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Dec. 11 Opening Statements: Robert Wexler (D-Fla.)

  • More Transcripts From the Hearings

  • By Federal News Service
    Friday, December 11, 1998

    REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would first like to commend our colleague from Massachusetts, Mr. Frank, with respect to his opening remarks yesterday in which he described the powerful ramifications of being censured or reprimanded by this House. His comments, I believe, were courageous and, I hope, illuminating.

    Mr. Chairman, this has been the scariest week of my life. I listened to Mr. Ruff, counsel to the president, and Mr. Lowell, counsel for the minority. Each present a fact-by-fact rebuttal of the case against the president. I read the 184-page report by the president's lawyers that established the president did not commit grand jury perjury, did not obstruct justice, did not tamper with witnesses, and certainly the president did not abuse his office.

    But the Republicans on this committee did not listen. In fact, they drafted their articles of impeachment even before Mr. Ruff concluded the president's defense. This process has been a sham from the beginning. Wake up, America! They are about to impeach our president. They are about to reverse two national elections. They are about to discard your votes. They are about to exercise a congressional power that has been used only twice before in our nation's history.

    Before the Starr report was delivered to Congress, the Republicans said they would not even try to impeach the president over just the Monica Lewinsky affair. They promised grand White House conspiracies of misused FBI files, Whitewater land deals and Travel Office abuses. They promised patterns of lawbreaking. They found nothing. They said they would not impeach without public outrage. But much to their dismay, the minds of the American people have not changed. The overwhelming number of Americans do not want this president impeached based on this flimsy case.

    Well, wake up, America. This elitist group has decided that they know better than you. This committee will vote straight down party lines to impeach and remove the president of the United States of America. The articles of impeachment actually say, "William Jefferson Clinton warrants impeachment and trial and removal from office."

    And what's it all about? Sex. They use criminal terms, like "perjury," but guess what the perjury is really about? The alleged perjury is about the discrepancy between the president's and Ms. Lewinsky's testimony about the details of their relationship. You see, at the grand jury, the president admitted he had inappropriate intimate contact with Monica Lewinsky of a physical nature. He acknowledged that it was wrong. But the president didn't specifically admit the details of his encounters with Ms. Lewinsky, like who touched who, and where. And the president denied having sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky under the distorted definition put forth by the Paula Jones attorneys, a definition that even the presiding judge, Judge Wright, said was confusing. Imagine; that the impeachment of the president of the United States hinges on a tortured definition of sex. That's what the perjury in the grand jury is all about, folks, but they're going to impeach the president anyway.

    The Republicans on this committee say the president tampered with witnesses. Well, you better wake up, America. You could be tampering with a witness and not even know it, because, according to the majority on this committee, you can be guilty of witness tampering a person who is not a witness in any case. The facts clearly show that Betty Currie was not listed as a witness or a potential witness at the time of the alleged tampering, but they are going to impeach the president anyway.

    They claim the president has obstructed justice, but let's look at the facts underlying these damning charges. Their star witness, Monica Lewinsky, testified under oath that nobody, nobody, asked her to lie, and nobody offered her a job for her silence. But they are going to impeach the president anyway.

    They claim the president abused his power. How? By asserting his constitutional rights and privileges pursuant to the advice of his lawyers. Well, wake up, America! Because if they can do it to the president, they can do it to you! If this committee supports an article of impeachment for abuse of power, they will be saying that any American who goes into court and claims their constitutional protections is at risk. How un-American. But they are going to impeach him anyway and extend our national nightmare for another year by sending this weightless case to the Senate for trial.

    So wake up, America! Our government is about to shut down. The public's business will grind to a halt. The Senate, the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives will all be hostage to a process that never should have been triggered in the first place.

    If you're sick of all Monica all the time, you ain't seen nothing yet. Be prepared to turn on your TV and watch the chief justice of the Supreme Court swear in Lucianne Goldberg, -- (laughter) -- Linda Tripp, endless testimony in front of the whole world, showcasing America at its most absurd.

    When we started these proceedings, I expressed my fear that this impeachment, if successful, would forever lower the standard for impeachment for future presidents. In my worst nightmare, I did not foresee this.

    There is no standard left. They have trashed it. They have trivialized the Founding Fathers' standard of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors. They have made a mockery of this process. Clearly, there is no case for impeachment.

    The truth is, Mr. Chairman, if the question before this committee were about the morality of the president's actions, there would be no debate. The president's conduct was wrong. He did lie to the American people. In fact, for those of us who believe in this president, who are committed to his policies, who are motivated by his centrist philosophy, who are moved by his compassion for people, the president's relationship with Monica Lewinsky was more than wrong, it was heart-breaking. How could he have been so foolish? How could he have done such a reckless thing?

    There are no good answers to these questions. But I believe in my heart that morality is a complex equation, that good people sometimes do bad things, that moral people sometimes commit immoral acts. And when I look at the totality of this case, I am left with one undeniable conclusion: the president betrayed his wife. He did not betray his country.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    REP. HYDE: Thank you, sir.

    The gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Hutchinson.


    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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