THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Dec. 8: Hyde and Conyers Opening Statements
Tuesday, December 8, 1998
REP. HYDE: The committee will come to order. (Sounds gavel.) A quorum being present, and pursuant to notice, the committee will come to order for the purpose of conducting an impeachment inquiry pursuant to House Resolution 581. Ranking Member John Conyers and I will make brief opening statements. Without objection, all members' and witnesses' written statements will be included in the record.
Now, members should know what while in the past I've been liberal with the gavel, we have many witnesses; therefore, I intend to adhere strictly to the five-minute rule. That means questions and answers will end after five minutes. Members who make four-minute speeches and ask five questions in the final minute will not get their questions answered.
I now recognize myself for purposes of an opening statement.
I've made a commitment to members of this committee, to members of the House, to the president and to the people that I will do all I can to ensure that this impeachment inquiry will be concluded by the end of the year. I plan on honoring that commitment, and today's hearings move us in that direction.
Yesterday afternoon, the White House provided us with a list of 14 witnesses that it requested this committee to hear. I am pleased to accommodate the White House's request. We will hear the testimony of all 14 witnesses, as well as Special Council Greg Craig, and White House Counsel Charles Ruff. Therefore, I would like to set forth the schedule for the remaining Judiciary Committee proceedings.
At the request of the White House counsel, we have begun today at 10:00 a.m., and we will hear from three panels of witnesses today, one panel tomorrow morning, and the testimony of White House Counsel Charles Ruff tomorrow afternoon.
The first panel will be Special Counsel Greg Craig and five witnesses who wish to speak about constitutional standards for impeachment. Mr. Craig will be recognized for 15 minutes. All other panel witnesses will each have 10 minutes to make a statement. After the testimony of the witnesses, members will be allowed to ask questions for five minutes, and that will not be a liberal gavel, but a strict gavel. I ask that the members pay attention to their time and be aware that their questions should be asked and answered within their five minutes. The White House has proposed many witnesses, and we want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to be heard. In the interest of time, there will not be questioning by committee counsels for these four panels.
After the hearing of Panel One, we will move immediately to Panel Two and then to Panel Three. We will observe the same procedures as Panel One: 10 minutes witness presentations, followed by questioning by members under the five-minute rule.
Tomorrow we will hear the fourth panel of witnesses.
I hope to start at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning to ensure ample time for the White House presentation.
Tomorrow afternoon the committee will receive the testimony of White House Counsel Charles Ruff. After his presentation, members will question Mr. Ruff under the five-minute rule. He will also be available for questioning by committee counsel.
Thursday morning we will have a presentation by minority chief investigative counsel Abby Lowell at 9:00 a.m. and a presentation by chief investigative counsel David Schippers at 1:00 p.m. Beginning at 4:00 p.m., we will begin consideration of a resolution containing articles of impeachment, four-hour debate and deliberation. We will hear opening statements from all members Thursday evening.
Friday we will begin consideration and debate of articles of impeachment.
I now recognize the distinguished gentleman from Michigan and ranking member of the committee, John Conyers, for his opening remarks. Immediately following the gentleman's remarks, we will hear from special counsel Greg Craig and the other witnesses of panel one.
REP. JOHN CONYERS JR. (D-MI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for providing the White House the opportunity to present their witnesses.
The independent counsel had four years to investigate the president. This committee has had four months. The White House is now getting two days.
There is no question that the president's conduct was wrong, that he misled the country and the nation. But I believe that the legal case against the president is not strong. Republicans have said that Democrats do not contest the charges. Well, we do.
There is no question that the president misled the country in his January 21 press conference. But that does amount to perjury. The president already admitted before the grand jury, to an improper sexual relationship. Now the Republicans insist that he must admit to "sexual relations" under the contorted definition provided by the Paula Jones attorneys. That's really at the heart of the perjury charge. That's the strength of its foundation.
The effort to find Monica Lewinsky a job started well before there was any Paula Jones witness list.
The president never offered Lewinsky a job. That charge is frivolous. Betty Currie was not on the witness list, and thus, the president's conversations with her could not possibly have been the basis for obstruction.
It is perfectly legal for the president or anyone else to tell a civil witness, in this case Ms. Lewinsky, that an affidavit may satisfy the requirements of the court. That is not obstruction.
It was Monica Lewinsky's idea to return the gifts. The president was never concerned about the gifts, and kept giving them. And Monica Lewinsky, in the most significant, clarion statement before the grand jury, said that no one asked her to lie and no one promised her a job.
The legal case against the president is, in my judgment, a house of cards. The Judiciary Committee has heard from no factual witnesses to validate any of the charges. Instead, it is relying on un-cross- examined, often contradictory, grand jury hearsay to support an already weak case. That wouldn't satisfy any court of law, and it cannot possibly serve as the evidentiary foundation for an impeachment. And even if these shaky allegations were proven true, they would not rise to the standard of impeachment, which requires the abuse of official power.
So we're at a critical crossroads today. We can either impeach the president along a largely party-line vote and send this resolution to the Senate, where there will be a six-month or more full-blown, intensified investigation, or we can find a meaningful way of censuring the president. The public, you may know, is overwhelmingly against impeachment and is for censure. But our new Republican leadership, led by Speaker-elect Livingston and Whip Tom DeLay, are thumbing their noses at the American people and telling them that the solution the American people want most cannot even come to the floor for a vote.
Well, if the American people ever wanted strong evidence that the extremists are still in control of this process, then that is it.
It is time to give the American people a holiday gift, to end this sordid tale. But the gift that the extremists on the other side offer is six more months of this investigation, by changing the venue to the Senate. This, Mr. Chairman and colleagues, is not the way to bring this important issue to a speedy conclusion.
REP. HYDE: Thank you, Mr. Conyers.
Mr. Craig, Attorney General Katzenbach --
REP. ROBERT SCOTT (D-VA): Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman?
REP. HYDE: -- Professor Ackerman, Professor Wilentz, and Professor Beer, would you mind standing to receive the oath?
REP. SCOTT: Mr. Chairman?
REP. HYDE: Thank you. Would you raise your right hand? Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give to this committee is the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help you God?
WITNESSES: (In chorus.) I do.
REP. HYDE: Thank you.
REP. SCOTT: Mr. Chairman?
REP. HYDE: Mr. Scott?
REP. SCOTT: Mr. Chairman, I understood -- parliamentary inquiry: I understood that we would have a committee meeting prior to the receipt of testimony. Are motions at this point out of order?
REP. HYDE: I think we're going to do that tomorrow morning, Mr. Scott.
REP. SCOTT: Well, I would like the record to reflect that I had a motion that would be timely now, that might not be timely tomorrow morning.
REP. HYDE: What is your motion?
REP. SCOTT: To ask for a specific scope of inquiry prior to the White House rebuttal of the undefined allegations. If we're asking them to rebut, we ought to have them notified of what the allegations and what the scope is. We only have five minutes to ask questions. We've had various different lists of what the allegations are. We'd like to use our five minutes effectively and not ask questions about allegations that we're not actually pursuing.
REP. HYDE: Well, this is a hearing, and so you are not -- it's not appropriate that you be recognized for the purposes of that motion. We'll proceed with the hearing.
REP. SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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