THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Dec. 11 Opening Statements: Edward Pease (R-Ind.)
By Federal News Service
REP. ED PEASE (R-IN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The issues before this committee are of such nature and consequence that I, like so many others, have struggled to impose on myself the discipline of open-mindedness for as long as I possibly could. That decision has had its consequences, as I have found myself criticized from across the political spectrum for not declaring myself nor advocating a conclusion, even as the committee was still receiving evidence and hearing argument. I understand and accept those consequences as inevitable, just as, though I wish fervently this matter were not before us, wishing will not make it so.
My intention was to prepare these remarks personally following the conclusion of the president's defense on Wednesday, assuming I would have several hours to collect my thoughts, and do the best I could to present them in a fashion that measures up to the importance of the moment. Instead, I went to the Ford Building, reviewed again the evidence presented by Mr. Ruff in his thoughtful defense of the president, went to my office to review the notes I've made over the last few months, and went to God in prayer for guidance and strength. These thoughts, therefore, are collected in bits and pieces as time has availed itself in limited supply during the last day and a half and now it's time for decisions. I believe I owe an explanation of the process by which I reached them.
It seemed to me that I must first decide the role which this committee assumes. Some have argued that we're akin to a grand jury and that we need simply find probable cause of commission of high crimes and misdemeanors in order to approve Articles of Impeachment. Others contend that we must be convinced that the trier of fact, in this case the Senate, would convict on an article before it could be could be reported out.
Though there is a difference between this matter and the prosecution of a crime, I believe that there is a parallel between the decision to indict and the decision to impeach, in this regard: while a prosecutor should not, in my view, bring a case unless he is convinced under the law and the facts that an unbiased jury would convict, the House and the committee in its role recommending to the House, should not vote Articles of Impeachment unless it also believes that the Senate, looking only at the Constitution and the facts, would convict as well.
As to the standard of proof, there are those who argue that since this is not a criminal matter, the usual standard in civil cases, "preponderance of the evidence," should obtain. Some believe that since there are parallels to criminal law or because the matter is of such national import, the criminal standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" should be employed. As I have already distinguished this from criminal prosecution, but because I believe that the standard must be higher than that normally the case in civil proceedings, I have determined to evaluate the allegations against the president by the standard of "clear and convincing evidence."
Most difficult is the determination of what constitutes a "high crime or misdemeanor." The Founders deliberately left us without a definition. And though it would in some senses have made our work easier had they crafted one, I believe that their decision was right for the nation.
Some contend that the action complained of must be, and can only be, an offense against the State, one that constitutes a direct attack on the body politic. Others observe that, while such actions would clearly qualify, they are not exclusive of other actions, even personal actions but of a clearly heinous nature. Others submit that since the constitutional language is "high crimes and misdemeanors," there can be no impeachment unless there is first a prosecutable crime.
As I have earlier observed, I am not prepared to accept that the standard of performance for an American president is simply that he or she is not indictable. I agree with those who assert that every American is entitled to privacy in his or her personal life and that, no matter what we may think of another's actions in that regard, it is, to use the vernacular, simply none of our business -- period.
Our business does include, through, the performance of public duties, the integrity of the judicial process, and the protection and defense of the Constitution. Accordingly, I have concluded that perjury or false statements under oath, obstruction of justice and abuse of the Office of the Presidency are all impeachable offenses. I believe, given the facts before this committee, that each of them has been proven by a preponderance of the evidence in this case.
I also believe, though, that every presumption in favor of the president must be made, both regarding the facts and regarding the standard of proof. The more I have seen and read of the president's statements both under oath and otherwise, the more difficult this has become. But I have persisted. Having reviewed and reviewed the material, I do not believe that all of the allegations presented meet the standard of being proven by "clear and convincing evidence."
The final assessment of which meet what I believe to be the necessary higher standard of proof will depend in part on the form the articles take after the committee completes the emendatory process. Given what I know now, though, I anticipate that I will conclude this matter the way I began it, somehow managing to irritate virtually everyone in my district who holds an opinion on the subject.
Those who believe there's nothing here will be disappointed to know that I believe there is. Those who want me to do everything I can to vilify this president in every way possible will be disappointed to know that my assessment on the facts cannot allow me to do so.
I long ago gave up the notion that I could depart these proceedings undamaged, so I have done what I have always known I must do anyway: depend on the Constitution as my compass and my conscience as my guide.
As I conclude, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to offer an observation about this committee. It's often been called one of the most polarized in the Congress. The confrontational approach, though, regularly seen here is one that I abhor and which has made service even more difficult for me than it might otherwise have been. There are members here with whom I strongly disagree. There are some I find annoying, even abrasive. (Laughter.) But I believe all of the members of this committee are decent human beings who are honestly trying to do the right thing as they see it.
Over the last few months I've met with a subset of this committee, Republicans and Democrats, in an effort to maintain communication, look for consensus, reaffirm respect. I've learned many things from them and from others on this committee, for which I will always be grateful. But one seems especially pertinent today. Our votes will likely be characterized by many as strictly partisan, implying that decisions here will be made simply on the basis of party affiliation. I believe firmly that each of us has honestly, sincerely struggled to do what he or she believed must be done and that party affiliation was not the basis for decisions made here. Those who contend otherwise regarding members in either party do a disservice to the members of this committee, to their work, and to the Congress.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield the balance of my time.
REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman.
The distinguished gentleman from Utah, Mr. Cannon.
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