THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Dec. 10 Opening Statements: Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.)
By Federal News Service
REP. ELTON GALLEGLY (R-CA): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, we've been waiting for months for President Clinton or his representatives to offer facts that negate the charges in Judge Starr's referral to this committee. During those long months, I made a commitment to refrain from judging the president's guilt or innocence until we had the facts.
This has been a very trying time. In a democracy, there are few more serious acts than to consider the possible impeachment of a president. I can tell you in true conscience, it has caused me many sleepless nights.
The charges Judge Starr presented against President Clinton were strong, but they were only charges. I wanted to hear the evidence that would prove the charges were false. I believed that was the only fair way to proceed, and it was also my solemn constitutional duty and immense responsibility. I waited, I read, and I listened.
Finally, last week, President Clinton announced he would launch a vigorous defense. On Tuesday morning, Mr. Craig, the president's counsel, said he would present a powerful case based on the facts already in the record and on the law, a powerful case against the impeachment of our president. What I heard, unfortunately, was more legal hair-splitting. Even some of the president's witnesses said President Clinton had lied. Only Presidential Attorney Mr. Ruff mounted a vigorous defense of the facts and the record, but I found his conclusions flawed.
I have carefully weighed the evidence, Mr. Chairman. I can only conclude that the president repeatedly lied under oath. His lies under oath I believe were intentional and premeditated. First, in December of 1997, the president lied under oath in his written answers to a federal court. Second, in January, the president lied under oath repeatedly in the Jones deposition. Third, he willfully and knowingly influenced witnesses and obstructed justice in Ms. Jones' pending lawsuit. He lied to the American people, he lied to Congress, his staff, his cabinet, his party leaders, all to protect and frustrate -- protect himself and frustrate justice.
Fourth, in August the president lied under oath before a federal grand jury. The president lied to the American people when he addressed us after that appearance. Finally, only days ago, the president lied under oath again when he answered the 81 questions posed to him by this committee.
The president had many, many opportunities to come clean and tell the truth. Instead, he continued to lie under oath. He lied under oath despite bipartisan pleas to testify truthfully.
It has been argued that we should not impeach President Clinton because we should not hobble future presidents with the possibility they could be impeached for the same thing. Mr. Lowell, the Democrat counsel, this morning stated we should not impeach to punish, but rather to preserve the public trust. Future presidents should fear impeachment for lying under oath. Impeaching a president for lying under oath would do what Mr. Lowell suggests -- protect the public trust. Instead of acting presidential and putting the country before his own self-interest, President Clinton chose his own self-interest time and time again. By doing so, he undermined the rule of law and violated his oath of office.
The president, his delegates and my Democrat colleagues argue that even these facts are provable, they do not rise to the level of impeachment. With all due respect, I believe they're wrong. Lying after swearing before God and country to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is a very serious offense. It is taken very seriously by our judicial system, one of the three equal branches of government in the United States. In this case, President Clinton lies under oath before a federal judge, a grand jury are a direct attack on the constitutional separations of power. On a more basic level, he (sic) lies under oath directly attacks the rule of law.
This is about a president of the United States lying under oath, undermining our legal process and violating his oath of office. It is about violating Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, which states the president shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed. President Clinton's actions clearly fall under the heading of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Our legal system, which protects the rights and liberties of all citizens, is dependent on people telling the truth under oath. The president is our chief law enforcement officer and our chief magistrate. When he lies under oath he undermines the integrity of our judicial system and threatens the rights and liberties of every one of us.
Mr. Chairman, I'm not a lawyer -- one of the few on this committee -- however, everyone that knows me knows I believe in the rule of law -- believe the rule of law is fundamental to our society. A society without laws is anarchy. Societies that ignore the laws are condemned to violence and chaos.
The president's actions have already impacted children in my district. An educator at Moorpark -- one of the Moorpark junior high schools called me this week. She said that in the last few months students have lied about bad conduct and tried to excuse themselves with the comment, "Well, the president did it, why can't I?"
That bothers me. My district is considered among the safest communities in the nation. We have fine police officers, which certainly helps, but every officer from the chief to the beat officer will tell you a low crime rate begins with citizens who obey the law. Every citizen must obey the law, every law. No citizen has the right to pick and choose what laws he or she may follow just because it may be embarrassing or inconvenient.
Our course is certain. Before us is clear evidence that the president willfully and knowingly lied under oath, repeatedly and consistently. Those lies under oath are an attack on the rule of law against the very fabric of our society. He violated his oath of office and willfully sought to deny justice to another citizen. He violated the Constitution. To condone this would be to condemn our society to anarchy. Mr. Chairman, I cannot and will not condone such action.
I yield back.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from New York, Mr. Nadler.
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