THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde's Opening Remarks and Committee Motions
Thursday, November 19, 1998
Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.): Pursuant to notice, I now convene the committee for a hearing pursuant to House Resolution 581, the resolution which the House adopted authorizing an inquiry into whether to recommend impeachment of the president of the United States.
The chair intends to recognize himself for five minutes and the ranking minority member for five minutes. Each member may be permitted to place an opening statement into the record. After the two opening statements my own and the ranking member's the chair intends to recognize the witness, the Independent Counsel, Mr. Starr. Without objection, after Mr. Starr's presentation the chair will recognize minority counsel, Mr. Lowell, for 30 minutes to question the witness; majority counsel, Mr. Schippers, for 30 minutes to question the witness. And subsequent to questioning by committee counsel, each member will be recognized to ask questions under the five-minute rule. Subsequent to members' questions, the president's counsel will be recognized for 30 minutes to question the witness.
And the chair recognizes Mr. Delahunt, the gentlemen from Massachusetts.
Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have a motion at the desk.
Rep. Hyde: The clerk will report the why don't you read it, Mr. Delahunt?
Rep. Delahunt: I move that counsel to the president be recognized for two hours to question the witness.
Rep. Hyde: Well, the chair states that Mr. Starr is here to help us adduce and understand the facts. The hearing today is not a trial nor is it White House versus Ken Starr or Republican versus Democrat. Rather, the hearing today is another step in our attempt to carry out our constitutional duty to determine whether facts exist which indicate that the president of the United States committed impeachable offenses.
If this committee and the full House determine the president has committed an impeachable offense, a trial may be held in the Senate. With this in mind, the chair believes the time allotments for questioning are eminently fair.
As I compute the timing for questioning the witness, the Democrats, including the president's counsel, have 140 minutes of questioning time, the Republicans 135. The Democrats are permitted two separate counsels, that is to say the Democrat members' Mr. Lowell and the president's counsel; we have one. Our counsel will get a half hour, Mr. Lowell will get a half hour, and Mr. Kendall will get a half hour. So I don't see any imbalance there.
Mr. Lowell, the Democratic counsel, will go before any of the elected members at Mr. Conyers's request, and I am happy to grant that. The president's counsel will have unlimited time to present his witnesses at the end of our hearings, when they are ready to do so. And so the rule that we are operating under, which is the same rule that was used in the Rodino era, rule four of the impeachment inquiry rules, specifically states that the president's counsel may question any witness, subject to instructions from the chairman, respecting the time, scope and duration of the examination. And so with that statement, the gentleman's motion is denied.
Rep. Delahunt: Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Rep. Hyde: Well, the gentleman's not recognized for that purpose.
Rep. Frank: Mr. Chairman, point of order.
Rep. Delahunt: Then may I be heard on the motion?
Rep. Frank: Point of order, Mr. Chairman.
Rep. Hyde: What is the point?
Rep. Frank: The point is that the gentleman from Massachusetts made a motion, the chair then spoke to the motion and has denied under the rules the right of the gentleman who made the motion to, in fact, respond to it. And I make the point of order that the gentleman is entitled to his recognition.
Rep. Hyde: I'm sorry, I didn't I was distracted. What is the point of order?
Rep. Frank: The gentleman made a motion.
Rep. Hyde: Yes, I know that.
Rep. Frank: The chair recognized the gentleman to make a motion. He then the chair then spoke to the motion and is now denying the maker of the motion the right under our rules to speak to his own motion. And the gentleman has a right under our rules to be recognized to speak to his motion.
Rep. Hyde: Well, I'll recognize the gentleman. Go ahead, Mr. Delahunt. But I have ruled on the gentleman's motion, but go ahead.
Rep. Delahunt: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The committee has given the independent counsel a full two hours to present his version of the facts, a version which most Americans are already fully familiar with. At the same time, the majority has seen fit to give the president's counsel all of 30 minutes to question Mr. Starr. This is meant to be the president's sole opportunity to confront his accuser during these proceedings.
Rep. Hyde: Would the gentleman yield for just a second?
Rep. Delahunt: No, I will not yield.
I submit this is a grave disservice, not only to the president but to the integrity of these proceedings. It is a complete and unwarranted departure from the precedence of this House. During the Watergate hearings of 1974, President Nixon's counsel, James St. Clair, was given all the time he needed to respond to the evidence and cross-examine witnesses. This is as it should be. We are talking about the impeachment of the president of the United States, a grave constitutional moment in our national history.
I know that some members of the Watergate committee argued that the president's counsel, Mr. St. Clair, should be given limited time to speak, but those views were wisely overruled in the interest of fairness and decency.
President Clinton is entitled to the same consideration and respect shown to President Nixon on that occasion no more and no less. The record of the Watergate hearings make clear that at no time was Mr. St. Clair given a time limit for his presentation or his examination of witnesses. Is there any legitimate basis for a different rule today? The majority may point out that the Watergate testimony was heard in closed session, while today we sit before the cameras and the American people. Yet that being true, it is more important, not less, that the president be given a full and fair opportunity to respond to the charges that are being leveled against him. They may argue, as they did in a recent letter to the White House, that the president and his counsel are here, and I'm quoting, "only as a matter of courtesy and not of right." End of quote. In other words, "Be glad that we are letting you testify at all."
With all due respect, Mr. Chairman, if the goal is justice, this cannot be a satisfactory response. A 30-minute presentation is especially inadequate when one considers that Mr. Starr has been preparing for weeks a presentation that the White House saw for the first time last night. According to news accounts, the witness has spent the better part of the past several weeks conducting videotaped practice sessions. The president's counsel has had all of 16 hours to prepare his response.
Precedent has been abandoned at almost every turn. We rushed to release Mr. Starr's transmittal within hours of its receipt, before any review by this committee or the president's counsel.
We posted thousands of pages of secret grand jury testimony on the Internet. And we abdicated our responsibility to make an independent examination of the facts before voting to commence an impeachment inquiry.
Let's do this right. I urge support for the motion and yield back the balance of my time.
A member: A question
Rep. Hyde: The gentleman has made a point that the president needs more time to present you said "present." He will be given all the time in the world to present, unlimited time
Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.): Point of order, Mr. Chairman.
Rep. Hyde: Today's hearing is to hear from Judge Starr and to question him.
Rep. Watt: Point of order, Mr. Chairman.
Rep. Hyde: Now the chair
A member: Let's yield for that.
Rep. Hyde: I don't yield for any points of order. I would like to make my statement.
Rep. Watt: I thought you had already made your statement, Mr. Chairman.
Rep. Hyde: Well, I know that's what you thought, but you couldn't possibly know when I'm through with my statement or not. So please let me please let me
Rep. Watt: Under the rules under which we are operating, Mr. Chairman, we don't know anything about the process. We had regular order at one point.
A member: Regular order.
Rep. Watt: We're I'm asking for regular order.
A member: Regular order.
Rep. Watt: I'm requesting regular order. Regular order is, we get five minutes to address this issue.
A member: Regular order (off mike).
Rep. Watt: The chairman has already had his five minutes.
A member: Mr. Chairman
Rep. Hyde: Now I want to tell this committee, and especially the Democrats, I had a meeting with Mr. Conyers and Mr. Frank a couple of days ago, and I suggested I would be very liberal with the gavel. And if Mr. Kendall is on a line of questioning that he deems pertinent, I don't intend to shut anybody off.
Now you are disrupting the continuity of this meeting with these adversarial
Rep. Watt: We're disrupting a railroad, it seems like, Mr. Chairman. That's what we're disrupting here. (Cross talk.)
A member: Regular order.
Rep. Hyde: The gentleman will observe decorum, and I would appreciate it if you would be speak when you're recognized. I have not recognized you.
A member: Will the chairman the gentleman yield?
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.): Mr. Chairman, I have a point of information. I'd like a point of information, Mr. Chairman.
A member: He's not finished talking.
Rep. Jackson Lee: I appreciate being recognized for a point of information.
A member: Regular order.
Rep. Hyde: Now, I'm trying to be cooperative. I said I would be liberal in giving people time, and
Rep. Jackson Lee: Point of information, Mr. Chairman.
Rep. Hyde: I recognize Mr. Frank.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.): Mr. Chairman, I thank you, and I appreciate, we did have that meeting, you accommodated one of our requests, particularly in terms of the order, and you did say you would be, with regard to Mr. Lowell, as we talked about it, not on a strict gavel. But I did think that with regard to the president's counsel's request, we were not authorized to speak entirely for that. We could speak for our counsel. It does seem to me there's a reasonable difference of opinion here, and we ought to just vote on it. I don't think it's going to be delaying the committee process. Mr. Delahunt's made a motion.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.): I call for a record vote.
Rep. Frank: Let's have the vote, and we will decide it. But we did accept that
Rep. Jackson Lee: Point of information.
Rep. Frank: assurance with regard to Mr. Lowell, but not with regard to the independent party of the White House.
Rep. Conyers: Mr. Chairman, I call for a record vote.
Rep. Hyde: Very well. The record vote is on the motion.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.): Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, before the
Rep. Jackson Lee: I have a point of information.
Rep. Hyde: Who's seeking recognition?
Rep. Jackson Lee: Mr. Chairman.
Rep. Hyde: Just a moment, Ms. Jackson Lee, I've got to recognize Mr. Nadler. Rep. Jackson Lee: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Rep. Hyde: Mr. Nadler.
Rep. Nadler: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, before we vote, I'd like to speak to Mr. Delahunt's motion, and I appreciate the chair's comments, but the fact is that as of now, today is the only noticed day for hearing of this committee. We're been noticed that some witnesses will be called for depositions, but as of today, Mr. Starr is the only witness that we're aware of before the committee considering the impeachment of the president.
As such, given any consideration of fairness and equity, the president's counsel, and for that matter, the Democratic committee counsel, should have as much time as they request. There should not be a time limit on it.
Now, the president's counsel requested 90 minutes. That should be without question granted. If he asks for five hours, that could be granted.
We have requested, and I don't know what we have requested an hour for our counsel, and I don't know what assurances have been given, but I heard the chair say 30 minutes. That should be an hour.
And the fact is Mr. Starr your calculation of 135 minutes and 140 minutes Mr. Starr is going to sit here for 120 minutes and tell us why the president ought to be impeached in his opinion, and he is entitled to do that. But you add to the other time (cross talk) you add to that the other time one side is going to have 260 minutes, and the other side is going to have 135 minutes.
Now I really suggest that, if the president of the United States asks that this committee in its one day of scheduled hearings should have 90 minutes to cross-examine Mr. Starr, that's the least that can be asked. And I have looked at lists of questions and subjects, which Mr. Starr's report and frankly his statement that we got last night raises as obvious questions, and there is a lot more than 30 minutes there.
And the Constitution guarantees the right of anyone who is accused of any wrongdoing and fundamental fairness guarantees the right of anyone to have the right to confront the witness against him. Mr. Starr is the only witness. And frankly, that right ought not to be limited to 30 minutes.
So I support Mr. Delahunt's motion. And I hope that in the interest of fairness because you know, this proceeding must not only be fair but must be seen to be fair.
Rep. Hyde: Thank you
Rep. Jackson Lee: Thank you, Mr.
Rep. Nadler: If we end up
Rep. Hyde: Mr. Nadler, I now recognize
Rep. Jackson Lee: Mr. Chairman?
Rep. Hyde: I want to recognize Ms. Jackson Lee.
Rep. Jackson Lee: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to seek
Rep. Hyde: Thank you, Mr. Nadler.
Rep. Jackson Lee: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to take this opportunity for a point of information and also to speak briefly to the motion of Mr. Delahunt.
First of all, I think it would be well to clarify the point that the president's counsel stands as the president's counsel. The Democrats and the Democratic counsel of the House stand separately in their responsibility to the impeachment process.
And so to collectively add up numbers to suggest that we have, in total, some 200, 100, five minutes, whatever it may be, Mr. Chairman, I would respectfully disagree, for in the instance of the St. Clair representation of Mr. Nixon, he had an unlimited amount of time because it was distinct under the Rodino Watergate committee, which this committee alludes to the fact that it is following; that they had a separate responsibility from the House Democrats, and I respect that, because I will ultimately, with my colleagues, have to vote up or down on articles of impeachment.
Secondarily, let me say, Mr. Chairman, just in terms of the context of justice in America, we have always argued that justice is blind, but we've never argued that justice is gagged. You cannot have the defense in a courtroom sitting gagged and bound without any opportunity to refute the accused (sic) overwhelming opportunity to talk and talk and talk. We do not talk by (sic) death, if you will, the accused, in the courtroom. We allow a defense.
And I respect the process and the procedure of this very awesome and somber occasion, but I cannot for the life of me understand, Mr. Chairman, why we would gag and bound (sic) the counsel for the White House, the counsel for the president what goes against every single grain in the history of America. When we did it with the Chicago Seven, or Eight, in Chicago, we have never lived down that tainted process. I certainly don't equate this with that, but I would argue that we should never repeat history and gag the defense for this particular issue.
A member: Would the gentlelady yield?
Rep. Jackson Lee: So Mr. Chairman, I would ask, with all due respect, that we clarify
A member: Mr. Chairman
Rep. Jackson Lee: that the president's counsel is the president's counsel, the House is separate, I am separate, and we cannot collectively add that time together, and I would ask that we vote for Mr. Delahunt's motion.
A member: Will the gentlewoman yield?
A member: parliamentary
Rep. Hyde: The chair would like to suggest to the gentlelady, with respect, the chair doesn't intend to bind and gag anybody.
Rep. Jackson Lee: I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman.
Rep. Hyde: Anybody.
Rep. Jackson Lee: I appreciate it, and I would like for us to support his motion by acclamation.
A member: Mr. Chairman?
Rep. Jackson Lee: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Rep. Hyde: I didn't hear the end. You want a motion by acclamation?
Rep. Jackson Lee: I would ask both Republicans and Democrats to support Mr. Delahunt's motion of fairness by acclamation. Leading into or taking up the point that the chairman just made, that he has no intention to gag and bound the voice of the counsel of the president of the United States, I'd ask that we accept his motion by acclamation, both Republicans and Democrats.
A member: Would the gentlelady yield?
Rep. Jackson Lee: I yield back my time, Mr. Chairman.
A member: Mr. Chairman?
A member: Parliamentary inquiry.
Rep. Hyde: (Aside) Is that five minutes? It seems forever.
The gentlemen from Wisconsin.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.): Mr. Chairman, the entire purpose of this meeting here today is to get Mr. Starr's testimony and to ask a reasonable amount of questions of Mr. Starr to find out why he did what he did and why he reached the conclusions that he did. Having a couple of hours of parliamentary haggling relative to the procedure of today's hearing I think denigrates the dignity of this hearing.
I have great confidence in the fairness of Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde has presided over this committee in an extremely fair manner for the almost four years that he has served as chairman. I think that the complaints that we are hearing from the other side of the aisle insinuate that Mr. Hyde will not conduct this hearing fairly. I don't think that there are any facts in evidence that Mr. Hyde is not going to conduct this hearing fairly.
I think we should vote down the motion, we should get on with Judge Starr's testimony, the questions that will be asked by the various counsel, and see how it goes. But the people over on the other side of the aisle, I think, are saying that this is going to be railroaded before the whistle even blows and the train leaves the station. Let's hear what Judge Starr has to say. Let's conduct a dignified hearing, and let's get to the merits of this issue rather than who gets to talk how long.
A member: Mr. Chairman, parliamentary inquiry.
Rep. Hyde: The gentleman from Michigan.
Rep. Conyers: Mr. Chairman, notwithstanding that Maxine Waters is our fairness cop, I move for a vote on the pending motion.
A member: Hear, hear.
A member: Parliamentary inquiry.
A member: Mr. Chairman?
A member: Parliamentary inquiry.
A member: Mr. Chairman.
Rep. Hyde: Without objection, the previous question is ordered and the clerk will call the roll.
Clerk: Mr. Sensenbrenner.
Rep. Sensenbrenner: No.
Clerk: Mr. Sensenbrenner votes no.
Rep. McCollum: No.
Clerk: Mr. McCollum votes no.
Rep. Gekas: No.
Clerk: Mr. Gekas votes no.
Rep. Coble: No.
Clerk: Mr. Coble votes no.
Rep. Smith: No.
Clerk: Mr. Smith votes no.
Rep. Gallegly: No.
Clerk: Mr. Gallegly votes no.
Rep. Canady: No.
Clerk: Mr. Canady votes no.
Rep. Inglis: No.
Clerk: Mr. Inglis votes no.
Rep. Goodlatte: No.
Clerk: Mr. Goodlatte votes no.
Rep. Buyer: No.
Clerk: Mr. Buyer votes no.
Rep. Bryant: No.
Clerk: Mr. Bryant votes no.
Rep. Chabot: No.
Clerk: Mr. Chabot votes no.
Rep. Barr: No.
Clerk: Mr. Barr votes no.
Rep. Jenkins: No.
Clerk: Mr. Jenkins votes no.
Rep. Hutchinson: No.
Clerk: Mr. Hutchinson votes no.
Rep. Pease: No.
Clerk: Mr. Pease votes no.
Rep. Cannon: No.
Clerk: Mr. Cannon votes no.
Rep. Rogan: No.
Clerk: Mr. Rogan votes no.
Rep. Graham: No.
Clerk: Mr. Graham votes no.
Rep. Bono: No.
Clerk: Ms. Bono votes no.
Rep. Conyers: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Conyers votes aye.
Rep. Frank: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Frank votes aye.
Rep. Schumer: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Schumer votes aye.
Rep. Berman: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Berman votes aye.
Clerk: Mr. Boucher votes aye.
Rep. Nadler: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Nadler votes aye.
Rep. Scott: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Scott votes aye.
Rep. Watt: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Watt votes aye.
Rep. Lofgren: Aye.
Clerk: Ms. Lofgren votes aye.
Ms. Jackson Lee.
Rep. Jackson Lee: Aye.
Clerk: Ms. Jackson Lee votes aye.
Rep. Waters: Aye.
Clerk: Ms. Waters votes aye.
Rep. Meehan: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Meehan votes ayes.
Rep. Delahunt: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Delahunt votes aye.
Rep. Wexler: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Wexler votes aye.
Rep. Rothman: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Rothman votes aye.
Rep. Barrett: Aye.
Clerk: Mr. Barrett votes aye.
Rep. Hyde: No.
Clerk: Mr. Hyde votes no.
Mr. Chairman, there are 16 ayes and 21 noes.
Rep. Hyde: And the motion is not agreed to.
The chair recognizes himself for five minutes for purposes of making an opening statement.
This morning, we commence our second public hearing in fulfillment of the mandate imposed on us in House Resolution 581. While the business of impeachment is rare, and happily so, it becomes necessary from time to time, when circumstances require that it be exercised, as a constitutional counterbalance to allegations of serious abuse of presidential power. It is part of the series of checks and balances that exemplified the genius of our Founding Fathers.
Throughout our history, we've had a number of impeachment inquiries, but this one represents a historical first. Never before has an impeachment inquiry arisen out because of a referral from an independent counsel under Section 595(c) of the statute. For that reason, we have no precedent to follow on the involvement of the independent counsel in our proceedings. However, it seems both useful and instructive that we should hear from him since he is the person most familiar with the complicated matters the House has directed us to review.
We're holding this hearing to learn the facts surrounding this situation, including those in the referral that Judge Starr sent us September 9, 1998, and to determine whether those facts justify our voting on articles of impeachment.
Everyone should understand how this process works. Under the Constitution, the House of Representatives has the sole power to make accusations, known as articles of impeachment. They may do so by a majority vote. If the House makes such accusations, they are then sent to the Senate for trial. The Senate may convict by a two-thirds vote. Our Founding Fathers wisely determined that one chamber should accuse, and the other should judge.
We began our work on November 9 at the hearing when we were enlightened by the testimony of two panels of outstanding academics about the history and nature of the impeachment process. Today, the search for the truth continues as we turn to the underlying facts.
And as we begin that search, we turn to one person, Judge Starr, who has a comprehensive overview of the complex issues we face. I thought we should have that overview before we hear from other witnesses. As we announced earlier this week, we will hear from other witnesses in live hearings and in depositions, as we move towards a final resolution.
In addition, we have yet to hear from the president. And I can assure my colleagues, if and when the president would want to testify, he may have unlimited time to do so. In any event, we are hopeful that the pledge of cooperation we received from his attorneys will soon be fulfilled.
Let me repeat my New Year's resolution. It's my fervent hope we will be able to conclude this inquiry before the New Year turns. I'm hopeful that all members will bear this in mind as we conduct this search for truth with all deliberate speed.
There are many voices telling us to halt this debate, that the people are weary of it all. There are other voices suggesting we have a duty to debate the many questions raised by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, questions of high consequence for constitutional government. David Broder, writing in the Washington Post yesterday, suggested that in our hearings, quote, "we will define as a nation the standard of honesty we're going to impose on our president," closed quote.
What is the significance of a false statement under oath? Is it essentially different from a garden-variety lie, a mental reservation, a fib, an evasion, a little white lie, hyperbole? In a court proceeding, do you assume some trivial responsibility when you raise your right hand and swear to God to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
And what of the rule of law, that unique aspect of a free society that protects you from the fire on your roof or the knock on your door at 3:00 a.m.? What does lying under oath do to the rule of law?
Do we still have a government of laws and not of men? Does the law apply to some people with force and ferocity, while the powerful are immune? Do we have one set of laws for the officers and another for the enlisted should we?
These are but a few questions these hearings are intended to explore. And just perhaps, when the debate is over, the rationalizations and the distinctions and the semantic gymnastics are put to rest, we may be closer to answering for our generation the haunting question, asked 139 years ago in a small military cemetery in Pennsylvania, "whether a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal can long endure."
The chair now recognizes the minority leader, the ranking member of this committee, Mr. Conyers, for five minutes for his opening statement.
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