Excerpts from closing arguments

February 09, 1999

Excerpts from yesterday's closing arguments in the impeachment trial against President Clinton, as transcribed by the Federal Document Clearing House:

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican

The news media characterizes the managers as 13 angry men. They are right in that we are angry, but they are dead wrong about what we are angry about. We have not spent long hours poring through the evidence, sacrificed time with our families, and subjected ourselves to intense political criticism to further a political vendetta.

We have done so because of our love for this country and respect for the office of the presidency, regardless of who may hold it.

"We have done so because of our devotion to the rule of law and our fear that if the president does not suffer the legal and constitutional consequences of his actions, the impact of allowing the president to stand above the law will be felt for generations to come.

Regardless of what some may say, this constitutional crisis was caused by William Jefferson Clinton and by no one else. President Clinton's actions and his actions alone have caused the national agenda for the past year to be almost exclusively concentrated on those actions and what consequences the president and the president alone must suffer for them.

This trial is not about the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky. It is about the perjury and obstruction of justice he committed during the course of a civil rights lawsuit filed against him and the subsequent independent counsel investigation authorized by Attorney General Janet Reno.

To conclude that perjury and obstruction of justice are acceptable if committed by a popular president during times of peace and prosperity sets a dangerous precedent which sets America on the road back to an imperial presidency above the law.

To keep a president in office whose gross misconduct and criminal actions are a well-established fact will weaken the authority of the presidency, undermine the rule of law, and cheapen those words which have made America different from most other nations on the Earth: equal justice under law.

Rep. Chris Cannon, Utah Republican

As the Senate deliberates this case, I would ask that a few key facts never be forgotten: That the president committed perjury when he lied under oath and he obstructed justice.

Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican

We all know the president's behavior has been reprehensible. President Clinton, however, refuses to admit what all of us know is true. To this day, he continues to deny and distort. He continues to dispute the undeniable facts that are before the Senate and before the American people.

The question before you now is, how will this chapter end? Will the final chapter say that the United States Senate turned its back on perjury and obstruction of justice by the president of the United States? Or will it say that the Senate took a principled stand and told the world that no person, not even the president, stands above the law? That all Americans, no matter how rich, how powerful, or how well connected, are accountable for their actions, even the president?

Charles F. C. Ruff, White House counsel

There is only one question before you, albeit a difficult one, one that is a question of fact, and law, and constitutional theory. Would it put at risk the liberties of the people to retain the president in office?

Putting aside partisan animus, if you can honestly say that it would not, that those liberties are safe in his hands, then you must vote to acquit.

In the face of the seemingly insurmountable hurdle of Ms. Lewinsky's repeated denials that anyone ever asked or encouraged her to lie, the managers have persisted in arguing and continue to do so that the president did somehow encourage her to lie, even if she didn't know it.

What the managers have presented to you is a series of different speculative theories. As each one is shown to be what it is, they move on to the next, in the hope they will find one, someday, that actually has a connection to reality.

But they cannot find that elusive theory, for the stubborn facts will not budge, nor will the stubborn denials by every participant in their mythical plot.

We are together weavers of a constitutional fabric in which all of us now are clothed and generations will be clothed for millennia to come. We cannot leave even the smallest flaw in that fabric, for if we do, one day someone will come along and pull a thread, and the flaw will grow, and soon, the entire cloth will begin to unravel.

The voices of Madison and Hamilton and the others who met in Philadelphia 212 years ago and the voices of the generations since and the voices of the American people now and the voices of generations to come -- these must be your guide.

And now our last words to you, which are the words I began with: William Jefferson Clinton is not guilty of the charges that have been brought against him, he did not commit perjury, he did not commit obstruction of justice, he must not be removed from office.

Pub Date: 2/09/99

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