THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL
Jan. 16: Gekas's Summation
From the Congressional Record
Mr. Manager GEKAS. Mr. Chief Justice, the President's counsel, Members of the House who form our group of managers, and Members of the Senate, we bring you to what now may be the culmination of the work and effort of the managers and of the House of Representatives for, and what is fast closing in to be, your final consideration. And that is true--the moment of truth is fast approaching.
That moment of truth will swoop down on you at some point in the near future, at which time the millions of words that have been spoken thus far, the thousands of pages of documents, hundreds of exhibits, and dozens of individuals who have been involved in the preparation, annotation, and accumulation of all the data and evidence--all of that will be funneled into that last moment you will have right before you cast that final vote. That is an awesome moment in the history of this Chamber, in the personal history of your own careers in public service, and of your own life, as well, your personal life, your surroundings, your family, all that means anything and everything to you. That moment of truth encompasses all of that in one fell swoop at that final time that is upon us.
We would not have even had to contemplate this, nor would you have had to, if very early on in the factual situation that arose in this case President Clinton had faced his moment of truth. As I pointed out yesterday, that first moment of truth that faced the President in the legal proceedings that were to engulf him at a later point was his answers, the answers that affixed to that first set of interrogatories under oath. The moment of truth was staring him right in the face, and if he would have acknowledged it at that moment, had paid faith and allegiance to that moment, we would not be arguing here today, nor would we have even heard of a possible impeachment inquiry. But the President chose to sweep away that moment of truth that was at hand and proceeded down the course that has led us to this moment.
In the words of our colleagues who made magnificent presentations of the facts and law to you, the words "truth'' and "fairness'' were some of the strongest and most profound that we heard in various degrees in touching upon various subjects that were important to our presentation. When I heard my colleagues emphasize those words, it dawned on me that the element of fairness is something which I submit to you and certify to you that these managers, the members of the committee who prepared this case, exalted in making certain would apply to their endeavors and to all that we would present to you--fairness.
When the record of the independent counsel, the referral, reached our doorsteps back in September of 1997 and we first read the details and allegations contained therein, we did not, as some people began to accuse and to orate, adopt 100 percent of what the independent counsel said were the allegations and accept them as fact, and then move on and skip from September to this moment, not having used our intellect, our sympathies, our sense of right, our sense of wrong, our sense of fairness, our elements of truth, our experience, our own intellect, and our own consciences. We didn't set all of those aside and take the referral of Kenneth Starr and make that the final moment that precedes your moment of truth. Everyone should know that. But it is not recognized. We have been pilloried many times over the course of these proceedings on the notion that we simply adopted that referral and walked with it into the Senate Chamber.
One thing has to be said right at the outset. When I saw one allegation of the independent counsel that was encompassed around the question of executive privilege, an allegation that the assertion by President Clinton of executive privilege in the context of all that had transpired in this case constituted an abuse of power, I must tell you that that hit me right between the eyes. I could not, by even just reading it, accept it at face value. From that moment until this, I had serious, grave doubts that we should embark upon a course in which we would somehow denigrate the issue and privilege known as "executive privilege.''
As I worried about this and as I moved on through the process, trying to do my duty, along with everyone else, there came a time in the deliberations of our committee, our managers group, that we felt--and we acted on that feeling--that executive privilege is something that is owed to the President, and that we cannot fairly strip that away from him or in any way diminish the power and the usability of executive privilege. We felt that that was a trapping and a power of the Executive, of the President of the United States, which, no matter how it is exerted, or thereafter possibly set aside by the court, which is always a possibility, and history has shown that it has occurred.
Nevertheless, the exertion of it, the assertion of it, the use of it, the feel for it that the President of the United States must have and should have in the first instance, to assert it, should not be a part of our criticism, our projection of this case.
We did that in the face of the knowledge that in all our readings, in all our literature, we noted that when President Nixon attempted to use executive privilege, it was soundly criticized, and part of the impeachment process carried his alleged abuse of executive privilege as one of the tenets of that proceeding. And the report shows executive privilege as being ill-used by President Nixon.
But here is the point. The managers and I and every Member of the Senate, every individual who is with us here today reveres the office of the Presidency. We respect the office of the Presidency. The Presidency is we. The Presidency is America. The Presidency is the banner under which we all work and live and strive in this Nation. We revere the Presidency. Any innuendo, or any kind of impulse that anyone has to attribute any kind of motivation on the part of these men of honor who have prepared this case for you today on any whim on their part other than to do their constitutional duty should be rebuffed at every conversation, at every meeting, at every writing that will ultimately flow from the proceedings that we have embarked upon. We revere the Presidency. As a matter of fact, when next week we face the prospect of the President of the United States entering the House of Representatives to deliver his State of the Union message, we will greet the President. We will accord him the respect for the office which he holds. He is our President. He occupies the Presidency. And we will honor that. And so should we all.
But we are capable of and must, in the face of the solemn duty that we have, compartmentalize in the purest sense in greeting the President and applauding his entrance into the State of the Union message. As we will accord him that privilege, we do not set aside the impeachment inquiry. We do not set aside the serious charges that are hoisted against him at that juncture, because we will resume the consideration of them in due course. But in the meantime, we compartmentalize ourselves as Americans recognizing that he holds the most powerful, most respected, and most admired office on the face of the globe. That is part of our duty, as it is our duty to impart our knowledge and our work, our theories, and our analysis to the impeachment proceedings which are at hand.
"These are times that try men's souls,'' someone said. It was not my mother. And it is true. But anyone who can feel that the final votes that will take place on the part of each individual Member of the Senate, that a vote for conviction is based on a distaste for Bill Clinton, hatred of Bill Clinton--that kind of vote for conviction should never be recognized or countenanced, and history will condemn any individual who does that. And if the votes at the last moment, at this moment of truth, are based on an admiration of President Clinton, of friendship with President Clinton, a deep tie to and with the President, on family and community and national matters, a vote of acquittal should not be based on that. But only the Senate and each individual conscience will determine how that final vote is cast.
We cannot account for the friendship or enmity that might exist with and for President Clinton. All we can do is to do the job that was thrust upon us, that was placed in our hands by a statute that this Congress created--that independent counsel statute. The Congress said that we had to listen to the referral, to accept the referral. The Congress said that we must look towards whatever recommendations might be contained in that. It was the Congress, our Congress--many of you who voted for that statute--which mandated that we consider all of this. We did not simply walk around one day and seize upon a moment of deep thought and say let's impeach the President; let's find something upon which we can base a full 6 months inquiry into the President's actions in front of a court.
This was a duty, much as it is your duty to stay here and listen to what I am saying. The duty that I have of presenting it to you and speaking to you is born of the same statute and of the same process and of the same constitutional background that we all share.
So it worries me and us that any awkward motivation would be attributed to any one of us or collectively to us. And once you render your vote, I am not going to question whether it was done out of blind loyalty or enmity or friendship with the President, or enmity with the President; I am going to judge it as an American citizen, a Member of the House of Representatives, a Member of Congress, an interested community leader, and, last but not least, as a pure American citizen eager to do one's duty.
As the moment of truth approaches, there is only one speaker left for us in the Senate Chamber here to contemplate, and that is the summation to be given by the esteemed chairman of our committee. You should know, as we all feel, that the most stringent duty that he ever performed, the gentleman from Illinois, was to manage the managers. But he did that just as well and as profoundly as he has approached every single facet of this case. For as he sums up, know for a certainty that he brings to the podium our collective thoughts, our collective emotions, our passions for our work and our duty, and with an eye towards serving you, as we serve our constituents, as we serve the Congress, as we serve America. We are 20 minutes closer now to that moment of truth. Keep in mind your own histories, the history of your relationship with your colleagues in the Congress, and above all, the duty to the United States.
The CHIEF JUSTICE. The Chair recognizes Mr. Manager Hyde.
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