Impeaching a President

The Opening Salvos
Those Stubborn Facts
'Legal Gymnastics'
Canady vs. Conyers
Canady vs. Gephardt
The Final Shots

Integrity and Honor
Truth and the Rule of Law
Paul McNulty Comments

PCA Congressmen Take on the Establishment in Attempt to Remove William Jefferson Clinton from Office

The impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton has caused great political controversy in Washington, D.C., as well as across the nation as a whole. It has also illustrated the fact that the American people are sharply divided with regard to religious, moral, and ethical perspectives.
On the one hand are those who hold to what pundits are calling a "sophisticated" approach to the President's indiscretions. According to the polls, a significant majority of the citizenry believe that what Mr. Clinton did-even if it involved perjury and obstruction of justice-does not warrant his removal from office.
On the other hand are those who advocate a traditional morality. Many of these Americans believe that lying under oath and obstructing justice are serious charges, and warrant deposition of any public official who commits them.
In the United States House of Representatives, the House Judiciary Committee for several weeks last fall considered the charges against President Clinton. Almost exclusively along party lines, the Committee voted four articles of impeachment. On December 19, 1998, the House of Representatives, largely along party lines, approved two of those articles; and Mr. Clinton became only the second President in American history to be impeached.
Among the 21 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee who shepherded articles of impeachment through Committee and the full House were two members of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA): Representative Charles Canady (R-Fla.) and Representative Bob Inglis (R-S.C.). Mr. Canady is a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Fla., while Mr. Inglis belongs to Clemson (S.C.) Presbyterian Church. Both men played significant roles in the House effort to remove Mr. Clinton from office. During the December 18-19, 1998, debate on the floor of the House, Mr. Canady several times was the "designated hitter" for the Republican majority in answering objections and points made by Democratic opponents of impeachment.
Two of those articles of impeachment-perjury before a federal grand jury and obstruction of justice-passed the House. Two proposed articles of impeachment-perjury in a federal civil case and abuse of power-failed in the House.
Both Mr. Canady and Mr. Inglis voted in favor of all four articles of impeachment. Also voting in favor of all four proposed impeachment articles were the other two PCA Congressmen in the 105th Congress: Rep. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). All four of these representatives made speeches on the floor of the House in support of impeaching the President.
The primary themes sounded by PCA Congressmen in the Judiciary Committee and during the debate by the full House were those of Constitution, law and truth.
On December 18, 1998, Mr. Inglis made what he said would be his last speech to the House of Representatives. He stated that three questions needed to be answered: "First, are we a people of convenience or of conviction? Second, are we a constitutional Republic or a democracy? Third, are we a Nation based on truth or a Nation based on moral relativism?"
The first question is, "has our instant gratification come to the place where we need a microwave solution rather than a lasting solution based on principle and sound understanding of the Constitution?" Regarding the second question, he said: "I must say that some of our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle have misunderstood the name of their party with the basis of our government. We are not a democracy. This is a constitutional Republic. . . . Here on the floor today we are dealing with a Constitution, and we are dealing with the principles contained in the Constitution. And those principles must hold sway over last night's overnight poll." The third question, in Mr. Inglis' eyes, is "the nub of the question. Does the truth matter or is everything relative? Is there any truth or is my truth different from your truth? . . . I hope that America will always be a place of commitment to essential truths, the essential truths that Mr. Jefferson wrote about in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence: I hope that it will always be a place of freedom coupled with responsibility."
Mr. Inglis was defeated in his bid this past November to unseat U. S. Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.). Mr. Canady, who was re-elected to his House seat, was one of the "House managers" who presented the case against the President before the United States Senate.
On February 12, 1999, the United States Senate rejected the arguments by the House, and voted to acquit William Jefferson Clinton of the two articles of impeachment. On the first count, 45 senators voted to convict him of perjury, while 55 voted to acquit. On the second count, that of obstruction of justice, 50 senators voted "guilty" and 50 voted "not guilty."
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The Opening Salvos

The battle over impeachment began in the House even before the debate over the articles of impeachment themselves. In October 1998, the House authorized its Judiciary Committee to investigate whether sufficient grounds existed for the impeachment of the President. In support of that motion, Mr. Canady stated: "In this resolution, we followed the pattern and procedures established in the [President] Nixon impeachment inquiry. . . . The House should reject the unprecedented Democratic alternative with its unwise, arbitrary and unrealistic limitations and restrictions on the ability of the Committee on the Judiciary to do its job." He continued: "If perjury and obstruction of justice do not undermine the integrity of office, what offenses would?" Referring to the remarks made by one of the framers of the Constitution, the Florida representative said: "Those . . . who set examples which undermine or subvert the authority of the laws lead us from freedom to slavery. They incapacitate us for a government of laws." In his speech on the House floor on October 8, 1998, Mr. Inglis declared that the key question for the nation, on the verge of the next century, is "does the truth even matter?"
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Those Stubborn Facts

During her defense of William Jefferson Clinton before the United States Senate, Attorney Cheryl Mills used a memorable phrase-"those facts, those stubborn facts"-in an effort to exonerate her client. While Miss Mills was suggesting that the facts favored the President, Rep. Charles Canady also referred to "the stubborn facts of the case" in his argument in the House of Representatives in December.
This is a process that we are following under the Constitution, and I am very disappointed that there has been a failure of those who are opposing these articles to focus on the facts of the case before us. Now these facts are inconvenient facts, they are very compelling facts pointing to a pattern of perjury and obstruction of justice by the President of the United States. But all the passionate argument about the independent counsel, all the passionate attacks on the process here in the Congress do not alter the stubborn facts of the case before us.
Now, I would also like to bring to the attention of the Members the report on 'Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment' which was prepared in February of 1974 by the staff of the Nixon impeachment inquiry; and I would ask that all the Members consider this key language from that staff report describing the type of conduct which gives rise to impeachment.
The Democratic staff of the Rodino committee wrote, 'The emphasis has been on the significant effects of the conduct-undermining the integrity of office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, arrogation of power, abuse of the governmental process, adverse impact on the system of government.'
Perjury and obstruction of justice clearly undermine the integrity of office. Their unavoidable consequence is to erode respect of the office of president. Such offenses are in obvious disregard of the President's constitutional duties and oath of office. Moreover, they are offenses which have a direct and serious adverse impact on the system of government.
Obstruction of justice is by definition an assault on the due administration of justice, which is a core function of our system of government. And as the first Chief Justice of the United States, John Jay, observed, no crime is more extensively pernicious to society than the crime of perjury.
Perjury and obstruction of justice, even regarding a private matter, are offenses that have a substantial impact on the President's official duties because they are grossly incompatible with his preeminent duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Perjury and obstruction of justice are not private matters, they are crimes against the system of justice, crimes for which this President must be impeached.
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'Legal Gymnastics'

In making their case against Mr. Clinton, the House Republicans tried to get people to look at the big picture-to see the forest, as it were, and not just the individual trees. In answering a colleague from Florida, Rep. Charles Canady noted that the charge of perjury focuses on the intention of the defendant and not simply the precise language being used.
During the House debate on December 18, 1998, Mr. Canady said:
I think what we are hearing here are more of the legalisms, more of the legal gymnastics, more of the hair splitting that we should not be hearing in this context, and I would also point out that the President's own lawyer in his presentation to the Committee on the Judiciary admitted that when the President answered the questions in the deposition he intended to mislead by his answers. That was his intention.
[T]he Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals [has said that] a perjury inquiry which focuses only upon the precision of the question and ignores what the defendant knew about the subject matter of the question at the time it was asked misses the very point of perjury. That is the defendant's intent to testify falsely and thereby mislead his interrogators. Such a limited inquiry would not only undermine the perjury laws, it would undermine the rule of law as a whole, as truth seeking is the critical component which allows us to determine if the laws are being followed, and it is only through the requirement that a witness testify truthfully that a determination may be made as to whether the laws are being followed.
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Canady vs. Conyers

Much of the controversy over impeachment centered around what constituted an impeachable offense. In trying to determine this matter, much of the attention focused on what the House Judiciary Committee did with regard to President Richard M. Nixon during the 1974 impeachment inquiry.
Those who opposed impeaching President Clinton claimed that his alleged wrong-doings did not rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors-the language in the U. S. Constitution regarding impeachment. Those who supported impeaching Mr. Clinton claimed that the alleged crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice would indeed constitute impeachable offenses.
Support by Democrats for articles of impeachment against President Nixon based on allegations of tax fraud was used by Republicans to make the point that a President could be removed for matters other than those which directly and immediately threaten the body politic. The apparent inconsistency in the Democratic position is perhaps best illustrated by statements by Rep. Charles Canady and Rep. John Conyers, the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee in 1998 who had also been a member of the Judiciary Committee in 1974.
Referring to a Mr. Brooks, a Democrat who was a former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Charles Canady stated: He said that no man in America can be above the law. It is our duty to establish now the evidence of specific statutory crimes and constitutional violations by the President of the United States will subject all Presidents now and in the future to impeachment. No President is exempt under our U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States from accountability for personal misdeeds any more than he is for official misdeeds.
"I think that we on this committee in our effort to fairly evaluate the President's activities will show the American people that all men are treated equally under the law.
"Now that was a view that was adopted by the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) also, who supported the tax fraud article, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Rangel) and various other Members on the Democrat side."
Later in the debate, Mr. Canady hammered home the same point: "Mr. Speaker, I want to make the same point again which I made earlier today that in 1974 the Committee on the Judiciary did not, did not, determine that tax fraud is a unimpeachable offense. They simply determined that there was insufficient evidence that the President of the United States was in fact guilty of tax fraud."
Within a few moments, Mr. Conyers responded: "Could I point out to my friend, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Canady), who took exception to why the income tax charge was not brought against Mr. Nixon in 1974, if he would read our report of the minority at page 10, he would learn that it was not for lack of evidence, it was because we determined that this was not a high crime or misdemeanor. And we were joined by Republican Lawrence Hogan, Maryland, Wiley Mayne, Republican-Iowa, and others."
Mr. Conyers' denial led to this exchange on the floor of the House:
Mr. CANADY of Florida. . . . . Is it not true, I ask of the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers), as a member of the Committee on the Judiciary in 1974, that the gentleman voted in favor of the tax fraud article against President Nixon?
Mr. CONYERS. Yes, Mr. Speaker, absolutely true.
Mr. CANADY of Florida. Mr. Speaker, so the gentleman believes that tax fraud was an impeachable offense?
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely correct, and it does not contradict what I corrected the gentleman about.
Mr. CANADY of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman very much.
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Canady vs. Gephardt

Rep. Charles Canady was not bashful about taking on the 'big guns' of the Democratic Party on the impeachment matter. In remarks made on the House floor on December 19, 1998, the PCA Congressman went up against the House Minority Leader, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.).
Mr. Canady argued that censure was inappropriate and that impeachment was the Constitutional means provided to the House of Representatives when dealing with alleged crimes by a high official. He began by saying:
The gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Gephardt) has, with his customary dignity and good grace, made a passionate appeal for the motion to recommit. I submit to the House, however, that the motion to recommit must be rejected by this House.
The motion to recommit must be rejected first and foremost because we today in this House do not sit in judgment on the President for his sins. We do not sit in judgment on the President for his frailties, for his human failings. That is not our responsibility.
But today in this House we do sit in judgment on the President of the United States for his crimes. And it is because of his crimes that this motion must be rejected.
The Florida Republican next noted that the proposal for censure is "outside the framework established by our Constitution. . . . The constitutional method is impeachment by the House and trial in the Senate."
Mr. Canady said:
Other methods may seem to us more convenient or more comfortable, but our standard cannot be comfort or convenience. Our standard must be and always remain our Constitution.
The Congressman countered the appeal to conscience by those who favored censure:
I must say that their consciences do not bind the Committee on the Judiciary to bring before this House a measure which we judge to be harmful and dangerous because it is outside the constitutional framework, a measure which violates the separation of powers. Their consciences do not trump our Constitution.
And I must also ask this: If expressing a censure of the President is such a matter of conscience, why have they not done what is clearly within their power and which raises no constitutional problems to censure President Clinton? Why has the Democratic Caucus, by its own solemn act and resolution, not censured President Clinton? With all due respect to my Democratic friends, I must suggest, if their consciences were so stricken, they would have censured him by their own collective judgment through the action of their own Caucus long before we came to this sad day.
For Mr. Canady, the House must also reject censure because of the overwhelming facts of the case against the President which establish "a calculated and sustained pattern of perjury and obstruction of justice." He continued:
All the attacks on the Independent Counsel, all the attacks on the Committee on the Judiciary do not alter the stubborn facts of the case against President William Jefferson Clinton.
The Presbyterian solon concluded: We must reject censure because the President's defense rests squarely, we must sadly conclude, on the denial of the obvious and the assertion of pure nonsense. To this day, the President's defense rests on the claim that he told the truth in his deposition when he denied that he had any specific recollection of ever being alone with Ms. Lewinsky. Who in this House believes that? Who in this country believes that? To this day, the President's defense rests on the argument that Ms. Lewinsky had sex with him, but he did not have sex with her.
How sad it is that the President of the United States is reduced to making such nonsensical arguments. What rational person can accept such a defense? Such a defense is an insult to our intelligence, an insult to judgment and to common sense.
Finally, we must reject censure because under our Constitution, the President's crimes, not his sins, not his human failings, but his crimes demand impeachment. William Jefferson Clinton has willfully, he has willfully turned aside from the unique role assigned to him under our Constitution. He has willfully turned aside from the oath of office that he swore. He has willfully turned aside from his preeminent duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Such a President should not remain in office. Such a President must be impeached by this House and brought to account before the Senate.
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The Final Shots

On February 8, 1999, all thirteen House managers made closing statements before the United States Senate in the impeachment trial of William Jefferson Clinton. Charles Canady was one who dealt with the Constitutional standard of impeachment.
Mr. Canady stated that the heart of Mr. Clinton's defense is that the matter is not serious enough to warrant impeachment or removal from office. "All the grand legal argument, all the fine legal distinctions come down to the simple, this marvelously simple proposition. It is just not serious enough."
Later in his speech, Mr. Manager Canady said: "The conduct of the President was calculated and sustainted. His subtle and determined purpose was corrupt. . . . He knew exactly what he was doing. He knew that it was in violation of the criminal law. He knew that people could go to prison for doing such things. He knew that it was contrary to his oath of office. He knew that it was incompatible with his constitutional duty as President. And he most certainly knew that it was a very serious matter. I am sure he believed he could get away with it, but I am equally sure he knew just how serious it would be if the truth were known and understood.
"He knew all these things. In the midst of it all, he showed not the slightest concern for the honor, the dignity, and the integrity of his high office. When he called Ms. [Monica] Lewinsky at 2:30 in the morning, he was up to no good, just as my colleague, Mr. [Lindsey] Graham, noted. He knew exactly what he was doing. When he called Ms. [Betty] Currie into his office twice and told her lies about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, he knew exactly what he was doing. . . "Whatever you may think about the President's testimony to the grand jury, one thing is clear. He didn't lie to the grand jury to avoid personal embarrassment. The DNA on the dress had ensured his personal embarrassment. There was no avoiding that. There was no way to explain away the DNA. . . . And what did he do when he testified to the grand jury? He said anything he thought he needed to say to avoid responsibility for his prior crimes."
Charles Canady concluded by saying: "Those wise statesmen who established our form of government would have understood the seriousness of the harm President Clinton has done to the cause of justice and constitutional government. They would have understood that a President who does such things should not remain in office with his crimes.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, for the sake of justice and for the sake of the Constitution, this President should be convicted and removed."
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Integrity and Honor

For Rep. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), voting for impeachment was a matter of integrity and honor. On December 18, 1998, Mr. Talent said on the floor of the House of Representatives:

Mr. Speaker, I do not think the question before the House is whether the President has acted in integrity in this matter. With all due respect, I think in our hearts we all know the answer to that. The question is whether we have the integrity to do our duty under the Constitution and laws, and to stand up for what is right, or whether by failing to do that we are going to become part of what is wrong.
Public officials commit private wrongs. We know that happens. The issue is whether, when they are called to account for it in some forum, they act honorably and live up to the consequences of what they do, or at least they act according to the minimum standards that we are entitled to expect and insist upon from people who occupy positions of trust.
Mr. Speaker, on this record it is impossible not to conclude that the President obstructed justice, that he perjured himself, that he flouted his oath of office, that he abused the powers of his office, that he manipulated other high officers of government, and that he did all these things, first to obstruct a sexual harassment lawsuit against him, and then to cover up the fact that he had committed perjury.
Impeachment is a hard thing, Mr. Speaker. But again, what is at stake here is our integrity. If we do not stand up for something that is clearly right when we have an inescapable obligation under the Constitution to do it, we become part of what is wrong. I am not going to vote for these articles because I want to, I am going to vote for them because I see no other honorable alternative for me to follow than to support these articles calling for the impeachment of the President.
Congressman Talent is a member of Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri.
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Truth and the Rule of Law

To Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), impeaching the President was necessary for the sake of truth and the rule of law. He made the following remarks on December 18, 1998, during the debate on the impeachment articles:

Mr. Speaker, it is with great sorrow that I take to the floor to express my support for approving these articles of impeachment of the President, sorrow because we have come to this point in our fair and wonderful country where we have to debate these articles.
Mr. Speaker, we are bound together as citizens of this great Nation, and as citizens, we are all answerable to the same laws, including President Clinton. The President is more than America's chief law enforcement officer. He is also the trustee of the Nation's conscience.
It is a fact that sworn testimony can literally mean the difference between life and death. Should we betray the rule of law by sweeping the President's activities under the rug?
If the opponents of impeachment wanted to avoid this process, they should have mounted a vigorous, vigorous defense of the President by refuting the facts in the Starr report. The Minority Leader, the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Gephardt) mentioned trust, fairness, forgiveness, and values. But I did not hear him mention the word 'truth.' Those against impeachment have not contradicted one word of testimony contained in over 60,000 pages of sworn evidence, not one scintilla.
Those against impeachment should make their case based upon the facts. Are we to conclude that the actions outlined in these four articles of impeachment are permissible behavior for a chief executive officer? Any military officer, from general to private, would be court-martialed. Any private citizen would risk prosecution. Any church leader, CEO of a Fortune 500 company, high school faculty member, or community leader, would not face censure, they would be fired for similar conduct.
Impeachment does not determine the guilt or innocence of the President. We do not need to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt in order to move forward. Our duty in the House is to decide if the available evidence indicates that the Senate should consider removing the President from office.
I believe that there is sufficient evidence to approve these articles of impeachment and to send this process to the next step. Through this vote, we shall announce how we stand on the Constitution and the rule of law. Are these outdated concepts to be ignored when convenient, or are they the guiding principles of our American civilization?

Mr. Stearns is a member of Grace Presbyterian Church, Ocala, Florida.
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Paul McNulty Comments

Paul McNulty is an attorney who works with the Crime Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill. Over the last several months, he has also been the spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee as it has been dealing with the impeachment of President Clinton.
Mr. McNulty is a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, and serves as Clerk of Session of New Hope Presbyterian Church, Fairfax, Virginia. He recently reflected on some of the spiritual dimensions of the impeachment process.
He recounted two particular occasions when Republican members of the House of Representatives paused to pray for guidance. The first was on December 16, 1998, when the Republican Conference was grappling with the big issue of whether to postpone consideration of impeachment while air strikes were being launched against Iraq. In the early stages of that discussion, Representative Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) got up and said, "I think we should pray." He volunteered Representative Steve Largent (R-Okla.) to lead in prayer, which he did. The other occasion was the next morning, when the House Judiciary Committee Republicans were caucusing. Representative Ed Bryant (R-Tenn.) asked Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) to lead in prayer, which he did.
For Mr. McNulty, listening to these prayers was a moving experience. He commented that these incidents provide a "fairly different picture from what the White House is trying to paint about radicals attempting a coup d'etat."
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