Impeachment hearing excepts IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS

November 20, 1998

Excerpts from yesterday's impeachment hearing before the House Judiciary Committee:

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr's prepared statement:

I appreciate both the seriousness of the committee's work and the gravity of its assignment. ... I recognize that the House of Representatives -- not an independent counsel -- has the sole power to impeach. My role here today is to discuss our referral and our investigation.

Indeed, the evidence suggests that the president repeatedly tried to thwart the legal process in the Jones case and the grand jury investigation. That is not a private matter. The evidence further suggests that the president, in the course of these efforts, misused his authority and power as president and contravened his duty to faithfully execute the laws. That, too, is not a private matter.

At the outset, I want to emphasize that our referral never suggests that the relationship between the president and Ms. Lewinsky in and of itself could be a high crime or misdemeanor. Indeed, the referral never passes judgment on the president's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. The propriety of a relationship is not the concern of our office. The referral is instead about obstruction of justice, lying under oath, tampering with witnesses, and misuse of power.

The conversation between the president and Ms. Lewinsky on Dec. 17 was a critical turning point. The evidence suggests that the president chose to engage in a criminal act -- to reach an understanding with Ms. Lewinsky that they would both make false statements under oath. At that moment, the president's intimate relationship with a subordinate employee was transformed into an unlawful effort to thwart the judicial process. This was no longer an issue of private conduct.

Indeed, the president made false statements to the grand jury and then that same evening spoke to the nation and criticized all attempts to show that he had done so as invasive and irrelevant. The president's approach appeared to contravene the oath he took at the start of the grand jury proceedings. It also disregarded the admonitions of those members of Congress who warned that lying to the grand jury would not be tolerated. It also discounted Judge Wright's many orders in which she had ruled that this kind of evidence was relevant in the Jones case.

REP. HENRY HYDE, R-Ill., Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee:

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.

... And just perhaps, when the debate is over, when 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.

REP. JOHN CONYERS, D-Mich., ranking minority member:

Today's witness, Kenneth W. Starr, wrote the tawdry, salacious and unnecessarily graphic referral that he delivered to us in September with so much drama and fanfare. And now the majority members of this committee have called that same prosecutor forward to testify in an unprecedented desperation effort to breathe new life into a dying inquiry.

... Now no one defends the president's conduct, but even Republican witnesses at our hearing only last week testified that even if the alleged facts are proven true, they simply do not amount to impeachable offenses. The idea of a federally paid sex policeman spending millions of dollars to trap an unfaithful spouse or the police civil -- or the police civil litigation would have been unthinkable prior to the Starr investigation.

Let there be no mistake -- it is not now acceptable in America to investigate a person's private sexual activity. It is not acceptable to force mothers to testify against their daughters; to make lawyers testify against their clients; to require Secret Service agents to testify against the people they protect; or to make bookstores tell what books people read.

... While an independent counsel can and should pursue a case with vigor, I and many others believe that Mr. Starr has crossed that line into obsession. ...

We have many questions about the way you conducted your investigation, Mr. Starr. Fairness dictates that the committee and the American people learn whether you have created a climate for the purpose of driving a president from office who has twice been elected by the people of this great nation.

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