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THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL
Jan. 15: Gekas Opens Legal Presentation

  • More Transcripts From the Trial

  • From the Congressional Record
    Friday, January 15, 1999

    Mr. Manager GEKAS. Mr. Chief Justice, counsel for the President, my colleagues from the House, and Members of the Senate, up to now you have been fully informed of the state of the record in this case in many different ways, in very many different tonalities uttered by the managers, who so magnificently, in my judgment, wove the story that began in 1997 and has not ended yet.

    But the narrative that the managers were able to produce for you and put on the record has met, even as we speak, with commentary in the public that 'we have all known all of this before.' The big difference is that now it is part of the history of the country. It is lodged in the records of the Senate of the United States. And together with the Congressional Record of the proceedings that preceded these in the House, we now have the dawning of the final chapters of this particular incident involving the President, in which you will have the final word. But that is what the importance is of what you have heard up until now--the complete record woven together, step by step, so that no one in this Chamber at this juncture does not know all the facts that are pertinent to this case. That is a magnificent accomplishment on the part of the managers.

    But the record is not yet complete, and that is where I and Representative Chabot, Representative Cannon, and Representative Barr come in, so that now we can take the next step in fulfillment of the record, and that is, to try to apply the statutory laws, the laws of our Nation as they obtain to the facts that you now have well ingrained into your consciences. To do that, we have to repeat some of the facts. Some of these matters overlap, and just as you have given your attention to the matters at hand up until now, your undivided attention is needed continuously.

       


    For instance, we cannot discuss even the application of these statutes to the facts unless we repeat the series of events that catapulted us to this moment in history. And we must begin, as you have heard countless times now on and off this floor, in my judgment, with the Supreme Court of the United States, with all due deference to the Chief Justice, because the Supreme Court at one point in this saga determined in a suit brought by Paula Jones that indeed an average, day-to-day, ordinary citizen of our Nation would have the right to have a day in court, as it were, even against the President of the United States. It is there that all of this began.

    That fellow American, Paula Jones--no matter how she may have been described by commentators and pundits and talking heads, et cetera--did have a bundle of rights at her command. Those rights went into the core of our system of justice to bring the President into the case as a defendant. That is an awesome and grand result of the Supreme Court decision at that juncture. This is what is being overlooked, in my judgment, as we pursue what we believe. If perjury indeed was committed--and the record is replete that it in fact was--and if indeed

    obstruction of justice was finally committed by the President of the United States--as the evidence abundantly demonstrates--then we must apply the rights of Paula Jones to what has transpired.

    We are not saying that the President--even though the weight of the evidence demonstrates it amply--should be convicted of the impeachment which has brought us to this floor just because he committed perjury or obstructed justice, but because as a result of his actions both in rendering falsehoods under oath, as the evidence demonstrates amply, or in obstructing justice, that because of his conduct, he attempted to, or succeeded in, or almost succeeded in--it doesn't matter which of these results finally emerges--and attempted to destroy the rights of a fellow American citizen. That is what the gravamen of all that has occurred up to now really is.

    In attempting to obstruct justice, we mean by that obstructing the justice of whom? It was an attempt, a bold attempt, one that succeeded in some respects, to obstruct the justice sought by a fellow American citizen. That is heavy. That is soul searching in its quality. That goes beyond those who would say, 'He committed perjury about sex. So what?' That goes beyond saying that, 'This is just about sex. So what? Everybody lies about sex.' But when you combine all the features of the actions of the President of the United States and you see that they are funneled and tunneled and aimed and targeted toward obliterating from the landscape the rights of Paula Jones, a fellow American citizen, then you must take a second look at your own assertion that, 'So what? It's just a question of fact about sex.'

    Many of the Members of this Chamber and others have already acknowledged that the President has lied under oath. But then they are quick to add, 'So what?' which is so disturbing in view of the results of what has happened in this case.

    Before the House of Representatives, as part of our record, we had a group of academicians, professors, testifying. Professor Higgenbotham--who, sadly I must relate, has passed away since his appearance--was trying to show how futile it was for us to even attempt to append perjury to an indictable, prosecutable offense, and that nowhere in the country is it prosecuted regularly, and that it is so trivial because it is based on sex. He went on to give an example of how trivial it is. I am paraphrasing it, but he said: Would you expect to indict the President of the United States for perjury if he lied about a 55-mile-an-hour speed limit, even though he was going 56? If he would say, 'I was only going 51,' would you indict him on that?

    In the repertoire that I had with him at that juncture, I asked him would he feel the same if as a result of that perjurious testimony about only going 51 miles an hour if there was a victim in the case, that this might be a tort case, an involuntarily case, a negligence case in which someone died as a result of an automobile accident case, and the issue at hand would be the speed limit, would he feel the same way if as a result of the perjury committed as to the rate of speed, that someone's rights were erased in the case by virtue of that perjury, the gentleman acknowledged that that made a difference.

    That is what the difference is here. The perjury per se, that being a phrase that we lawyers can adopt, the perjury per se is almost a given pursuant to the commentaries that we have heard from the people in and out of that Chamber. But when you add to it the terrible consequences of seeing a fellow citizen pursuing justice thwarted, stopped in her tracks as it were by reason of the actions of the President, that is what the core issue here is.

    To take it, then, from the status of what consequence it had to that fellow American citizen to the next step is, in my judgment, an issue--to go to the determination of whether or not there was an impeachable offense--my colleagues will show you how the law of perjury and the law of obstruction of justice relates to this pattern of factual circumstance that we bring to you. But in the meantime we must recount, even at the risk of overlapping some of the testimony, that following the initial recognition by the President that there was going to be a witness list and that Monica Lewinsky would eventually appear as she did on that witness list. This occurred, which is little examined thus far in the world of the scandal in which we are all participants, and that is this: The first item of business on the part of the Jones lawyers in pursuing the rights of Paula Jones was to issue a set of interrogatories, a discovery procedure that is well recognized in our courts all over the land, that a set of interrogatories arrived at the President's desk.

    At this juncture--this is way before the President appeared at the deposition about which you know everything now. The facts have been related to you in a hundred different ways and you know that pretty well. I know you do. But did you know, can you fasten your attention for a moment knowing that this happened at the deposition on a month before, on December 23rd, 1997, when the President had in front of him interrogatories that asked did he ever have sexual relations with anyone other than his spouse during the time that he was Governor of Arkansas or President of the United States, and there the President answered--or I think that the interrogatory stated, Name any persons with whom you have had sexual relations other than your wife. And the answer that the President rendered in those interrogatories under oath was none.

    I say to the ladies and gentleman of the Senate that this was the first falsehood stated under oath which became a chain reaction of falsehoods under oath, and even without the oath, all the way to the nuclear explosion of falsehoods that were uttered in the grand jury in August of 1998.

    This little innocuous piece of paper called interrogatories was placed before the President presumably with or without counsel. Let's even presume with counsel. And it was a straight question, not with any definitions, no confusing colloquy between a judge and a gaggle of lawyers, no

    interpretation being put on any particular word in the interrogatories, but whether or not sexual relations had been urged or participated in by the President of the United States, and the answer was none in naming those persons.

    What does that mean to you? What does that not mean to you, that when confronted right at the outset with the phrase 'sexual relations' that the President adopted and determined the common usage, well-understood definition of sexual relations that everybody in America recognizes as being the true meaning of sexual relations, meaning sex of any kind. Did not the President answer that under the common understanding that all of us entertain when we discuss, more so in the last year than ever before in our lives, the phrase 'sexual relations'? To me that is a telling feature of this case because when you leap over that and get to the depositions and everything that the President might have said in those depositions, as his counsel have repeatedly asserted to us was true, that he did not lie, that he did not commit perjury, that he did not evade the truth, that some of it, puzzling to them even, but it did not amount to perjury, can they say about that the statement one month before on December 23rd in interrogatories?

       


    That is extremely important. That is my recollection. Yours is the one that will have to predominate, of course.

    But the weight that I put on it, I urge you to at least evaluate as you begin to level your weight on the evidence that has been presented.

    If that were not enough, on January 15th, again before the deposition, another interrogatory--this one a request for documents--was submitted to the President, and again the question there was--you will see it in the record; it is in the record--the request of documents says to submit anything that pertained to Monica Lewinsky, the intern or employee, Monica Lewinsky, of whatever description--notes, gifts, whatever, and the President in that particular instance again said none. I am willing to give the President a reasonable doubt on that and even ask you if you do not place as much weight on it as I do to forget all about that. But the point is that these assertions under oath were made before the Jones deposition was ever even conceived, let alone undertaken on January 17th.

    So he cannot, the President cannot use the lawyer talk and judge banter and the descriptions and definitions of sexual relations to cloud the answers that he gave at that time, and all of this in the continuous effort to destroy the rights of Paula Jones, a fellow American citizen.

    That brings up the question. If someone, a member of your family, or someone who is a witness to these proceedings has a serious case in which one's self, one's property, one's family has been severely damaged, would you suffer without a whimper perjurious testimony given against you? Would you, knowing down deep that at the end of the day it had caused you to lose your chance at retribution and a chance to be compensated for damages, to restore your family life?

    Isn't that what our system is all about? Isn't that what the adverse consequence is of the attempt to obliterate the Paula Jones civil suit?

    That is what it is, not that he committed perjury. So what? It is what the end result of that perjury might be that you should weigh. Skip over the fact that he committed perjury. We all acknowledge that it is said. But now tell me what that does to Paula Jones, or potentially could do to Paula Jones, or to one of you, or to one of your spouses, or to one of the members of your community who wants to have justice done in the courts.

    Obstruction of justice is obstruction of justice to an individual, to a family. You can take it from Paula Jones and telescope it upward to every community, in every courthouse, and every State and every community in our land, and there is a Paula Jones eager to assert certain rights and then confronted with someone who would tear it down by false testimony, by lies under oath.

    That is what the gravamen of all this really is.

    One more thing. The counsel for the President have repeatedly and very authoritatively, professionally, have asserted, as many of you have, that this is not an impeachable offense, for after all, they say, an impeachable offense is one in which there is a direct attack on the system of government; not perjury, not obstruction of justice.

    So what, on those, they imply. They say it does not--perjury, especially about sex--attack the system of Government. I must tell you that as an 8- or 9- or 10-year-old, I would accompany my mother to naturalization school three or four nights a week where my mother was intent on learning the English language and learning about the history of the United States, as the teachers for naturalization were preparing these prospective citizens, and she was so proud that she learned that the first President of the United States was George Washington, was prepared to answer that question if it was posed to her in naturalization court, and she was so proud when I was testing her, preparing. Each time I would say, 'Mom, what are the three branches of Government?' And she would say, 'The 'Exec' and the 'legislate' and the 'judish,' in her wonderful, lovable accent. She knew the system of Government. And she did have to answer that in naturalization court. And she knew that one wall of the creed that protects our rights is the 'judish.' She knew that the courthouse and the rights of citizens which are advanced in that courthouse are the system of Government. Can anyone say that purposely attempting to destroy someone's case in the courthouse is not an attack on the system of Government of our country?

    Mr. Chabot will elucidate on perjury.

    The CHIEF JUSTICE. The Chair recognizes Mr. Manager Chabot.

       


    Copyright © 1999 The Washington Post Company

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