at work. We're going to teach them through our words and through our deeds either to respect or to have contempt for the truth. This will be the timeless legacy of this Congress.


SPEAKER: The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to yield to the gentleman from Virginia for a unanimous consent request.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

CONYERS: Mr. Sisisky.

SISISKY: I thank the gentleman and ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks opposed to impeachment and for censure.

SPEAKER: Without objection.

CONYERS: I'd like to yield to the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Pickett, for the same.

PICKETT: Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the articles of impeachment and ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

SPEAKER: Without objection.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I'm delighted to recognize the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Sawyer, for two-and-one-half minutes.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for two-and-a-half minutes.


SPEAKER: Without objection.

SAWYER: Mr. Speaker, our challenge today is one of fairness and wisdom. A century ago Justice Holmes advised the graduating class of the Harvard Law School that the greatest service that one can do in a democracy is to see the future as far as one may, to feel the force behind the details of that future and then to make clear and sound and compact decisions, to make them first-rate, and to let the results speak for themselves.

He was counseling them and us to be wise and far-seeing and to understand the consequences of our actions. Perhaps no figure in our tradition of English law and history so well portrays an impeachment on the charge of perjury as Sir Thomas Moore.

The author of "A Man for All Seasons" wrote that he was asked to testify in a forum that required him to state that he believed what he didn't believe, and it required him to state it under oath.

Oliver Cromwell Starr, accusing Moore of accepting a small gift in return for a favor said, "He's going to be a slippery fish. We need a net with a finer mesh. We'll weave him one. It must be done by the law. It's just a matter of finding the right law or making one."

Cromwell, in words too familiar to us today, in seeking to entrap him, accused Moore of perverting the law, of making smoky what should be clear light to discover his own wrongdoing. Moore replied, "The law is not a light for you or any man to see by. It is not an instrument of any kind. The law is a causeway upon which a citizen may walk safely."

SAWYER: But that was not to be the way of the court. In his closing, Moore may have pre-figured Holmes when he said, "What you have hunted me for is not my actions, but for the thoughts of my heart. It is a long road you have opened. God help the people whose statesmen walk your road."

It matters little whether the motive was base or high. An entrapment is an entrapment. It was a road that Moore knew was contrived and unfair. And it a road that Holmes knew was unwise.

Future historians will judge this Congress largely on this vote. Let us not go down in history as a deeply divided vindictive Congress, but as a body that took an action that brought the country together and resolved this unhappy matter. It is a long road we open today. If we take it, it will change our lives and those of our children in lasting ways.

God help the people whose statesmen walk your road. I yield back the balance of my time.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Wisconsin.

SENSENBRENNER: Speaker, I yield 30 seconds to the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Barr, for rebuttal.

BARR: I appreciate the gentleman yielding.

I would remind all of my colleagues who are listening to this debate that references to the word entrapment are rather misplaced. There is no such thing as entrapment for perjury or obstruction.

It is a legal impossibility. That is well-settled law in federal courts and state courts as well. And, in fact, it is the learned testimony of several witnesses that appeared before the Judiciary Committee.

I yield back.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Nebraska, Mr. Bereuter, for a unanimous consent request.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

BEREUTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Articles I, II and III, and ask unanimous consent to extend my remarks.

SPEAKER: Without objection.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Barton, for a unanimous consent request.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

BARTON: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of all four articles of impeachment, and ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

SPEAKER: Without objection.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield 30 seconds to the gentleman from Florida, Mr. Goss.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for thirty seconds. Without objection.

GOSS: Thank you. We are all public servants here today representing our duty. My beginning in public service outside the bounds of my immediate hometown began when I was appointed to a vacant county commission seat.

The seat was vacant because a good commissioner committed a single act of perjury, lying to a grand jury about a sexual escapade to protect a recently married friend. He lost his job, his reputation, his paycheck, his pension, his rights and his freedom. He went to jail.

The judge noted that those in public service have a higher standard of behavior, and that telling the truth is fundamental to public service in our free land. The sentence was considered just in my district. I will support the articles of impeachment.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Green, for two minutes.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for two minutes.

GREEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank my colleague from Michigan for allowing me two minutes, but being from Texas, just to exchange greetings in two minutes will take plenty of time, so I would ask unanimous consent to enter my total statement, with extraneous material, into the record, Mr. Speaker.

SPEAKER: Without objection.

GREEN: Mr. Speaker, overturning an election in a democracy shouldn't be taken lightly. In our country's history, a presidential impeachment inquiry is limited due to the seriousness of overturning an election.

This current process smacks of partisanshipness and just unfairness. The presidential personal conduct cannot be defended, and I am not going to do so. My concern is, I am disappointed in his personal conduct, but this process has been based on partisanshipness.

An elected official should not be removed from office just because they won an election or won a reelection. And without an alternative to vote on, the censure resolution, this whole process is unfair.

Our Founding Fathers -- George Mason, said the phrase, "high crimes and misdemeanors" referred to presidential actions that are great and dangerous offenses or attempts to subvert the Constitution.

Alexander Hamilton, who you won't hear me quoting very often, said: injuries to immediately to society itself and undertaken only for serious abuse of official power.

The impeachment process should never be used as a legislative vote and not of competence of the president's conduct or policies.

Not only our Founding Fathers, but, Mr. Speaker, I have a Christmas card that I received in my family from a constituent that says: I just want you to know that my prayers have been with you and your colleagues, and also for the president at this awful time in history. I am praying that God will bring an end to this soon.

The American people have recognized this, not only our Founding Fathers, but in all the polls that we have seen. And around the country, Mr. Speaker, the newspaper articles, the Lexington "Herald Leader:" "It would mean, quite simply, that a president duly elected and reelected by a majority of the voters can be drummed out of office by the vehement hatred of his political and personal enemies."

GREEN: The Owensboro, Kentucky, "Messenger Inquirer" (ph): Voting for impeachment in wrongdoing is personal rather than crime against the country will weaken the office much more than anything Bill Clinton has ever done so far.

The Billings "Gazette" -- and I can go on and on, Mr. Speaker. And I ask a no vote on all articles of impeachment.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Wisconsin.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker? I yield 30 seconds to the gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Bryant, for a rebuttal.

BRYANT: Let me just respond briefly that the Constitution itself talks about impeachment as well as election. The two processes are compatible, according to our forefathers. They completely understood that you had to first be elected to be subjected to the impeachment proceeding.

And as to the polls and the newspapers around the country, more than 100 major newspapers have called on the president to resign. And if this president would put the country in front of himself for one time, and follow the advice of the same -- or many of the same newspapers to resign, and the polls would show a majority of Americans would like to see the president resign, I think we'd all be better suited. Thank you.

SENSENBRENNER: Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Chambliss, for a unanimous consent request.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

CHAMBLISS: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the articles of impeachment. I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend.

SPEAKER: Without objection.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Alabama, Mr. Everett, for a unanimous consent request.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

EVERETT: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the articles of impeachment and ask for permission to revise and extend.

SPEAKER: Without objection.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield two minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Alabama, Mr. Callahan.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Alabama is recognized for two minutes. Without objection.

CALLAHAN: Mr. Speaker and my colleagues in the House, until now, I have declined to pass judgment on the president over these last several months because I strongly believed that it was improper to do so before the process secured evidence through a rigorous investigation where both sides presented their cases.

That process is now complete, and we are now in receipt of the results of that investigation, as well as the specific recommendations made through the articles of impeachment.

Today, Congress is not standing in judgment of President Clinton's character, nor are we debating the issue of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Rather, we're being asked to determine whether or not he broke the law.

And as many of you know, I've had great respect for the presidency on foreign policy. I recognize the Constitution gives foreign policy to him, and even though I've disagreed with him on many issues, respecting the presidency, I've gone along with him.

It would make no difference to me if it were Ronald Reagan being tried today, or George Bush. If evidence is submitted to this Congress through the proper Judiciary channels that compels me to vote up or down when there is substantial justifiable evidence to send a message to the Senate to make a determination of punishment, I would vote the same way I'm going to vote on this particular matter in voting for these articles of impeachment.

It's a sad day for me. It's a sad day for the president. It's a sad day for the country. It's a responsibility that gives us no alternative, that if, indeed, in our hearts we believe that the committee reports are substantial, that they justify returning a message or sending a message to the Senate, we have no -- absolute no alternative but to send that message to the Senate so they can sit in judgment of his punishment.

We're not removing the president from office today. We're sending a message to the Senate.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 15 seconds.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

CONYERS: Thank you. The gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Barr, announced a moment ago that the perjury trap is a legal impossibility. I refer him to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which said in 1991 that "a perjury trap is created when the government calls a witness to testify for the primary purpose of obtaining testimony from him in order to prosecute him later for perjury."

And I now recognize the gentlelady from California, Mrs. Eshoo, for one-and-one-half minutes.

SPEAKER: The gentlewoman's recognized for one-and-one-half minutes. Without objection.

ESHOO: I ask unanimous consent to address the House.

Mr. Speaker, today, December 18, 1998, is a day of infamy in the House of Representatives. History will record that on this day, the House of the People, through searing, brutal partisanship disallowed the right of each member and this member to express their own conscience.

ESHOO: Today, impeachment, and only impeachment, counts. It is a day when the overwhelming voices of the American people are turned away. It's a day when the framers' intent for removal of the chief executive of our nation -- treason, bribery, high crimes against the people -- is ignored.

I shall vote against the articles of impeachment, because I believe that the case that has been brought against the case has not been proven by the Judiciary Committee. And I do not believe that the charges rise to what the framers intended.

Mr. Speaker, the flag is the symbol of our nation, but the Constitution, as Barbara Jordan invoked over and over again in 1974, the Constitution is the soul of our nation.

Today this House is set on a course that tears at the very soul of our nation. IT is wrong. It is imprudent. It is not wise. And it is harmful to the nation.

By his actions, Bill Clinton has brought shame as president. But today this body...


I ask for 10 seconds more.

CONYERS: With pleasure.

ESHOO: But today this body has set itself on a treacherous course, where it is not only weakening the presidency but diminishing our Constitution.


SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker.

SPEAKER: The chair notes that a disturbance in the gallery in contravention of the law and rules of the House, the sergeant-at-arms will remove those persons responsible for the disturbance and restore order to the gallery.

The gentleman from Wisconsin.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield 30 seconds to the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Barr, for a rebuttal.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

BARR: I thank the gentleman. I would say to the distinguished ranking member on the Judiciary Committee that when President Clinton or any person appears before a grand jury or before a court, they have three, count 'em, and only three choices: They can tell the truth, they can take the Fifth Amendment or they can lie.

President Clinton chose the last option. He lied. It is a legal impossibility to be forced to lie before a grand jury or in court, and that is the essence of what entrapment is. The president chose voluntarily to tell a lie, to conduct perjurious, misleading and untruthful statements. He cannot be forced to do that. That is what he did.


SPEAKER: The gentleman from Wisconsin.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield five minutes to the gentleman from Utah, Mr. Cannon, a member of the Judiciary Committee.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for five minutes.

CANNON: Request unanimous consent...

SPEAKER: Without objection.

CANNON: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, I'm going to speak to a couple of key points, but first I'd like to create the context by sharing with my colleagues two statements, one by Founding Father John Jay and the other by President Kennedy.

John Jay said, "when oaths cease to be sacred, our dearest and most valuable rights become insecure."

Four days before his death, President Kennedy visited Florida. There he made the following statement: "In this country, I" -- referring to the presidency -- "carry out and execute the laws of the United States. I also have the obligation of implementing the orders of the courts of the United States. And I can assure you that whosoever president of the United States will do the same. Because if he did not" -- that is, he the president -- "he would begin to unwind this most extraordinary constitutional system of ours. The president's ability to unwind the constitutional system is significant. The president is the only individual charged with ensuring that our laws our faithfully executed. He is one of the few Americans who always is an example for good or ill."

If a president can lie before a grand jury during a civil deposition, engage in obstruction of justice and abuse power, others will follow.

Article III sets fort that the president willfully and deliberately allowed his attorney to make false statements to the court about the affidavit of Ms. Lewinsky. The president's defenders, including his attorney Mr. Ruff, have said he was not paying attention at the time when Mr. Bennett raised the affidavit. But the videotape of the deposition shows otherwise. He was alert, attentive and engaged.

The president's official defense was that he thought Ms. Lewinsky thought her affidavit was true, and he was just affirming her belief. First, the affidavit was not a statement of beliefs, it was a statement of the facts under oath.

CANNON: The president's response was evasive.

Second, the affidavit of Ms. Lewinsky had not -- in the affidavit, Ms. Lewinsky stated she had not received any benefit from her relationship with the president. The facts are indisputable. There was an intense effort by Mr. Jordan on behalf of the president to get her a job.

Third, in the deposition after reading from the affidavit, Mr. Bennett asked the president, quote, "Is that a true and accurate statement, as far as you know it?" The president answered, that is absolutely true. We know today that it was absolutely false. President Clinton's deliberate effort to mislead Judge Wright is a clear obstruction of justice.

Others have been prosecuted for less. Under the Constitution, the president is held accountable by the mechanism of impeachment. Impeachment is serious and weighty. My friends on the other side have repeatedly argued that the president's offenses do not rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. The essence of their argument is that perjury, obstruction of justice and the abuse of power are not equivalent to treason or bribery. They're wrong.

Perjury and obstruction of justice are akin to bribery in many ways. Perjury and obstruction go to the corruption of the judicial system. Bribery amounts to the corruption of a bureaucrat. Both prevent citizens from enjoying their rights under the rule of law. Their treatment by the United States Sentencing Commission, the entity that helps set forth penalties for federal crimes, supports the comparison.

Under the guidelines, bribery of or by a public official is an offense of base level 10. For a first time offender, that would translate to six to 12 months in a federal penitentiary. Under the guidelines, perjury and obstruction are a base level 12. That is two levels beyond bribery, and that means for a first time offender, a sentencing range of 10 to 16 months.

Someone convicted of perjury -- and remember there are a 100 American sentenced every year for perjury -- can face up to 10 months more in jail than someone convicted of bribery. Based on the U.S. sentencing guidelines, not only are perjury and obstruction of justice in the same ball park as bribery, they are treated as more grave.

I appeal to my colleagues, let us not allow the president to begin unwinding our constitutional system. Let us protect the integrity of the oaths that underpin our judicial system, let Congress protect our dearest and most valuable rights by impeaching this president who has demeaned the sacredness of his oaths.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I yield back the balance of my time.

SPEAKER: The gentleman for Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I ask that Mr. Ortiz of Texas be permitted to make an unanimous consent request.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

ORTIZ: Mr. Chairman, I request unanimous consent to revise an extend. I will be devoting against the four articles of impeachment, and I request that my colleagues vote against it and that we start the healing process of our country. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SPEAKER: Without objection, the gentleman's remarks will be inserted in the record.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased now to yield to the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Evans, for a minute-and-a-half, followed by the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Kucinich, for a minute-and-a-half, and then the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Olver, for a minute-and-a-half.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Illinois is recognized.

EVANS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in opposition to the four articles of impeachment against President Clinton because I do not believe that such a grave step is in the best interest of our country. All of us in public life have to be accountable for our actions and there is no question that the president's conduct was deplorable.

Having reviewed the evidence however, I do not believe that the case has been made with sufficient clarity that the president's conduct warrants impeachment, trial and removal from office.

Heavily weighing in my decisions is the charges made in greatest detail by the independent counsel, Mr. Starr, addressing conduct unrelated to the president's public and official duties.

During the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon, my predecessor, Tom Railsback, noted that there was quote, "a serious question as to whether something involving the president's personal tax liability has anything to do with his conduct in the office of the president," unquote. Later, the Judiciary Committee rejected the article impeachment against the president on those grounds.

Today, a majority of the public continues to approve of President Clinton's ability to perform his duties, and does not wish for him to be impeached by the House and tried by the Senate. I do not believe we should impeach President Clinton based on this conduct not clearly related to the president's official duties.

Let me be clear. A decision by the House not to impeach will not exonerate the president. He will remain subject to indictment and prosecution for his conduct in the court of law when he leaves office.

I do believe that the Congress should fashion appropriate response to his actions which places the national interest first.

I'm greatly disappointed that excessive partisanship on the part of the Judiciary Committee prevents us from discussing censure. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Kucinich, is recognized. Who is the other member?

(UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE) Mr. Sanders, we're trying to work in people who are ahead of you, who are coming back in now.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for one-and-one-half minutes.

KUCINICH: Mr. Speaker, in the name of the American people who oppose this impeachment as being manifestly unfair, behold the prophetic power of the biblical injunction: Judge not that ye not be judged.

In the name of all the people who have suffered a dark night of the sole, feel the might of the warning: Let he is without sin cast the first stone.

KUCINICH: In the names of Washington, of Jefferson, of Lincoln and all those who fought to create one nation indivisible, do not cleave this nation with a partisan impeachment, for a House of Representatives divided against itself shall not stand.

We speak of one nation under God, in God's name do not tear apart this House and this nation with a low-rent impeachment. There's much misunderstanding about just what impeachment means. It is not a form of censure. Impeachment is not a punishment. It is part of a process for removing a president. It's been reserved for the highest crimes, not low crimes.

And I submit if we are to impeach President Clinton for his offenses, we will have committed an offense more grievous because we will have nullified the votes of 97 million Americans. Don't take away the people's voice. Don't nullify the people's choice. Punish the president with censure if you must, but don't punish the American people by canceling their vote.

Someday, a generation far into the future will look at this moment and ask why. And they will conclude that in impeaching a president, this House chose partisanship under the cover of patriotism and sanctimonious salutations to that all-hallowed and selectively perceived rule of law.

Fifteen seconds, Mr. (OFF-MIKE).

CONYERS: With pleasure.

KUCINICH: And they will conclude that in impeaching a president, this House chose partisanship under the rule of patriotism, and sanctimonious salutations to the all-hallowed and selectively perceived rule of law. And that cloak of shame prepared for the president will also cover those carrying the cloak.

For this moment, we are troubling our America. We are troubling our common bond. We are troubling our American community. We are troubling our American unity. The sun will rise and the year 2000 will soon come, and those who have troubled their own house will have inherited the wind.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Massachusetts, recognized for one and one-half minutes.

OLVER: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend

SPEAKER: Without objection.

OLVER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this is a totally prejudged and partisan process that denies the majority of the members of this House of Representatives and a majority of Americans a vote on a bipartisan compromise, a vote of conscience to censure the president.

Mr. Speaker, the American people in their collective electoral wisdom that we all submit to have twice elected President Clinton. The American people support the president's performance of his official duties and they do not want him removed from office.

Three months ago, when I first reviewed the Starr report, I looked for evidence of treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors -- the only constitutional grounds for impeachment. No such thing appears in the Starr report.

Instead, I found evidence gathered at great public cost -- in dollars, $50 million -- and in destruction of privacy that Americans cherish, evidence of a consensual sexual relationship of the tawdriest nature which the participants tried to hide for its tawdriness.

Weeks of Judiciary Committee hearings have uncovered nothing more except the partisan closed mindedness of the proceedings. The Republicans' obsession to impeach President Clinton on the flimsiest of constitutional grounds and against the will of most Americans will cause long-lasting divisions in America. The Republicans know that they cannot get 67 votes in the Senate to remove the president from office, so this is a purely partisan exercise in this House designed to humiliate and weaken the twice-elected president of the United States.

Fifteen seconds more, please Mr. Chairman?

CONYERS: I am pleased to grand the gentleman 15 additional seconds.

OLVER: To my Republican colleagues, by your efforts today, you show the American people once and for all that you should not be in the majority in this Congress. And that I believe will be your reward.


SPEAKER: Gentleman from Wisconsin.

SENSENBRENNER: For purposes of a rebuttal, I yield a minute and a half to the gentleman from California, Mr. Rogan.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from California is recognized for one and one-half minutes.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES ROGAN (R-CA: Thank you, gentleman, for yielding. A few minutes ago, my dear friend from California made commentary in her argument as to why she would vote against articles of impeachment, and in doing so, invoked the name of the venerated late colleague, the gentlewoman from responsibility, Democrat Barbara Jordan.

I wanted to share a quote of Barbara Jordan that actually applied to the very issue which the gentlewoman from California raised a few minutes ago.

Barbara Jordan, you will recall, was a Democrat member of the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment of President Nixon, and she made the point that the Constitution gives each House of Congress a specific duty.

The House serves as an accuser. The Senate serves as a judge. Barbara Jordan understand the difference between the House having the role of essentially filing the indictment and not bringing the evidence to a final issue of proof. That's what the jury trial is for in the Senate.

She said during the Nixon hearing, "It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that the member must be convinced that the president should be removed from office. The Constitution doesn't say that. The powers relating to impeachment are an essential check in the hands of this body, the legislature, against and upon the encroachment of the executive. In establishing the division between the two branches of the legislature, the House and the Senate assigning to the one the right to accuse and to the other the right to the judge. The framers of the Constitution were very astute. They did not make the accusers and the judgers the same person.

SPEAKER: The time for the gentleman has expired.

Back | Next

Investigating the President


Friday, December 18, 1998

Search CNN/AllPolitics by infoseek
          Enter keyword(s)       go    help

© 1998 Cable News Network, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.
Who we are.