THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL
Statement of Sen. Allard (R-Colo.)
Following is a statement from the Senate's closed deliberations on the articles of impeachment against President Clinton, excerpts of which senators were allowed to publish in the Congressional Record for Friday, Feb. 12.
Mr. ALLARD. As we all know, this impeachment trial has been a difficult process for the Senate and for our nation.
As this trial draws to a close of each of us has the solemn duty of voting our conscience according to the dictates of the Constitution. I do not take this responsibility lightly.
For me, the vote in this trial will be the second most important of my Congressional career. The only other vote to rank higher was my vote to authorize the Gulf War and thereby send American soldiers into combat.
My ultimate goal as we moved into this process was to maintain precedent and not shatter a very thoughtful process laid out in the Constitution and within Senate rules.
At the start of this Senate impeachment trial I took an oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws. I worked hard to adhere to that oath, and I pray that I have kept that oath.
This is particularly important to me since much of my thinking in this case centers on my conclusion that the President has violated his oath of office.
I have determined to base my decision on the facts of the case, not the polls, the performance of the economy, the President's popularity or where he is in his term of office.
Finally, I have felt that if any of the parts of an article constitute grounds for impeachment, then an affirmative vote on the article is warranted.
While the Senate is clearly divided on conviction and removal, one thing we have all learned is the importance of the Constitution.
We may be separated by political party or ideology, but we are united in our belief in the Constitution as the governing charter of our republic.
Presidents come and go, and Senators come and go. The Constitution remains. It is the foundation of our political system.
The Constitution is what preserves the rule of law, and guarantees that we remain a nation of laws, not of men.
And, as we have all learned, in the impeachment and trial of a President, the Constitution is the document that directs how we shall proceed as members of the Congress.
Some have argued that this trial has divided America. In the short run, yes. But in the long run, it has united us and made us stronger.
We are stronger because we have once again demonstrated that we determine who shall lead this nation by democratic means, not by force of arms.
During the past month, I have listened to the evidence and I have weighed it carefully. It is now time for me to cast my vote and to explain my reasoning to my colleagues and to my constituents.
We have before us two articles of Impeachment. The first deals with perjury, the second with obstruction of justice.
The first article alleges that the President violated his Constitutional oath and his August 17, 1998 sworn oath to tell the truth before a federal grand jury.
He did so by willfully providing perjurious, false and misleading testimony in one or more of the following: (1) the nature and details of his relationship with a subordinate government employee; (2) prior perjurious, false and misleading testimony he gave in a Federal civil rights action brought against him; (3) prior false and misleading statements he allowed his attorney to make to a Federal judge in that civil rights action; and (4) his corrupt efforts to influence the testimony of witnesses and to impede the discovery of evidence in that civil rights action.
In my view the House managers demonstrated that at least three of the four provisions are true. The physical evidence is there, and the testimony supports that position.
I realize that with enough lawyers, one can certainly cloud things, and confuse and distract, but I believe the facts speak for themselves.
To me, once you cut through all the legal details and hours and hours of argument, this case is very clear. The President lied under oath. He lied not once, but repeatedly.
On this article, the only question for me is whether it rises to the level of an impeachable offense. I believe that it does. And this has certainly been the prior view of the Senate since it has on several occasions convicted and removed Federal judges for perjury.
Most recently in 1989, when Federal District Judge Nixon was convicted and removed from office for `knowingly and contrary to his oath mak[ing] a material false or misleading statement to a grand jury.'
Here the judge's violation of the oath `to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth' was deemed an impeachable offense. I simply cannot justify a different standard for the President.
Some have argued that the standard for him should be lower because he is elected by the people, while federal judges are appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve for life. While I respect those who hold this view, I cannot agree with it.
I hold the President to a higher standard because he is the chief law enforcement official of the nation. If he is above the law, then we have a double standard; one for the powerful, and one for the rest.
Now let me address the second article. The charge is that the President violated his Constitutional oath in that he prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.
Obstruction of justice is clearly an impeachable offense. History and prior practice support this view, and it seems that many members of this body agree that obstruction does warrant removal from office.
The question then is whether the House managers have demonstrated obstruction of justice. I believe that they have.
When we review the witness depositions of Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan, and Sidney Blumenthal, we compare those with the depositions of the President, and when we review all the evidence gathered and presented by the House managers, and by the independent counsel and the grand jury, there are at least four areas of obstruction by the President.
These relate to the encouraging of a false affidavit, the concealment of gifts, the assistance in employment, and the attempt to refresh the memory of his Secretary Betty Currie which done a second time several days later is pure and simple trying to influence her testimony.
While we may never know with absolute certainty what occurred, the evidence is overwhelming that the President took numerous actions designed to impede the administration of justice.
I am also of the view that if the President committed perjury, then he obstructed justice. Perjury is a form of obstruction of justice.
I will therefore vote for conviction on both articles. I don't believe I will be voting to undo an election. We have a process of succession to the Presidency which maintains control in the Vice President of the same party with the same agenda.
Let me now explain why I feel conviction is so important in this case. It has to do with the roll of the oath in our society. This is why the President's removal is necessary to protect the republic.
When I was sworn in as a United States Senator I took the following oath to uphold the Constitution as did each one of you:
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 the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
I took the same oath on three occasions when I served in the U.S. House of Representatives. The President takes a similar oath when he enters office:
I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Both of these oaths are required by the Constitution.
Article VI of the Constitution requires that all Senators, Representatives, Members of the State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers of the United States and the States shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support the Constitution. The oath of office lies at the center of this impeachment debate.
As George Washington stated in his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1793:
Previous to the execution of any official act of the President the Constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about to take, and in your presence: That if it shall be found during my administration of the Government I have in any instance violated willingly or knowingly the injunctions thereof, I may (besides incurring constitutional punishment) be subject to the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony.
The sworn oath is central not only to our Constitution, but also to the administration of justice. Our legal system would not function without it.
Witnesses in trials swear under oath to `tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.'
Similarly, parties in civil lawsuits answer written questions or `interrogatories' put to them by their opponents. All answers are given under penalty of perjury. The answering party must sign a statement attesting to the truthfulness of the answers.
Testimony before a federal grand jury is given under oath, with the witness swearing to `tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.' And the citizens who sit on a grand jury take an oath to seek the truth.
The Federal Rules of Evidence make reference to the importance of the oath in our judicial system.
Rule 603 states that the oath is `calculated to awaken the witness' conscience and impress the witness' mind with the duty' to tell the truth.
The Supreme Court has commented in a number of cases on the question of perjury. In the 1975 case of United States v. Mandujano the Court opinion noted:
In this constitutional process of securing a witness' testimony, perjury simply has no place whatever. Perjured testimony is an obvious and flagrant affront to the basic concepts of judicial proceedings. Effective restraints against this type of egregious offense are therefore imperative.
In the much earlier 1937 case of United States v. Norris the Court observed:
There is occasional misunderstanding to the effect that perjury is somehow distinct from `obstruction of justice.' While the crimes are distinct, they are in fact variations on a single theme: preventing a court, the parties, and the public from discovering the truth. Perjury, subornation of perjury, concealment of subpoenaed documents, and witness tampering are all forms of obstruction of justice.
As the House prosecutors have argued, the principle of `Equal Justice Under Law' is at the very heart of our legal system.
In order to survive it requires not only an impartial judiciary and an ethical bar, but also a sacred oath. Without the sanctity of the oath, `Equal Justice Under Law' cannot be guaranteed.
In addition to our legal system, other sectors of our society rely on oaths to ensure truthfulness and uphold values.
At a very early age we frequently ask our young people to take an oath: The Boy Scout Oath is as follows:
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
And the Girl Scout Promise:
On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
Members of our armed forces take the following oath of enlistment:
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; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
Police officers, local officials and members of many civic organizations take an oath.
What is the purpose of an oath, and why do we rely on an oath in so many sectors of our society?
The oath in legal proceedings is designed to ensure truthfulness.
The oath taken by public officials and the military is designed to uphold the Constitution and preserve the rule of law.
The oath taken by scouts and members of civil organizations is designed to encourage values and good citizenship.
A violation of these oaths is taken seriously, and is often punished under the law. Why? To protect the organization, to protect the government, to protect the republic.
The President's oath is the most important oath any person takes in our Constitutional system, If that oath can be ignored it will set a very damaging precedent for our society.
Throughout this impeachment process there have been many proposals concerning the best means of resolution.
At each turn however, Members of the Congress have ultimately recognized that the appropriate path to take is the path laid out in the Constitution. That path was a full trial in the U.S. Senate.
I am proud to have been among those who argued for a trial.
Whatever the outcome, I will leave this process confident that the system has worked. While I may disagree with the final vote, I will respect that vote and I will urge that we move forward united and determined to do the people's business.
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