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Dec. 10 Opening Statements: Ed Bryant (R-Tenn.)

  • More Transcripts From the Hearings

  • By Federal News Service
    Thursday, December 10, 1998

    REP. ED BRYANT (R-TN): I thank the chair. The intersectional collision of President Clinton's deplorable conduct with our constitution has set in motion this inquiry of impeachment. Each member must now match his or her action with only the authority the Constitution delegates to the House of Representatives, no more, no less. As such, we must not invent, for the purpose of expediency, a remedy which does not exist. The House cannot and should not be able to reprimand, censure or fine the other two branches of government, the judiciary or the executive branches. Rather, members must be prepared to vote their conscience on whether or not to impeach, that is to charge the president with an impeachable offense. This is our single role in this process.

    Further, impeachment is not a part of the criminal law. It's not governed by the rules of criminal procedure or court precedence and not necessarily the rules of evidence. Impeachment is truly a unique constitutional process combining elements of the legal and political systems.

    Numerous scholars have come forward suggesting that not every crime is impeachable. Likewise, it's clear that an impeachable offense does not require a criminal law violation. The distinguished Senator Robert Byrd from West Virginia has stated an impeachable offense does not have to be an indictable offense of the law.

    Before we begin our evaluation of the charges, let's be clear that the standard we must attain in this House before we can impeach is not, and I repeat, is not the same case as that against President Nixon in 1974.

    Some intimate that the Nixon case is the magic threshold, and anything less should not be considered for impeachment. That is simply, as the president's legal team put it, a misleading statement.

    Analogize this situation to the prosecutor in a law court who fails to indict the bank robber who robbed five banks because the prosecutor had previously indicted a robber of 20 banks. As for our own evaluation, our first task is to ascertain the facts. The second task is to determine if the facts support an impeachable offense.

    As to the facts, President Clinton was sued by Paula Jones in a civil sexual harassment case. In her case, Ms. Jones tried to establish a particular pattern and practice of behavior by the president. This was not unique to her case. Most sexual harassment cases have to establish such a pattern. After former White House intern Monica Lewinsky was listed as a potential witness, a series of illegal acts ensued. The evidence established is the president engaged in the following misconduct in an apparent effort to prevent Ms. Jones from recovering a monetary damage judgment against him and to protect his presidency. The facts surrounding these unlawful events are:

    Number one, perjury. The president through a series of calculated lies over a period of months attempted to evade, mislead and provide incomplete responses to Paula Jones, the judiciary system, and the American people. Disregarding the recognized legal standard of a reasonable man used in all courts, the president repeatedly used verbal gymnastics to redefine words and phrases such as "alone", "is", and "sexual relations". The latter interpretation as admitted by his lawyer results in the ridiculous conclusion that one party to a particular sex act may be involved in a sexual relation while the other party is not. And they also come in to this high room and talk about how the president can give an incomplete answer and yet still comply with the oath he takes to tell the whole truth -- incomplete answer, whole truth -- and give a misleading answer, yet tell nothing but the truth. And I'm still waiting for an answer how you can square those concepts. But if anybody can do it, I'm sure this president can.

    Number two, obstruction of justice. Once the question arose concerning an improper affair with Ms. Lewinsky, suddenly there was a series of incidents to cover the tracks of this affair, including ridding the immediate area of evidence in the Jones case and Ms. Lewinsky. While the president's "fingerprints" -- and I use that in quotes -- aren't clearly on these actions, almost by magic the president is benefited by physical evidence disappearing from Ms. Lewinsky's apartment and reappearing under his personal secretary's bed. Ms. Lewinsky lands her long-shot job with a New York Fortune 500 company within 24 hours of signing a false affidavit supportive of the president in the Jones case.

    How lucky can one man be?

    Number three, abuse of power. Any claim the president has had that his affair was a private matter and, at worst, grounds for divorce, changed, changed when he brought the powers of his high office into play. The facts show that in the president's zeal to keep his affair from the Jones lawsuit, he allowed government-employed White House counsel, policy advisers, cabinet members and communications team to defend him and perpetuate those lies. He continued to use his staff for a period more than seven months to deny, stonewall, and to lie to those investigating his case.

    Now, we must use a common-sense approach to this evidence, and look at the results, look at the results of this series of calculations and incidents. Washington is a "wink and nod" community, where people do not need to say exactly what they want in order to get what they want done. Nor can we judge each act in a vacuum. The context, the big picture, must also be considered. Just look at the time line, look at the actions and the results, which all benefit the the one person who says he had nothing to do with anything.

    Throughout this process, we've also had the daunting task of determining whether these charges meet the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors and whether the rule of law can be interpreted to include these offenses. Surely one cannot seriously argue perjury and obstruction of justice are not impeachable. They're paternal triplets of bribery, which is spelled out in the Constitution. Each of these have the same effect of thwarting the truth in our court system. As former Attorney General Griffin Bell has testified, the statutes against perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering rest on vouchsafing the element of truth in judicial proceedings, civil and criminal, and particularly the grand jury. Professor Jonathan Turley of the George Washington Law School told Congress that the allegations against President Clinton go to the very heart of the legitimacy of his office and the integrity of the political process.

    For those remaining few who persist that this is merely a private or an example of trivial conduct, I draw your attention to the testimony before this committee of John McGinnis, a professor of law from the Benjamin H. Cordoza Law School. "Integrity under law is simply not divisible into private and public spheres. It would be very damaging for this House to accept a legal definition of high crimes and misdemeanors that creates a republic which tolerates private tax evasion, private perjury and private obstruction of justice from officials who would then continue to have the power to throw their citizens into prison for the very same offenses.

    In addition, Steven B. Pressler of the Northwestern School of Law testified before this Congress, "They are not trivial matters having to do with the private life or thus" -- let me start over on that one. "They are not trivial matters having to do with the private life that are impeachable offenses. The writings and the commentary of the framers of our Constitution show that they would have believed that what President Clinton is alleged to have done, if true, ought to result in his impeachment and his removal from office."

    Harvard Professor Richard D. Parker also stressed the rule of law in his testimony before us. "Now, consider another hypothetical situation. Suppose the president were shown to have bribed a judge in a civil lawsuit against him for sexual harassment, seeking to cover up embarrassing evidence. As bribery, this act would be impeachable under the Constitution despite its source as being the president's sex life. What is the difference, then, between lying under oath and obstructing of justice in the same judicial proceeding, to say nothing before a federal grand jury, for the same purpose? By analogy, both sorts of behavior would grossly pervert, even mar, the course of justice in the courts of the United States."

    And finally, when one wants to blame the Congress for all of this, and we hear that very often, I want to issue the reminder that it was President Clinton and only President Clinton who consistently made wrong choices instead of right choices and who brought us to this point of national exhaustion.

    Also, remember the additional words of Professor McGuiness about our forefathers and their paramount concern with the integrity of our public officials. Quote: "They recognized that the prosperity and stability of the nation ultimately rests on the people's trust in their rulers. They designed the threat of removal from office to restrain the inevitable tendencies of rulers to abuse the trust."

    Can I have just one minute, Mr. Chairman?

    REP. HYDE: Without objection.

    REP. BRYANT: Since these allegations were brought to the attention of the committee, my office has been inundated with phone calls and mail, and I've received an overwhelming number of calls in support of impeachment. But I look forward to the end of this debate, and I want my constituents back in Tennessee to understand I do not relish this position I'm in or the opportunity to vote in this impeachment matter. It's going to be the toughest vote that I have to make as a congressmen. There are no winners, and there are no losers today. America has truly suffered, but the facts remain that our president has placed himself before the law and the nation.

    In conclusion, I would join the more than 100 newspapers and numerous other Americans to call upon the president to do the right thing and the honorable thing: to resign from the office of the presidency.

    And I thank the chair.

    REP. SENSENBRENNER: Gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Meehan.


    Copyright © 1998 by Federal News Service, Inc. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's original duties. Transcripts of other events may be found at the Federal News Service Web site, located at

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