THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL
Statement of Sen. Crapo (R-Idaho)
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. CRAPO Mr. Chief Justice, very soon we will all cast what is clearly among the most serious votes any members of Congress could ever be asked to make. I will vote to convict President William Jefferson Clinton on both of the two articles of impeachment before the U.S. Senate--prejury before a grand jury and obstruction of justice. To me, the evidence presented over the previous four weeks is not reasonably subject to any conclusion other than that the President did commit the crimes alleged against him.
From the very beginning of this matter, I have been circumspect about commenting on President Clinton's conduct. As a newly elected Senator, I was inundated with interview requests from national media. I chose not to appear on these programs and restricted my comments to a discussion of the process. I felt it was incumbent upon me as a member of the impeachment court to avoid commenting on the evidence until the trial has concluded.
At the outset, each Senator was administered a separate oath by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This special oath was separate and distinct from the oath of office that each Senator takes when sworn into office. To my knowledge, this is the only other occasion in which our Founding Fathers required a separate and distinct oath of U.S. Senators to perform a constitutional responsibility.
Once again, the incredible wisdom of our Founding Fathers was evident. As each Senator took the oath to provide impartial justice, a realization fell over us that we had just embarked on a very solemn duty. No longer was the Senate a legislative body, it was a court of impeachment. A unique court, to be sure, not identical to traditional civil and criminal courts, but a court nonetheless.
This oath to render `impartial justice' was a promise to God under our Constitution. It also represented a duty to all Idahoans to represent them impartially. I committed that I would conduct myself in a fashion so that at any time I could affirm that I fully honored this commitment. I was present at all the Senate proceedings, and fully reviewed the evidence presented before the Senate. I was ready to vote either to acquit or to convict, depending on the evidence, argument, and law presented to the Senate.
In approaching this decision, several questions must be answered. Did the President commit the crimes alleged? And if so, are these crimes `high crimes and misdemeanors' requiring the removal of the President from office under the impeachment provisions of the U.S. Constitution? After carefully weighing the evidence and the law presented to the Senate, I have concluded after many sleepless nights and troubling days that the evidence shows that President Clinton committed the crimes alleged in the Articles of Impeachment. These crimes involve perjury and obstruction of justice in federal criminal grand jury proceedings and in a federal civil rights action. Although the `beyond a reasonable doubt' standard of traditional criminal trials is not applicable in impeachment proceedings, I am convinced the evidence presented in this case meet even this high standard.
Notwithstanding the impression created by some of the media and talk shows, there seems to be general consensus that the President committed the acts alleged against him. The core debate is whether these acts rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors as required to impeach and remove the President from office under the Constitution.
Some argue that this entire matter is just an effort to impeach the President for `private' conduct and that impeachment is proper only for `public' conduct that violates the public trust. But it is important to clarify that these proceedings are not about sex or even lying about sex. Both the President's counsel and the House managers correctly made the point that private conduct by the President is a matter properly left between the President and his wife and family. The allegations in this case, however, relate to public acts that go to the heart of the rule of law in America--perjury and obstruction of justice in a civil rights case and before criminal grand jury proceedings. I am deeply concerned that we will do great damage to our system of law and the freedom it defends if we diminish the seriousness of these crimes and thereby suggest to future offenders that they can commit these crimes with little to fear.
It is telling that on three separate occasions the U.S. Senate has removed federal judges from office for perjury. Judges are tried under the same Constitutional provision requiring proof of treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors as are presidents. Judge Claiborne was removed from office for lying on his income tax returns. Judge Hastings was removed for lying under oath in a trial. Judge Nixon was removed for making false statements to a grand jury. Clearly, under prior Senate precedent, perjury is a `high crime and misdemeanor.'
In America, our freedom is assured by the rule of law. Our law seeks to provide equal and impartial justice to all. All Americans--the poor, the rich, the weak, the powerful--are entitled to the same protection under the law. And even, the most powerful among us must be subject to those laws. Tampering with the truth-seeking functions of the law undermines our justice system and the foundations on which our freedoms lie. All Americans must abide by the rule of law, including the President of the United States, who is the highest official in the land and who has the additional duty to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed.
The primacy of the rule of law over the rule of individuals is one of the most important safeguards of freedom in our Constitution. Our entire legal system is dependent on our ability to find the truth. That is why perjury and obstruction of justice are crimes. Federal sentencing guidelines place perjury, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice in the same realm of seriousness as bribery. Commission of these crimes is a direct effort to prevent our legal system from performing one of its core functions--finding the truth.
The offenses are even worse when committed against the poor or powerless by the wealthy or powerful. Our Constitution guarantees, fortunately, that the most ordinary person has the right to her day in court even if she is not well liked by the public or has become characterized in a bad light by her opponents. And even if the person from whom she seeks justice is the President.
In 1792, Chief Justice John Jay gave one of the best historical explanations of the reason crimes against the truth-seeking process in our system of justice are so dangerous to our freedom:
Independent of the abominable Insult which Perjury offers to the divine Being, there is no Crime more Pernicious to Society. It discolors and poisons the Streams of Justice, and by substituting Falsehood for Truth, saps the Foundations of personal and public Right. . . . Testimony is given under those solemn obligations which an appeal to the God of Truth impose; and if oaths should cease to be held sacred, our dearest and most valuable Rights would become insecure: Chief Justice John Jay, Charge to a Grand Jury of the Circuit Court of the District of Vermont, June 25, 1792.
Perjury and obstruction of justice are public crimes that strike at the heart of the rule of law--and therefore our freedom--in America. I conclude that these acts do constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under the impeachment provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, I will vote to convict President Clinton on both of the impeachment articles.
Fortunately, this trial is over and I now can direct my full attention to fulfilling the other oath I took when I was sworn in as a United States Senator. Many challenges and opportunities face Idahoans and all Americans. I will, as I always have, give all my energy to working on a bipartisan basis to solve problems, strengthen America and protect our future.
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