Impeachment hearing voices


Salon Staff
December 10, 1998 1:00AM (UTC)

E leven hours of testimony and questioning on the first day of the White House's defense of President Clinton Tuesday produced some memorable quotes. The president's attorneys relied upon the expert testimony of witnesses who oppose Clinton's impeachment and saved exculpatory evidence for a 184-page rebuttal to impeachment charges that was delivered to the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday evening. Here are the highlights of the day's hearing:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Gregory Craig, White House special counsel

Advertisement:

"The president wants everyone to know -- the committee, the Congress and the country -- that he is genuinely sorry for the pain and the damage that he has caused and for the wrongs that he has committed."

"What he said to the American people was that he did not have sexual relations, and I understand you're not going to like this, congressman, because it -- you will see it as a technical defense or a hair-splitting, evasive answer, but sexual relations is defined in every dictionary in a certain way, and he did not have that kind of sexual contact with Monica Lewinsky."

"We think, in some areas, she [Monica Lewinsky] provided erroneous testimony that is in disagreement with the president's testimony."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sean Wilentz, Princeton University history professor

"I strongly believe that the weight of the evidence runs counter to impeachment. What each of you on the committee and your fellow members of the House must decide, each for him or herself, is whether the actual facts alleged against the president, the actual facts and not the sonorous formal charges, truly rise to the level of impeachable offenses. If you believe they do rise to that level, you will vote for impeachment and take your risks at going down in history with the zealots and the fanatics ... History will track you down and condemn you for your cravenness."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Advertisement:


Elizabeth Holtzman, former member of Congress, D-N.Y., who helped draft the independent counsel law

"We never intended to create a grand inquisitor for impeachment."

"The president engaged in sexual misconduct, he wanted to conceal it. It certainly doesn't rise to what we saw in Watergate. I urge you to think how history will look at you if you act on a single act of misconduct that does not involve the powers of the presidency.''

"Impeachment is not a kind of supercensure designed simply to besmirch a president's reputation. Impeachment is a tool to remove a president from office. It is a last resort to preserve our democracy. It must not be perverted or trivialized."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Advertisement:

Rev. Robert Drinan, former member of Congress, D-Mass.

"I hope ... that history will not decree that the House Judiciary Committee made a profound mistake in 1998 and that this body will go down in the history books as one that was dominated by vindictiveness and by vengeance and by partisanship."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Advertisement:


Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and political science at Yale University

"As a constitutional matter, the House of Representatives is not a continuing body. If you don't believe that a bill of impeachment or the election of impeachment managers will gain the majority support of the next House, the wise thing to do is to stop the process now."

"While it may be embarrassing to reverse gears after so much momentum has been generated in favor of a bill of impeachment, the leadership of the next House will confront a much more embarrassing situation."

Advertisement:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Wayne Owens, former member of Congress, D-Utah

"Today, you are faced with a record of misdeeds by a president who carried on an illicit sexual affair, then publicly and privately misled others to protect his wife and daughter and the public from finding out about his infidelity -- personal, not official, misconduct, akin to President Nixon cheating on his taxes. Improper and serious, but by nature, personal misconduct, and therefore, not impeachable."

"If you vote to impeach a president because he had an improper sexual affair then avoided full disclosure by using narrow legal definitions, even then affirming that testimony before a grand jury, if you impeach on that narrow basis of personal, not official, misconduct, you do untold damage to the Constitution and the stability of future presidents."

Advertisement:

"In dealing with facts, you taught 7-year-olds in this country about telephone sex and oral sex and what you can do with a cigar ... I would say you have had enough facts.''

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Howard Coble, R-N.C.

"We're going about our business. And if anybody thinks that vengeance is involved, I'll meet them in the parking lot later on tonight."

Advertisement:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Charles Canady, R-Fla.

"I believe that the evidence before the committee points to the conclusion that the president of the United States has committed multiple acts of making false statements under oath. And that's a serious matter that we're having to grapple with here."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Advertisement:

Elton Gallegly, R-Calif.

"We have a long list of persons in federal jails across this country for perjury. In fact, in my home state of California, last year alone, we had 4,000 individuals prosecuted for perjury last year alone. If the president is not impeached, do you think the president should pardon these folks?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Bob Inglis, R-S.C.

Advertisement:

"So the great high bar Mr. Craig earlier set for himself and for the president -- that this day and tomorrow is going to be the day that we hear evidence and facts that contradict the evidence before the committee -- panel two, the score: zero facts, zero evidence."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

"Mr. Chairman, I don't want you to default on your good name and leadership. History will not be kind to you and the stark contradictions of your leadership. It would surely be a sad commentary on your long years of service to be regarded as one who led the selective impeachment of the president of the United States, not based on a consistent philosophical belief, but rather on a petty, partisan need to satisfy; the need to retaliate, embarrass or feed the insatiable appetites of a group of hate-mongering, right-wing anarchists who will stop at nothing to destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton."

Advertisement:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee

"This is not going to be the Henry and Maxine Show."

"I was on the Intelligence Committee (during the Iran-contra hearings). And when I had a more nuanced view about misleading people, at no time did I sanction perjury. At no time did I sanction Ollie North or [John] Poindexter lying under oath. I objected, and I made my objections known. But what I tried to explain -- and I said context is everything. And I stand by that ... You cannot find any place or any time where I condoned or justified perjury or raising your hand and asking God to witness to the truth of what you're saying and then lying."

[To the Rev. Robert Drinan, a Catholic priest:] "Someone said that if Jesus had taken a poll he would never have preached the Gospel. Do you agree?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Exchange of the day:
James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Elizabeth Holtzman, former member of Congress, D-N.Y.

Sensenbrenner: I pulled out your questioning of Gerald Ford when he was before this committee having been nominated to be vice president by President Nixon, who was still in office at the time. And you talked to Mr. Ford about Nixon lying allegedly about the bombing of Cambodia. Mr. Ford responded that he didn't think that President Nixon had been 100 percent truthful on that matter, and then insisted that all presidents had given some false and deceptive statements. You then said there was a difference between keeping a secret and falsifying information.

And you said, quote, "I think all of us understand that difference very well." Could you tell us then, is there not a major difference between historical falsehoods as opposed to lies before a federal court proceeding or a grand jury?

Holtzman: Mr. Sensenbrenner, I hate to answer a question with a question. But don't you think there's an enormous difference between keeping a dual set of books about bombing of a foreign country without the authorization of Congress, and not telling the truth about a private sexual misconduct?

Sensenbrenner: I think there should be no difference because our perjury and false statements statutes, you know, do not have various levels of perjury. When you do make a false statement, you have to live by the consequences. And I think we all try to teach our kids that one of the things they always should do is always tell the truth.


Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

BROWSE SALON.COM
COMPLETELY AD FREE,
FOR THE NEXT HOUR

Read Now, Pay Later - no upfront
registration for 1-Hour Access

Click Here
7-Day Access and Monthly
Subscriptions also available
No tracking or personal data collection
beyond name and email address

•••


Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •