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Dec. 10 Opening Statements: Charles Canady (R-Fla.)

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  • By Federal News Service
    REP. CHARLES CANADY (R-FLA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I want to begin by thanking Mr. Hyde for his outstanding leadership of this committee during these difficult days. In the face of a determined effort to undermine and discredit the work of the committee, Mr. Hyde has conducted these proceedings with his accustomed dignity, grace and honor. And for that, I express to Mr. Hyde my gratitude and my respect.

    Many have asked why we are even here in these impeachment proceedings. They have asked why we can't just rebuke the president and move on. That's a reasonable question. And I certainly understand the emotions behind that question. I want to move on. Every member of this committee wants to move on. We all agree with that.

    But the critical question is this: Do we move on under the Constitution, or do we move on by turning aside from the Constitution? Do we move on in faithfulness to our own oath to support and defend the Constitution, or do we go outside the Constitution because it seems more convenient and expedient?

    Why are we here? We are not here to deal with the sins of the president.

    That's a matter between the president and his family and God.

    Unfortunately, however, the president's sins led him to commit crime. His sins led him to engage in a calculated and sustained pattern of lying under oath and obstructing the due administration of justice. And that, indeed, is the proper subject of our inquiry.

    Why are we here? We are here because we have a system of government based on the rule of law, a system of government in which no one -- no one -- is above the law. We are here because we have a constitution.

    A constitution is often a most inconvenient thing. A constitution limits us when we would not be limited. It compels us to act when we would not act. But our Constitution, as all of us in this room acknowledge, is the heart and soul of the American experiment. It is the glory of the political world. And we are here today because the Constitution requires that we be here. We are here because the Constitution grants the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment. We are here because the impeachment power is the sole constitutional means granted to Congress to deal with the misconduct of the chief executive of the United States.

    In many other countries, a matter such as this involving the head of government would have been quietly swept under the rug. There would, of course, be some advantages to that approach. We would all be spared embarrassment, indignity and discomfort. But there would be a high cost if we followed that course of action. Something would be lost. Respect for the law would be subverted, and the foundation of our Constitution would be eroded.

    The impeachment power is designed to deal with exactly such threats to our system of government. Conduct which undermines the integrity of the president's office, conduct by the chief executive which sets a pernicious example of lawlessness and corruption is exactly the sort of conduct that should subject a president to the impeachment power. Alexander Hamilton himself acknowledged that those who set examples which undermine or subvert the authority of the laws lead us from freedom to slavery. That is what William Jefferson Clinton has done. There must be a constitutional remedy.

    The first chief justice of the United States, John Jay, said that no crime is more extensively pernicious to society than perjury. That is the crime that William Jefferson Clinton has committed repeatedly, in a calculated effort to thwart justice.

    There must be a constitutional remedy. There is a constitutional remedy for such high crimes and misdemeanors; a constitutional remedy is impeachment.

    I freely acknowledge that reasonable people can disagree about the weight of the evidence on certain of the charges. For example, I think there is doubt about the allegations that the president willfully lied concerning the date his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky began. But when we set aside any doubtful matters, we are still left with compelling evidence that the president made multiple false statements under oath, both in a civil rights case and before a federal grand jury, that he engaged in other conduct to corruptly influence the administration of justice, and that he lied in sworn statements submitted to this very committee.

    He did this not simply to avoid personal embarrassment. Of course that was one of his objectives. But on the contrary, he lied under oath and obstructed justice in a calculated effort to defeat the rights of a plaintiff in a federal civil rights case. Having done that, he went on to lie before a grand jury to cover up and avoid responsibility for his earlier crimes. Then he compounded his offense by submitting false statements under oath to this committee.

    Of course, the president continues to assert his innocence of any criminal wrongdoing. We heard his counsel assert that here before us. The president's defense is based on the claim that he was telling the truth when he said under oath that he had no specific recollection of ever being alone with Ms. Lewinsky. It hinges on the claim that he was telling the truth when he said under oath that he never had an affair, a sexual relationship or sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky.

    All of the facts point to the conclusion that the president was willfully lying when he said these things. We would have to be blind to the facts to reach any other conclusion. No clever lawyers' arguments, no legal gymnastics, no attempts to twist and distort the plain meaning of the English language can change the simple facts that any honest review of the record will reveal.

    The president's claim that he did not lie in his deposition and before the federal grand jury rests, as his counsel acknowledged yesterday, on the argument that Ms. Lewinsky had sex with him, but he did not have sex with her. The simple statement of this argument exposes its absurdity. The president of the United States has been reduced to making such arguments.

    Governor Weld, one of the witnesses called to testify before this committee by the president, testified he assumed perjury had been committed by Mr. Clinton. Mr. Ruff, the White House counsel, himself admitted that the president, in his acknowledged efforts to mislead, intentionally walked up to the line of lying and that reasonable people could conclude that he, in fact, crossed that line.

    I candidly submit that a reasonable person is driven by all the facts and circumstances to conclude that the president most certainly lied, and that he did so repeatedly when he was under oath. A reasonable person is also driven to conclude that the president engaged in other corrupt acts to obstruct the administration of justice. The evidence is clear and convincing. It requires a willful suspension of rational judgment to conclude otherwise.

    Henry Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams, said that practical politics consist in ignoring the facts. I don't think there's much doubt in this room that the practical political thing to do in this matter would be to ignore the facts and drop these proceedings. All our lives would be more comfortable if we had never started this impeachment inquiry. All our lives would be more comfortable if we simply ignored the facts, folded our tents and went home. That would be the politically practical thing to do.

    But there are moments when constitutional duty collides with practical politics. We on this committee, through no choice of our own, have come to such a moment. We cannot ignore the facts. The oath that we have taken to protect and defend the Constitution requires that we acknowledge the facts before us and exercise the momentous power entrusted to us under the Constitution. It is our duty to act against the misconduct of President William Jefferson Clinton within the framework established by the Constitution.

    The Constitution does not authorize a censure of a president who is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. The Constitution provides for the impeachment of a president who has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. Do we have so little faith in our Constitution and the institutions of our government that we will turn aside from the pattern established in our Constitution and devise what we consider a better way to call the president to account for his misdeeds? Do we believe that our own wisdom exceeds the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution -- if I could have 30 seconds, Mr. Chairman?

    REP. SENSENBRUNNER: Without objection.

    REP. CANADY: The answer is clear. We must say no. William Jefferson Clinton must be called to account as the Constitution provides.

    He must be impeached and called before the Senate to answer for the harm he has done. He must be called before the Senate to answer for the harm he has caused by undermining the integrity of the high office entrusted to him by the people of the United States.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    REP. SENSENBRENNER: Gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Scott.

    Thursday, December 10, 1998


    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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