THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL
Statement of Sen. Bond (R-Mo.)
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. BOND. On Friday, February 12, 1999, I voted to convict President William Jefferson Clinton on both counts of the Impeachment Articles brought by the United States House of Representatives charging that he committed perjury and obstruction of justice. My reasons follow.
On January 16, 1998, at the request of the United States Attorney General Janet Reno, the three judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit expanded the previously entered Order authorizing the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr to look into certain matters relating to a lawsuit brought against President William Jefferson Clinton by former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones alleging sexual harassment. Pursuant to that Order, Ms. Jones' attorneys issued subpoenas for evidence and deposed Mr. Clinton and others seeking information on a pattern of conduct that might be relevant to the issues in the Jones case.
The President denied in a deposition in the Jones case and in a forceful statement to the American public that he had sexual relations with `that woman,' referring to Monica Lewinsky. Subsequently, however, Ms. Lewinsky turned over a stained blue dress that she had worn in an encounter with the President; a scientific examination revealed that the DNA on the dress was President Clinton's DNA.
The Office of Independent Counsel convened a federal grand jury to look into the matter and deposed Mr. Clinton in The White House on August 17, 1998, about his participation in the Jones lawsuit.
The Office of Independent Counsel then referred the matters developed in the investigation to the United States House of Representatives, which on December 19, 1998, voted two Articles of Impeachment against Mr. Clinton alleging that he committed perjury before the federal grand jury in four instances and that on seven occasions he had obstructed justice by tampering with witnesses and evidence in the Jones case proceedings.
For the sake of brevity, I shall only cover several of the allegations and evaluate the evidence supporting them.
Counsel for the President has admitted that there was an inappropriate relationship between the President and Ms. Lewinsky and that they had concocted a cover story to conceal their relationship and activities. On December 17, 1997, at approximately 2 a.m., Mr. Clinton telephoned Ms. Lewinsky after he learned that she had been summoned for a deposition in the Jones case. According to this testimony he called to tell her of the death of the brother of Mr. Clinton's secretary. Ms. Lewinsky states that he told her about the death of the brother, but that he also reminded her of their cover story and notified her that she was included on the witness list in the Jones case.
According to Ms. Lewinsky's testimony, Mr. Clinton further stated that they might be able to avoid her testimony if she executed an affidavit. Although Mr. Clinton had also reminded Ms. Lewinsky of her cover story, the White House Counsel made much of the fact that Ms. Lewinsky said that the President did not tell her to file a false affidavit and did not link the cover story to the need to file an affidavit.
I do not believe it is at all inconsistent with a scheme or out of the ordinary to note that the President would not make such a connection. As an experienced attorney, the President would know he would be in grave danger if he ever explicitly asked anyone to file a false affidavit or to lie under oath. To paraphrase a statement made during the trial by Vernon Jordan, `He is no fool.' He would have known that such a statement could be revealed by subsequent judicial inquiry.
Mr. Clinton did not have to tell Ms. Lewinsky expressly to execute a false affidavit. She knew that in the absence of contrary instructions she was to continue to follow their story. She was referred by the President's best-friend Vernon Jordan to an attorney who drafted the affidavit for her. The President, through Mr. Jordan, was kept advised of the progress of the affidavit.
During the time that Mr. Jordan was serving as liaison between the attorney and the President in the procuring of the affidavit, he was also pursuing a job search for Ms. Lewinsky, which he admitted was under his control.
The President's lawyer was presented the affidavit and offered it into the evidence when the President was summoned before federal judge Susan Webber Wright to participate in the deposition on January 17, 1998, by the Jones attorneys. The President's attorney, Mr. Bennett, referred to the deposition in evidence and stated that it showed that there `is absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form' with Mr. Clinton. Mr. Bennett further stated, `In preparation of the witness for
this deposition, the witness (Mr. Clinton) is fully aware of Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit, for I have not told him a single thing he doesn't know * * * ' (Clinton deposition transcript, Evidentiary Record, Vol. XIV, at p. 23.) Although the videotape of the deposition showed the President looking in the direction of the attorney when the affidavit was presented, Mr. Clinton subsequently stated that he was not paying attention and had no knowledge of the representations made by his attorney about the affidavit.
I believe that to be totally incredible.
The President had known that Ms. Lewinsky would be a prime subject of the deposition and he had asked Ms. Lewinsky to file an affidavit and took steps to be kept advised of the progress of that affidavit. Subsequent events showed that his attorney, Mr. Bennett did not at the time know the falsity of the affidavit and that Mr. Clinton was apparently the only one at the deposition who was fully aware of the fraud that was being perpetrated on the court.
When Mr. Bennett later learned the falsity of the affidavit, he did what any attorney hates to do and that is to advise the court that he provided false information. He asked that the affidavit and his characterization of it be disregarded.
I believe Mr. Clinton encouraged the execution of a false affidavit, secured job assistance to help prevent truthful testimony, and allowed his attorney to make false statements as alleged in Article II, paragraphs 1, 4, and 5.
When Mr. Clinton testified before the federal grand jury on August 17, 1998, he was asked:
A. If he misled Judge Wright in some way then you would have corrected the record and said, excuse me Mr. Bennett, I think the judge is getting a mis-impression by what you are saying?
A. . . . I wasn't even paying much attention to this conversation.
Q. Do you believe, Mr. President, that you have an obligation to make sure that the presiding federal judge was on board and had the correct facts?
A. I don't believe I ever even focused on what Mr. Bennett said in the exact words he did until I started reading this transcript carefully for this deposition: (Deposition of President Clinton, page 30, lines 2-5.)
I therefore believe he provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the Federal grand jury concerning statements he allowed his attorney to make to a federal judge as alleged in Article I, paragraph 3.
On December 28, 1997, the President met in his White House office with Ms. Lewinsky and exchanged gifts. During the course of the conversation Ms. Lewinsky raised the question of what to do with other gifts he had provided her and which had been subpoenaed by the attorneys for Paula Jones. According to Ms. Lewinsky, he made no definitive statement about the gifts.
Very shortly thereafter, according to Ms. Lewinsky's testimony, Mr. Clinton's personal secretary Bettie Currie initiated a series of telephone conversations, in which in effect Ms. Currie communicated to Ms. Lewinsky that she understood from the President that Ms. Lewinsky had something for her. Pursuant to those telephone calls Ms. Currie picked up gifts from Ms. Lewinsky and took them back to Ms. Currie's apartment where she stored them under her bed.
During the course of proceedings in the Senate, Ms. Lewinsky was asked in a deposition about these telephone calls and expanded upon her testimony about them. A prior statement by Ms. Currie that Ms. Lewinsky had actually initiated the call was recanted by Ms. Currie, and I believe the testimony of Ms. Lewinsky is credible. By hiding the gifts rather than presenting them to the Jones attorneys pursuant to the subpoena Ms. Lewinsky committed a felonious act and, if Ms. Currie had knowledge of the subpoena, she also committed a felonious act of concealing materials covered by a valid subpoena. Mr. Clinton, by orchestrating, facilitating, and encouraging the suppression of evidence under subpoena, also committed a felonious act. I, therefore, believe that the charge in Article II, paragraph 3, of the Impeachment Articles is proven.
During the course of his deposition by the Jones attorneys, President Clinton continued to rely on his cover story and on the perjurious affidavit submitted by Ms. Lewinsky. During that deposition he referred repeatedly to Ms. Currie as one who would corroborate the cover story which he and Ms. Lewinsky had devised. Immediately after his testimony on Saturday, January 17, 1998, he called Ms. Currie and summoned her to come into his office on a Sunday, January 18, 1998. There he stated five rhetorical questions to Ms. Currie: (1) `I was never really alone with her . . . right?'; (2) `You were always there when Monica was there . . . right?'; (3) Monica came to see me and I never touched her right . . . right?'; (4) `She wanted to have sex with me and I can't do that . . . ?'; (5) `You could see and hear everything . . . right?'
Each of these statements supported the position taken by the President in the Jones deposition, but each one of these statements was false. The President was transmitting to Ms. Currie what he wanted her to say should she be called as a witness in this case. For good measure, he even went back to her a couple of days later and walked her through the statements again. It is uncontroverted that he made those statements, but he attempted to justify them on the basis that he was trying to refresh his memory.
His statements to Ms. Currie on January 18, 1998, and several days later constituted relating a false and misleading account of relevant events to influence corruptly the testimony of a witness in a federal civil rights action as alleged in Article II, paragraph 6, of the Impeachment proceedings.
Subsequently, he also made statements to his subordinates including Sidney Blumenthal, John Podesta, and Erskin Bowles. The statements he made to them were also known by him to be false and were designed to provide misleading information through them which could be and subsequently was transmitted under oath in the judicial proceedings by the subordinates.
His statements to his subordinates on January 21, 23, and 26, 1998, were false and misleading statements to potential witnesses in a federal grand jury proceeding to influence corruptly the testimony of those witnesses as alleged in Article II, section 7, of the Articles of Impeachment.
At his federal grand jury testimony on August 17, 1998, Mr. Clinton falsely and corruptly denied he had attempted to influence the testimony of witnesses and impede the discovery of evidence in civil rights actions as set out in the analysis above. Thus, the committed the acts as charged in Article I, paragraph 4, the count charging perjury. (See Clinton grand jury transcript at 107-08, Evidentiary Record, Vol. III, Part 1 of 2, pp. 559-60.)
I believe that the evidence presented on the above charges was clear and convincing that the President engaged in a continuing scheme to fabricate and establish in federal court proceedings a false story about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky and that through circumstantial evidence, the direct testimony of Ms. Lewinsky, Ms. Currie, Mr. Blumenthal, and others, plus the corroborating evidence, he was shown to have committed the acts charged.
The totality of his actions can be judged in the success with which he maintained his cover story. Had it not been for the DNA on the stained dress, there is little likelihood that the false cover story would have been exposed for the lie that it was. In perpetrating that false and misleading story Mr. Clinton
tampered with witnesses, obstructing justice in the civil rights lawsuit brought against him by Paula Jones. He also falsely misrepresented these acts in testimony before the grand jury August 17, 1998.
HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
Having resolved in my mind the question that clear and convincing evidence shows that William Jefferson Clinton obstructed justice and committed perjury before a grand jury, the next issue is whether these activities rise to the level of offenses for which removal from office is the appropriate remedy. Defenders of the President have said that no one would press charges in a case like this, that it was not grave enough to merit a criminal proceeding, and that it certainly was not sufficient to warrant removing the President from office.
With respect to the seriousness of the offense, it is worthy of note that during the year 1997, 182 people were sentenced by federal judges for perjury and another 144 were sentenced for obstruction and witness tampering. These prosecutions were brought by Clinton Administration appointees and in many instances in front of Clinton-appointed judges.
The case of Dr. Barbara Battaglia is particularly compelling. In a law suit brought by a patient of a Veterans Administration hospital alleging sexual harassment, Dr. Battaglia was asked in a deposition if she had had consensual sex with the plaintiff. Her answer to that question was a simple, `No.' When that denial was shown to be a lie, she was convicted of a felony and sentenced to house arrest with an electronic monitoring device. She has lost her ability to practice medicine and also her ability to utilize her law degree to practice law.
The serious nature of these offenses is particularly clear when considered in the context of the proceedings. The United States Supreme Court had ruled unanimously that Mr. Clinton, as President, had to answer the lawsuit filed by Paula Jones. A federal judge was assigned to the suit and presided over the deposition in which Mr. Clinton testified and at which time he and his lawyer presented the false affidavit.
It is totally inconsistent within the context of this case and the sound functioning of the judicial system to say that the Supreme Court meant that Mr. Clinton should respond to these charges but he was not bound to respond truthfully. His actions in procuring and using false affidavits, causing the hiding of subpoenaed evidence, and tampering with a potential witness by giving false information to use in any testimony effectively denied the plaintiff the civil rights the Supreme Court ruled she had. To say that the acts are not grave, not high-crimes, and not a threat to the judicial system, is untenable. No lawyer
could make such a statement in open court and not be subjected to the loss of a license to practice law.
Likewise, his lies to a grand jury from his White House office were a serious challenge to the administration of justice.
Moreover, the debates of the authors of the Constitution showed that they considered obstructing justice would warrant the President's impeachment and conviction. George Mason asked if the President could advise someone to commit a crime and then before an indictment or conviction use the power of a pardon to stop inquiry and prevent detection. James Madison responded that, `If the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him.' (See Elliott, Debates on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, at 498.)
Another argument has also been made by the White House counsel and supporters of the President that to remove the President from office on impeachment would be to nullify the election. This argument suggests that impeachment is never an appropriate remedy, provided the President is popular and the country is enjoying good times. The Office of the Presidency is not so brittle that it would be gravely damaged by removing the current President or any other President. The Founding Fathers certainly did not envision that impeachment could only apply to an unpopular President or one who was leading the country in hard-times.
At the height of a Cold War with United States forces engaged in Vietnam, impeachment proceedings against President Richard M. Nixon forced him to leave office. The country was not wounded, it did not lose its way; Vice President Gerald Ford assumed the Presidency and continued the course of government. In this case, Vice President Al Gore would assume office and would be expected to continue the policies of the Clinton Administration.
The United States Senate in recent years did not shirk from driving from office a colleague accused of obstructing justice in a sexual harassment case. No one objected that we had `nullified' the votes of the citizens of his state.
Some of my colleagues have argued that the President has been so strong and forceful in foreign policy and conducted such wise relations with other nations that we could not afford to lose him. That argument, too, smacks of a referendum on the President's conduct of office, not a judgment on his wrongful acts. If we were to judge impeachment on the basis of the policies of the President, then impeachment could always be expected to be purely a partisan matter turning on the approval or disapproval of formulation or implementation of policy by the
President. The framers rightfully dismissed any option that the proper or improper administration of the regular powers of the President would be involved in a decision on impeachment, either positively or negatively.
In addition, we have the precedents set by the removal by the Senate of judges who have been found to have committed perjury. During my tenure in the Senate we have twice removed judges for committing perjury because of the serious adverse impact jerjury has on our judicial system. If a judge is removable for committing the significant act of perjury, can the one who appoints the judge be held to a lower standard?
The President not only appoints the judges, he appoints the Attorney General, the United States Attorneys, and the Supreme Court Justices. Certainly we should impose no lower standard on the person with the ultimate responsibility for the proper administration of justice than on those he appoints.
It is precisely in good times, with the President high in the polls, that it is incumbent upon the Senate to exercise very thoroughly and carefully the responsibility under the Constitution to make the difficult decision on whether the President has committed high-crimes and misdemeanors warranting his removal from office. If we are to have a government of laws and not of men and not of public opinion polls, then we must judge the President on the evidence presented to us. I believe that the acts that he committed constitute high-crimes and misdemeanors warranting his conviction.
I should note that the Senate made a serious mistake in beginning the proceedings by limiting the ability of the House Managers to call witnesses. The absence of witnesses to testify to the acts alleged as the basis of impeachment charges significantly impeded the progress toward resolving the allegations against the President. I trust that the Senate will not make the same mistake in future impeachment proceedings.
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