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Clinton Impeachment Trial: House Manager Henry Hyde’s Opening Statement

This is the opening statement by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde in the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

Hyde headed the House Managers who handled the carriage of the trial on behalf of the House of Representatives.

Opening statement by Henry Hyde in the Clinton impeachment trial.

HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN HENRY HYDE (R-ILLINOIS): Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished counsel for the president and senators. We are brought together on this solemn and historic occasion to perform important duties assigned to us by the Constitution.

We want you to know how much we respect you and this institution and how grateful we are for your guidance and your cooperation. With your permission, we the managers of the House are here to set forth the evidence in support of two articles of impeachment against President William Jefferson Clinton. You are seated in this historic chamber not to embark on some great legislative debate which these stately walls have so often witnessed but to listen to the evidence as those who must sit in judgment.

To guide you in this grave duty, you’ve taken an oath of impartiality.

With the simple words, I do, you have pledged to put aside personal bias and partisan interest and to do impartial justice. Your willingness to take up this calling has once again reminded the world of the unique brilliance of America’s constitutional system of government.

We are here, Mr. Chief Justice and distinguished senators as advocates for the rule of law, for equal justice under the law, and for the sanctity of the oath. In many ways, the case you will consider in the coming days is about those two words — I do. Pronounced at two presidential inaugurations by a person who’s spoken words have singular importance to our nation and to the great globe itself.

More than 450 years ago, Sir Thomas Moore, former lord chancellor of England, was imprisoned in the tower of London because he had in the name of conscience defied the absolute power of the king. As the playwright Robert Bow (ph) tells it, Moore was visited by his family, who tried to persuade him to speak the words of the oath that would save his life, even while in his mind and heart he held firm to his conviction that the king was in error — Moore refused. As he told his daughter Margaret, when a man takes an oath Meg, he’s holding his own self in his hands like water.

And if he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again.

Sir Thomas More, the most brilliant lawyer of his generation — a scholar with an international reputation, the center of a warm and affectionate family life which he cherished — went to his death rather than take an oath in vain.

Members of the Senate, what you do over the next few weeks will forever affect the meaning of those two words “I do.” You are now stewards of the oath. It’s significance in public service and our cherished system of justice will never be the same after this. Depending on what you decide, it will either be strengthened in its power to achieve justice, or it will go the way of so much of our moral infrastructure and become a mere convention full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The House of Representatives has named myself and 12 other members as managers of its case. I have the honor of introducing those distinguished members and explaining how we will make our initial presentation.

The gentleman from Wisconsin, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner will begin the presentation with an overview of the case. Representative Sensenbrenner is the ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee and has served for 20 years.

In 1989, Representative Sensenbrenner was a House manager in the impeachment trial of Judge Walter L. Nixon, who was convicted on two articles of impeachment for making false and misleading statements before a federal grand jury.

Following Representative Sensenbrenner will be a team of managers who will make a presentation of the relevant facts of the case. From the very outset of this ordeal, there’s been a great deal of speculation and misinformation about the facts. That has been unfortunate for everyone involved. We believe a full presentation of the facts and the law by House managers will be helpful.

Representative Ed Bryant from Tennessee was a United States attorney from the Western District of Tennessee. As a captain in the Army, Representative Bryant served in the Judge Advocate General Corps and taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Representative Bryant will explain the background of events that led to the illegal actions of the president.

Following Representative Bryant, Representative Asa Hutchinson from Arkansas will give a presentation of the factual basis for Article II, obstruction of justice.

Representative Hutchinson is a former United States attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.

Next you will hear from Representative Jim Rogan of California. Representative Rogan is a former California state judge and Los Angeles County deputy district attorney.

Representative Rogan will give a presentation of the factual basis for Article I, grand jury perjury. This should conclude our presentation for today.

Tomorrow, Representative Bill McCollum of Florida will tie all of the facts together and give a factual summation. Representative McCollum is chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, a former Naval Reserve commander and member of the Judge Advocate General Corps.

Following the presentation of the facts, a team of managers will present the law of perjury and the law of obstruction of justice and how it applies to the articles of impeachment before you today.

While the Senate has made it clear that a crime is not essential to impeachment and removal from office, these managers will explain how egregious and criminal the conduct alleged in the articles of impeachment is.

This team includes Representative George Gekas of Pennsylvania, Representative Steve Chabot of Ohio, Representative Bob Barr of Georgia, and Representative Chris Cannon of Utah.

Representative Gekas is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law.

And in 1989, he served as a manager of the impeachment trial of Judge Alcee Hastings, who the Senate convicted on eight articles for making false and misleading statements under oath, and one article of conspiracy to engage in bribery.

Representative Gekas is a former assistant district attorney. Representative Chabot serves on the subcommittee on crime and has experience as a criminal defense lawyer. Representative Barr is a former United States attorney for the Northern District of Georgia where he specialized in public corruption. He also has experience as a criminal defense attorney.

Representative Cannon has had experience as the deputy associate solicitor general of the Department of the Interior and as a practicing attorney. That should conclude our presentation for Friday.

On Saturday, three managers will make a presentation on constitutional law as it relates to this case. There has been a great deal of argument about whether the conduct alleged in these articles rises to the level of removable offenses.

This team’s analysis of the precedence of the Senate and application of the facts of this case will make it clear that the Senate has established the conduct alleged in the articles to be removable offenses.

In this presentation, you will hear from Representative Charles Canady of Florida, Representative Steve Buyer of Indiana, and Representative Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Representative Canady is chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and one of the leading voices on constitutional law in the House. Representative Buyer served in the United States Army as a member of the judge advocate general corps, where he was assigned as special assistant to the United States attorney in Virginia. He also served as a deputy to the Indiana attorney general. Representative Graham served in the Air Force as a member of the judge advocate general corps and as a South Carolina assistant attorney.

Following the presentation of the facts, the law of perjury and obstruction of justice, and Constitution law, Mr. Rogan and myself will give you a final summation and closing to our initial presentation.

Mr. Sensenbrenner.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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