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Hyde's Opening Remarks on Inquiry

By The Associated Press
Monday, October 5, 1998

Text of statement by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, at a hearing Monday on whether to begin an impeachment inquiry of President Clinton, as transcribed by Federal Document Clearing House.

On Sept. 18, the House of Representatives passed a resolution with strong bipartisan support, 363-63, directing the referral from the Office of Independent Counsel to this committee with instructions that it be reviewed and released by the 28th of September, unless the committee thought certain information should be held back in the interest of privacy or to protect innocent people.

The House thus placed in our care the task of reviewing more than 60,000 pages of materials in less than three weeks, and ultimately, deciding what should be placed in the public domain.

We have not always agreed on how to handle this information, but we have agreed on the vast majority. I believe we can also agree that we could not have accomplished this daunting assignment if not for the tireless work of the committee's staff, both Democratic and Republican, who worked day and night -- sometimes around the clock -- to prepare these materials for our review. These men and women rose to the occasion, and our gratitude goes out to them.

On Sept. 11, the Office of Independent Counsel transmitted materials to the House of Representatives that, in his opinion, constituted substantial and credible evidence that may constitute grounds for impeachment of the president of the United States.

The appointment of an independent counsel had been recommended by Attorney General Janet Reno and appointed by and served under the direction of the United States Court of Appeals. Judge Starr was selected by a three-judge panel appointed by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today, it's our responsibility and our constitutional duty to review those materials referred to us and recommended to the House of Representatives whether the matter merits a further inquiry. Let me be clear about this: We are not here today to decide whether or not to impeach Mr. Clinton. We are not here to pass judgment on anyone.

We are here to ask and answer this one simple question: Based upon what we know now, do we have a duty to look further or to look away?

We are constantly reminded how weary America is of this whole situation, and I dare say, most of us share that weariness.

But we members of Congress took an oath that we would perform all of our constitutional duties, not just the pleasant ones.

As Chairman Peter Rodino stated in 1974 -- quote -- ``We cannot turn away out of partisanship or convenience from problems that are now our responsibility, our inescapable responsibility, to consider. It would be a violation of our own public trust if we, as the people's representatives, chose not to inquire, not to consult, not even to deliberate, and then pretend that we had not, by default, made choices.'' Close quote.

This will be an emotional process, a strenuous process, because feelings are high on all sides of this question. But the difficulties ahead can be surmounted with good will and an honest effort to do what is best for the country.

In the first year of the republic, Thomas Paine wrote, ``Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.''

For almost 200 years, Americans have undergone the stress of preserving their freedom and the Constitution that protects it. We're going to work expeditiously and fairly. When we have completed our inquiry, whatever the result, we will make our recommendations to the House.

We will do so as soon as we can, consistent with principles of fairness and completeness. I anticipate several objections to our procedures from our Democratic friends, the first of which deals with their demand that we establish first, before proceeding with any inquiry, what the standards are for impeachment.

We don't propose, however, to deviate from the wise counsel of former Chairman Peter Rodino, who during the Nixon impeachment inquiry published a staff report rejecting the establishment of a particular standard for impeachment before inquiring into the facts of the case.

Let me quote from Chairman Rodino's report. Quote: ``Delicate issues of basic constitutional law are involved. Those issues cannot be defined in detail in advance of full investigation of the facts. The Supreme Court of the United States does not reach out in the abstract to rule on the constitutionality of statutes or of conduct.

``Cases must be brought and adjudicated on particular facts in terms of the Constitution. Similarly, the House does not engage in abstract, advisory or hypothetical debates about the precise nature of conduct that calls for the exercise of its constitutional powers.

``Rather it must await full development of the facts and understanding of the events to which those facts relate.'' Close quote.

The 20th century has been referred to often as ``the American Century.'' It is imperative we be able to look back at this episode with dignity and pride knowing we have performed our duty in the best interests of the entire country.

In this difficult moment in our history lies the potential for our finest achievement -- proof that democracy works.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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