(Senate - February 23, 1999)

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[Pages S1791-S1793]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, the Constitution of the United States 
requires the Senate to convict and remove the President of the United 
States if it is proven that he has committed high crimes while in 
office. It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral 
certainty that President William Jefferson Clinton has persisted in a 
continuous pattern to lie and obstruct justice. The chief law officer 
of the land, whose oath of office calls on him to preserve, protect and 
defend the Constitution, crossed the line and failed to protect the 
law, and, in fact, attacked the law and the rights of a fellow citizen. 
Under our Constitution, such acts are high crimes and equal justice 
requires that he forfeit his office. For these reasons, I felt 
compelled to vote to convict and remove the President from office.

                               THE FACTS

  Facing a lawsuit the United States Supreme Court had upheld against 
him, President Clinton had to make a decision. He could tell the truth 
or lie and obstruct justice. He took the course of illegality. This 
case is not about an isolated false statement, it is about the 
President of the United States using his office, his power, his staff, 
and his popularity to avoid providing truthful answers and evidence 
that was relevant to a civil lawsuit. President Clinton's actions 
demonstrated a pattern of untruth and disdain for the legal system he 
had sworn to uphold.

                         OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

  President Clinton resisted the lawsuit from the time it was filed. 
Among other defenses, he argued that he, as the President, was not 
subject to the civil legal system while in office. The Supreme Court 
unanimously rejected this proposition. His legal arguments having 
failed, the President began to use illegal means to defeat the action. 
Since the truth would be damaging, he took steps to see that the truth 
concerning his relationship with Monica Lewinsky would never come out.
  President Clinton began his obstruction of justice by denying to the 
court material truths. He first filed with the court false answers to 
written questions, interrogatories, under oath. He then bolstered his 
lies to the court by procuring from Monica Lewinsky a supporting false 
affidavit which he filed with the court. When questioned at his 
deposition about the truthfulness of the Lewinsky affidavit, President 
Clinton, without any hesitation, told the court that it was 
``absolutely true''. The President then proceeded, confident in his 
obstruction of the truth, to lie repeatedly under oath about their 
relationship in the deposition.
  Indeed, the President orchestrated a scheme to deceive the court, the 
public and the grand jury. The facts are disturbing and compelling on 
the President's intent to obstruct justice. When Monica Lewinsky 
received a subpoena for the gifts, the President knew that if they were 
produced, his relationship would be revealed. I believe Monica 
Lewinsky's testimony that she discussed with the President what to do

[[Page S1792]]

with the gifts. I also believe that Betty Currie got the gifts from 
Monica Lewinsky and hid them under her bed only after approval from the 
President. Secreting evidence under subpoena is a crime. The President 
secured a job for Ms. Lewinsky in large part because he wanted her to 
file a false affidavit and to continue to cover up their true 
relationship. The President coached his personal secretary twice to 
ensure that if she were called as a witness in the civil case she would 
not contradict his testimony given the day before. The President 
intentionally lied to aides in an effort to have them mislead the 
public and the grand jury. This is to me a clear pattern of obstruction 
of justice.
  The most conclusive proof of obstruction of justice, however, is the 
most obvious. Clearly, the President succeeded at defeating the right 
of the Paula Jones attorneys to get discovery as they were entitled. He 
got away with it. But for the indisputable DNA evidence that was only 
produced when Ms. Lewinsky confessed seven months later, the 
obstruction would have continued to be successful. Even when confronted 
with this evidence at the grand jury in August the President chose to 
confuse the definition of words that have plain meanings instead of 
telling the truth.


  From a strictly legal point of view the perjury count was not as 
clear as it might first appear. In fact, standing alone these perjury 
charges may have failed to be impeachable. However, the President made 
his false statements as part of a continuous pattern to obstruct 
justice and deceive. This pattern establishes the necessary criminal 
intent. The President before the grand jury continued to deny facts and 
details that are by their very nature important in a sexual harassment 
suit. The President also intentionally deceived the grand jury 
regarding his participation in the concealing of the gifts and lied 
regarding his effort to obstruct justice by coaching Betty Currie. His 
admissions, though significant, steadfastly failed to cover any issues 
that would establish that his previous actions were in violation of the 
law. The President denies that these statements are false. However, he 
has no reservoir of credibility left after he so persistently lied to 
public for seven months. In my judgment these statements, which were 
aggravated by continuous lying to the American people, are sufficient 
under the circumstances of this case to warrant conviction on this 
article. The President was not obligated to appear before the grand 
jury, but if he chose to do so, he was obligated to tell the complete 
  Each statement must be individually evaluated in a perjury case. The 
President's statements that he did not believe he had violated the law 
and that he was not paying ``a great deal of attention'' to his lawyers 
when they gave false information to the court are not credible. Even 
so, I believe they are too subjective in nature to be defined as clear 
acts of perjury under the law. The President's response to clearly 
worded questions were intentionally designed to be misleading and 
deceptive; however, the Supreme Court has held in Bronston v. United 
States 409 U.S. 352 (1973) that it is not perjurious for a witness to 
give an unresponsive answer even if the witness intends to mislead his 
questioner. With this in mind, I conclude that the other charged 
statements, not delineated above, are misleading and false but not 
perjurious. I wish it were not so, but the President is a practiced 
liar. In summary, this President has deliberately, premeditatedly, and 
with calculation set about to defeat the justice system by criminal 
acts which include perjury and obstruction of justice.

                         THE LAW AND PRECEDENT

  Contrary to the stunning argument by the President's attorneys, there 
is just one impeachment standard for Presidents and judges. It is found 
in Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, which states,

       The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of 
     the United States, shall be removed from office on 
     impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or 
     other high crimes and misdemeanors.

  Advocates on both sides of this case agree that federal judges are 
civil officers of the United States. As civil officers, they ``shall be 
removed'' on impeachment and conviction of high crimes and 
misdemeanors. The President's attorneys in this case have argued that 
there is a different standard for impeachment and removal of federal 
  The President's attorneys made a clever argument that the ``good 
behavior'' clause, which refers to a judge's tenure, sets a separate 
standard of impeachable conduct for federal judges. They cite in 
support of this proposition Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution, 
which states:

       The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall 
     hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated 
     times, receive for their services, a compensation, which 
     shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

  Historical research clearly shows that when the Constitution was 
drafted and ratified, the phrase ``good behavior'' had nothing to do 
with impeachment. The clause simply referred to the term of office and 
compensation for a federal judge. It is generally accepted that the 
legislative branch's power to actually remove a federal judge, a member 
of a separate and co-equal branch of government, is limited to 
  Before the American Revolution, American colonial judges were not 
independent. They served at the pleasure of the British king and could 
be dismissed at his command. The British monarch also controlled the 
salaries of colonial judges. Americans recognized that an independent 
judiciary was a fundamental component of a free society. In fact, they 
included the lack of an independent judiciary as part of the ``long 
train of abuses'' in the Declaration of Independence: ``[King George 
III] has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of 
their offices, and the amount of payment of their salaries.'' In 
response, the framers of the Constitution delineated through Article 
III, Section I, that federal judges would not serve at the whims of 
Congress or the President.
  Moreover, Alexander Hamilton, a drafter of the Constitution, 
addressed the impeachment standard for judges in Federalist #79, one of 
a series of essays explaining the Constitution. In that essay he 

       The precautions for [federal judges'] responsibility are 
     comprised in the article respecting impeachments. . . . This 
     is the only provision on the point, which is consistent with 
     the necessary independence of the judicial character, and it 
     is the only one which we find in our own constitution in 
     respect to our own judges.

  Thus, the Constitution provided but one standard of removal of judges 
and it is the same one applied to the President.
  In our history there has been only one effort to impeach a judge on 
the ``good behavior'' standard, and that effort failed. In 1805, the 
Jefferson administration encouraged an impeachment of Justice Samuel 
Chase, an outspoken justice of the Supreme Court and member of the 
opposition Federalist party. Chase was impeached for his conduct while 
sitting as a circuit judge. The Senate acquitted Justice Chase and thus 
redeemed the drafters' original intent that judges can only be 
impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.
  So let any notion that judges may be impeached under a different 
standard be put to rest. That conclusion is inconsistent with the 
Constitution and not supported by history.
  It is easy to understand why the President's attorneys found it 
necessary to argue that federal judges may be removed under a different 
impeachment standard. The reason is that if the President is guilty of 
the same conduct that has led to the impeachment, conviction, and 
removal of three federal judges in the last thirteen years, and if the 
constitutional standard is the same, and if the substance of the 
allegations are the same, then he too must be removed.
  In 1986, the Senate convicted federal judge Harry E. Claiborne of 
three articles of impeachment that involved fundamental dishonesty: 
Judge Claiborne was convicted for knowingly filing false tax returns. 
Like every American who pays income tax, Judge Claiborne certified 
under penalty of perjury that his tax returns were true. For two years, 
he submitted such returns when he knew them to be false. He was 
subsequently impeached, convicted and removed. The President's lies in 
this case were, in my opinion, worse because

[[Page S1793]]

they constituted a frontal assault on the integrity of the justice 
system. The President did not lie on a form to hide income from the 
government; he lied under oath before a federal judge in an official 
proceeding to defeat a civil rights lawsuit filed by an American 
citizen. Under Senate precedent, that is impeachable conduct.

  Another example of recent Senatorial precedent is the Hastings case. 
In 1989, the Senate convicted Judge Alcee Hastings of Florida on seven 
of twelve articles of impeachment that were presented by the House. 
Judge Hastings was alleged to have taken a bribe to alter the outcome 
in a case before his court. Judge Hastings was convicted in the Senate 
on seven articles of impeachment. Judge Hastings was convicted for 
knowingly making false statements to the jury in his own bribery trial 
at which he was acquitted. In the same year, Judge Walter Nixon was 
convicted by the Senate for lying under oath before a grand jury. Judge 
Nixon corruptly attempted to obstruct justice by denying his efforts to 
intervene in a state court prosecution for a friend--a case unrelated 
to his duties as a federal judge.
  In the present impeachment case, we are not dealing with a blank 
slate. The Senate's actions in earlier cases are our clearest guide on 
how to proceed in the trial of President Clinton. The Senate has 
demonstrated three times in the last thirteen years that perjury by 
civil officers of the United States requires removal. It is 
inconceivable that equally reprehensible conduct by the President in 
this case should not also lead to his conviction and removal. By not so 
acting, the result will be an immediate lowering of our standards for 
impeachment and that standard will apply to judges as well. This 
argument defines us down, reducing the dignity of the Presidency and 
the Congress.

                         PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS

  As one who loves the law and who has spent the better part of his 
professional career trying cases, I understand in a profound way just 
how important it is for justice that citizens tell the truth in court. 
As a federal prosecutor, I presented thousands of cases to a grand jury 
and tried hundreds. On many occasions I have seen witnesses tell the 
truth, even when it was very painful for them. Many have been driven to 
tears but still they honored their oath. Millions of Americans honestly 
fill out their tax returns and pay large sums of money simply because 
they are honest and believe in the rule of law. Such integrity is a 
source of great strength for our country.
  The rule of law and the need for integrity in our justice system is 
why perjury cases are prosecuted in America. About seven years ago when 
I was still the United States Attorney for the Southern District of 
Alabama, a case came before me. My own city of Mobile had as its chief 
of police a strong African-American who aggressively worked to reform 
the office, establish community-based policing, and work to create a 
new level of discipline. Opposition grew and lawsuits were filed 
against him. A young police officer, who had been the Chief's driver, 
testified in a deposition in a federal lawsuit against the Chief. He 
stated that the chief of police had ordered him to ``bug'' the patrol 
cars of other police officers and that he had a secret tape recording 
giving him this illegal order to commit a crime. The deposition was 
released quickly to the newspapers. The city council, police 
department, and the people were in an uproar. Under careful questioning 
by an experienced FBI agent, the young officer admitted that he had 
lied in the deposition regarding the tape recording.
  As United States Attorney, it was my decision whether the officer 
would be prosecuted for his perjury. His counsel argued that he was 
young, that he did lie but had corrected his false testimony at a later 
time. He argued that we should decline to prosecute. After reflection 
and review, I concluded that a sworn police officer who had told a 
plain lie under oath, even a young officer, should be prosecuted in 
order to preserve the rule of law and the integrity of the system. Our 
office prosecuted that case. The officer was convicted, and that 
conviction was later affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for 
the Eleventh Circuit. For me personally, I have concluded that I cannot 
hold a young police officer to a different and higher standard than the 
President of the United States.
  In sum, it is crucial to our system of justice that we demand the 
truth. I fear that an acquittal of this President will weaken the legal 
system by suggesting that being less than truthful is an option for 
those who testify under oath in official proceedings. Whereas the 
handling of the case against President Nixon clearly strengthened the 
nation's respect for law, justice and truth, by sending a crystal clear 
message about the requirement for honesty, the Clinton impeachment may 
unfortunately have the opposite result.
  Finally, it is important to pause a moment to reflect on truth 
itself. I believe that we live in a created and ordered universe and 
that truth and falsehood are real. They are capable of being 
ascertained. I reject the doctrine of relativism that suggests 
everything is OK. We must always strive to hold the banner of truth 
high. Indeed, the pursuit of truth wherever it leads has been a 
hallmark of our civilization and is the single quality that has made us 
such a vibrant and productive nation. Of course, none of us are perfect 
and we often fail in our personal affairs, but when it comes to going 
to court, and its comes to our justice system, a great nation must 
insist on honesty and lawfulness. Our country must insist upon that for 
every citizen. The chief law officer of the land, whose oath of office 
calls on him to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, crossed 
the line and failed to defend the law, and, in fact, attacked the law 
and the rights of a fellow citizen. Under our Constitution, equal 
justice requires that he forfeit his office. For these reasons, I felt 
compelled to vote to convict and remove the President from office.
  Some will not agree with my conclusion. In that case, or if I have 
otherwise offended you in any way during this process, I ask for your 
forgiveness. I have sincerely tried to bring to bear the training and 
experience that I have had, along with the values with which we were 
raised in Alabama, to decide this important matter.