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Dec. 10 Opening Statements: Maxine Water (D-Calif.)

  • More Transcripts From the Hearings

  • By Federal News Service
    Thursday, December 10, 1998

    REP. WATERS: Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, as a member of Congress and this Judiciary Committee, and the House of Representatives, I have been thrust into a role I never envisioned. The actions of the past few weeks have caused me to tremble. I woke up in the middle of the night with flashes of the struggles of my African ancestors for justice.

    I am reminded of the terrible sacrifices of the heroic men and women of this nation, who have fought for Americans to be able to be free of a police state, and to be free of intimidation and harassment. I knew I would have to fight for the rights of minorities, women, the poor and the marginalized for the rest of my life. Never did I believe I would have to fight to protect the rights of the so-called most powerful individual of the free world.

    This is a sad time in the history of this nation. We are on the brink of a Republican partisan impeachment of the president of the United States of America. The articles of impeachment are not based on his undermining of the Constitution, not based on actions that threaten the security of our nation, not based on treason, bribery, or a threat to our democracy, but rather because of the blind, political determination of individuals who are philosophically and diametrically opposed to Bill and Hillary and their politics.

    However, tyranny knows no boundaries. This impeachment tyranny by the right ignores the most profound document of our society, the Constitution of the United States. It further disregards and disrespects the basic rights of the accused. This right-wing-driven assault on our Constitution, poses a clear and real danger to our future. If the architects of this anarchy win, we surely place the rights of all American citizens at risk.

    After reading the independent counsel's referral, reviewing the supporting documents, listening to numerous witnesses and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, I have become more resolved to defend the Constitution of the United States and all its protections. As I witness the unfolding of this march to impeachment, I was jolted by the circumstances surrounding Independent Counsel Ken Starr's incessant pursuit of President William Jefferson Clinton.

    In 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Kenneth Starr as the Independent Counsel to investigate Whitewater. Soon after, Mr. Starr's investigation extended into the death of Vince Foster, the FBI files, the White House Travel Office files. Finally, after four years and over $40 million later, the president was exonerated by Kenneth Starr. This revelation of exoneration, was not made by way of a planned press conference. But rather, Mr. Starr casually asserted the president's exoneration in his statement before the Judiciary Committee on November 19th, 1998, 16 days after the November 3rd election.

    At the same hearing, Mr. Starr appeared as an advocate for impeachment -- an extraordinary appearance by an independent counsel, whose professional responsibility is to gather the facts and evidence for the members of Congress to arrive at our own conclusion. Mr. Starr's flagrant disregard for the constitutional protection that one is innocent until proven guilty, is apparent in many forms.

    For some time now, Mr. Starr's bias and ruthless investigative tactics, have gained the attention of legislators, many civil rights groups and citizens of this nation. No justice-loving American, can respect the ill-gotten, ill-conceived, convoluted allegations based on the investigation of a private personal sex- related affair. Mr. Starr tripped backwards into the Lewinsky matter, because everything else he was investigating, yielded him nothing. Zilch. Zero.

    Mr. Starr's obvious bias and dislike of the president, his investigatory tactics, and his flimsy case, does not meet the constitutional standard for impeachment. For example, Mr. Starr had a relationship with Paula Jones' lawyer, Gilbert Davis. In fact, Mr. Starr failed to disclose that he had six conversations with Mr. Davis in the summer of 1997, prior to his request to extend the Whitewater jurisdiction into the Clinton-Lewinsky affair.

    Mr. Starr failed to disclose that Richard Porter (ph), a law partner in his Chicago firm of Kirkland & Ellis, was doing legal work on the Paula Jones case earlier this year, including filing a brief to the Supreme Court. At least one week prior to January 12th, 1998, when Linda Tripp is supposed to have contacted Starr's office, Jerome Marcus (ph), a Philadelphia lawyer with ties to the Paula Jones legal team, informed a law school friend, who's employed by Mr. Starr, of the accusations related to President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

    Mr. Marcus filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of the Jones case, on behalf of the Independent Women's Forum, a conservative organization. Curiously, this is the same organization for which Mr. Starr helped prepare a brief in the Jones case.

    Mr. Starr's investigations relied on illegally obtained information from Linda Tripp. Simply put, Mr. Starr came to the position of independent counsel with unclean hands. By failing to disclose to Attorney-General Reno his conflicts of interest when he requested an extension of the Whitewater jurisdiction into the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, Mr. Starr displayed prosecutorial misconduct.

    Mr. Starr's investigative tactics are unparalleled. He has subpoenaed hundreds of witnesses, creating legal bills for innocent people who had no relationship to the facts of the case, and abusing his power by denying witnesses their basic rights.

    Among the victims are: Monica Lewinsky, who was sequestered and whose pleas for her lawyers were ignored; Monica Lewinsky's mother, who was called in to testify against her own daughter, about her daughter's sexual activities; Julia Still (ph), whose tax returns were examined, her finances investigated, and to add insult to injury, the origins of the adoption of her eight-year-old Romanian child were questioned.

    Rob Hill, Jr., whose 80-year-old mother, two adult daughters, his brother, his sister-in-law, and his 16-year-old son were subpoenaed, regarding Mr. Hill's misuse of political funds. Mr. Hill's 16-year- old son was served a subpoena at his high school.

    Mr. Chairman, I am not here to blindly support or defend President Clinton. I have opposed President Clinton on such issues as NAFTA, fast track, the crime bill, welfare reform, and much more. As I sit here today, and as God is my judge, if I felt Bill Clinton was guilty of impeachable offenses, I would join with the most right-wing of my colleagues, to impeach him. Witness my support of the McDade- Murtha bill, where I joined a right-wing Republican in a measure that would hold federal prosecutors accountable for their abuse of power.

    Rather, I am here in the name of my slave ancestors, to insist that the president be afforded the constitutional protections that should be available to every citizen in this country. The president is neither above the law or below the law. As members of Congress who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, we must always insist on equal and just treatment under the law.

    The presumption of innocence until proven guilty, is central and basic to our system of justice. The right to be free from intimidating and coercive self-incrimination, is at the core of our criminal justice system. I have seen too many and I know too much about the violation of the rights of my own people. I can never remain silent in the face of injustice.

    Kenneth Starr's presentation of impeachable offenses is illegitimate. He has not made a credible case for perjury, obstruction of justice, or abuse of power. Finally, Mr. Starr has undermined his own investigation by his overzealous and unethical pursuit, characterized by a "Get-Bill-Clinton-by-any-means- necessary" attitude. Americans across the nation are offended that a prosecutor could have unlimited powers to delve into one's private, personal life.

    We've heard members of Congress describe the president's actions as "sickening," "reprehensible," and "unacceptable." However, the Constitution does not allow for the impeachment of a president because we're upset by his personal behavior. Mr. Chairman, the 19 experts who appeared before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, over 400 historians, 400 legal scholars, 10 our of 12 of the nation's most respected legal minds and the American people agree that Mr. Starr's allegations do not reach the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

    The Congressional Black Caucus, under my leadership, assigned to ourselves the role of fairness cops. We dedicated ourselves to exposing abuses in the process.

    REP. HYDE: The gentlelady's time has expired. Could you wind up?

    REP. WATERS: Unanimous consent for 30 more seconds.

    REP. HYDE: Surely.

    REP. WATERS: We vowed to speak up and to speak out. We decided to share the knowledge and experience of our people as we have struggled to make the criminal justice system fair.

    This committee may vote out articles of impeachment. However, we will not be deterred in our struggle for justice. We will fight impeachment on the House floor, and we will join the fight in the Senate if necessary. The American people must realize if the president can be impeached on these unsupported charges, no citizen is safe in our country, despite the sacrifices of the gallant men and women who have fought and died to ensure freedom, justice and equality for all.

    REP. HYDE: I thank the gentlelady. The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Bryant.


    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

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