THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Dec. 10 Opening Statements: Bill McCollum (R-Fla.)
By Federal News Service
REP. BILL MCCOLLUM (R-FL): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. The United States is the greatest free nation in the history of the world. The foundation of this greatness is our justice system. Instead of settling our disputes with guns and knives or paying off protection rackets, as occurs in much of the rest of the world, any American who's injured may go to court and get a fair resolution of a dispute based on the law and the facts.
A little boy who's run over while riding his bicycle may recover damages from the person who injured him. And elderly widow who has been bilked out of her savings by a fraudulent scam can go to court to recover her savings. A laborer may bring a worker's compensation claim when he's injured on the job. A person who's been discriminated against while seeking a job on account of race, religion, age or disability may go to court for relief. A woman who's been sexually harassed by an employer or supervisor in the workplace may bring a civil rights suit for damages. And the list goes on.
People who go to court in our system expect witnesses who are called to testify to tell the truth to the judge and the jurors. That's what we mean by the term "rule of law." Without truthful testimony, justice can't be rendered and the system doesn't work. That's why a person who testifies in court is sworn "to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." And that's why if in court proceedings a person lies, encourages others to lie, hides evidence, or encourages others to hide evidence, he is subject to severe punishment. In fact, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines state that people who are convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice are punished more harshly than those who commit the crime of bribery. And that's why if President Clinton committed the crimes of perjury, obstruction of justice and witnesses tampering, he should be impeached.
Under the Constitution, impeachable offenses are "treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors." If our courts, for good reason, punish perjury and obstruction of justice more severely than bribery, how could anyone conclude they're not impeachable offenses? Bribery and perjury both go to the same grave offense, the undermining of the administration of justice. And how could any person who fully understands and reflects on this fail to see that a president who gives perjurious, false and misleading testimony in a civil rights action brought against him, and before a federal grand jury, and encourages others to give perjurious, false and misleading testimony, and uses the powers of his office to conceal the truth from the court and the grand jury and cover up his crimes should be impeached.
The president is the chief executive officer of the nation, the chief law enforcement officer of the nation, and our military's commander in chief. If we tolerate such serious crimes as perjury and obstruction of justice by the president of the United States and fail to impeach him, there will be grave, damaging consequences for our system of government.
Studies show that perjury is an increasingly common occurrence in our courts. Contrary to what some have asserted, there are numerous recent examples of federal prosecutions of perjury in civil cases. There are at least 115 people in federal prison today for perjury in civil cases. If he has committed these crimes and is not impeached, a terrible message will go out across the country that will undermine the integrity of our court system. We will not only send the message that there is a double standard and that the president of the United
States is above the law in these matters, but also a message that these crimes are not as serious as some people once thought they were. More people in the future will likely commit perjury in the courts than would be the case if the president were impeached.
Furthermore, it will be far more difficult in the future for congresses to impeach federal judges for perjury, and the like, which we've done in the past. And there's bound to be repercussions in our military, where the commander in chief is treated quite differently from officers and other enlisted personnel who would be routinely removed from duty and discharged from the service for activities the president has admitted to, not to mention the crimes themselves, which no doubt would get a military officer a court-martial.
This is a grave matter we're about today.
Unfortunately, I come to the end of these deliberations convinced that the compelling, clear, and convincing evidence before us demonstrate that the president has committed several offenses for which he should be impeached. In fact, I'm convinced from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that President Clinton committed a number of crimes that underlie the articles of impeachment today. His conduct constitutes a great insult to our constitutional system and subverts our system of government.
Now what about the evidence? The president was sued in a sexual harassment civil rights lawsuit by Paula Jones. He says the purpose of that suit was to politically attack him and embarrass him. That may be what he thought, but on its face the suit alleged a claim of sexual harassment, which Paula Jones had the right in our system of justice to try to prove in court. Part of her case was to try to bolster the credibility of her allegations by showing the president had engaged and was still engaging in a pattern of illicit relations with women in his employment. Whatever the merits of this approach, the court determined that she could proceed to try to prove it.
Long before the president was called to give a deposition or Monica Lewinsky was named as a witness in the Jones case, the evidence shows that she and the president had an understanding they would lie about their relationship if asked by anybody. When her name appeared on the witness list, the president telephoned her and told her. During this discussion, he suggested she might file an affidavit to avoid being called in person. In that same conversation, they also reviewed the cover stories they'd concocted to conceal their relationship. In her grand jury testimony Monica Lewinsky says the president didn't tell her to lie, but because of their previous understanding, she assumed that both expected her to lie in the affidavit. In this context, the evidence is compelling that the president committed the crime of obstruction of justice.
A few days later the president gave sworn testimony in the Jones case, in which he swore he could not recall being alone with Monica Lewinsky and that he had not had sexual relations with her. He repeated those assertions a few months later to the grand jury. The evidence shows he lied about both and about a number of other material matters. In doing so, the president committed the crime of perjury both in front of the grand jury and in his civil deposition.
During his deposition in the Jones case, the president referred to Betty Currie several times and suggested she might have answers to some of the questions. When he finished the deposition, he telephoned Ms. Currie and asked her to come to his office the next day and talk with him.
By any reasonable reading of the matter, one is compelled to conclude the president was at least in part concerned that Betty Currie would be called as a witness in the Jones case as a consequence of his own deposition testimony. Whether she was ever listed as a witness or actually testified is immaterial and irrelevant.
Betty Currie told the grand jury that when she came in the next day the president raised his deposition with her and said there were several things she may want to know. He then rattled off in succession, "You were always there when she was there, right?" "We were never really alone." "You could see and hear everything." "Monica came on to me, I never touched her, right?" "She wanted to have sex with me, and I can't do that."
It seems abundantly clear that the president was trying to influence how Betty Currie responded, not simply to press questions, but to the court in the Paula Jones case if she were called as a witness, which the president had every reason to believe could happen, and which he may have even wanted to happen so as to corroborate his already untruthful testimony and to continue the cover-up.
By encouraging her to lie, to protect him in anticipation of her testifying in the Jones case, the president committed the crimes of obstructing justice and witness tampering, and the list could go on. But time doesn't allow me to discuss all of these.
As Mr. Schipper has testified today, the president engaged in a whole pattern of conduct over an extended period of time, which taken together, demonstrate a scheme to conceal from the court in the Jones case the truth about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and later to conceal his previous lies, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering in that suit.
It is not a case of one or two isolated instances that bring us to the articles of impeachment before us. If the entire fact pattern that has been unveiled to us in the thousands of pages of sworn testimony and documents were revealed to a criminal court jury, I'm convinced that they would convict the president of several felony crimes, including the crimes of perjury before the grand jury and in the civil case involving Paula Jones.
And contrary to the assertions of some, it seems apparent to me that any prosecutor reviewing the totality of the evidence would bring the cases that we're talking about.
We're dealing, however, with something graver, and that's the impeachment of the president of the United States. Some have suggested that we're ill-served by the time that would be consumed in the trial of these matters, but having examined the evidence thoroughly, I don't agree. Just the opposite is true: to fail to impeach the president, knowing what I know and believe would be the case I think would be dereliction of duty on my part.
There may be some particulars over the next day or two that I don't agree with that I find in the articles of impeachment, and I may vote to alter them, but sadly, I conclude that when all is said and done, I must vote to impeach President William Jefferson Clinton.
To do otherwise would undermine the rule of law, undermine our constitutional system of government.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.
The distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Frank.
Copyright © 1998 by Federal News Service, Inc. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's original duties. Transcripts of other events may be found at the Federal News Service Web site, located at www.fnsg.com.