This is the statement by George Gekas on the law in the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
Gekas, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, was one of the Impeachment Trial Managers, charged with presenting the House case against the President.
Statement on the Law by House Manager George Gekas.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MISSISSIPPI), MAJORITY LEADER: I believe now we’re going to go through a segment where we’re going to hear from three of the managers, Congressman Gekas, Chabot, and Cannon. And we will take another break shortly after 3:30.
WILLIAM REHNQUIST, CHIEF JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT: The chair recognizes Mr. Manager Gekas.
REP. GEORGE GEKAS (R-PENNSYLVANIA), IMPEACHMENT TRIAL MANAGER: Mr. Chief Justice, counsel for the president, colleagues from the House, and members of the Senate, up to now, you have been fully informed of the state of the record in this case. In many different ways, from very many different tonalities uttered by the managers who so magnificently, in my judgment, wove the story that began in 1997 and ended not yet.
But that narrative that the managers were able to produce for you and put on the record has met even as we speak with commentary in the public that we’ve all known all of this before.
But the big difference is that now it is part of the history of the country. It is lodged in the records of the Senate of the United States. And together with the Congressional record of the proceedings that preceded these, those in the House, we now have the dawning of the final chapters of this particular incident involving the president in which you will have the final word.
But that’s what the importance was of what you have heard up to now, the complete record woven together, step by step, so that no one in this chamber at this juncture does not know all the facts that are pertinent to this case. That is a magnificent accomplishment on the part of the managers.
But the record is not yet complete. And that is where I and Representative Chabot, Representative Cannon and Representative Barr come in, so that now we can take the next step in fulfillment of the record. And that is to try to apply the statutory laws, the laws of our nation, as they obtain to the facts that you now have well ingrained into your consciousness.
And to do that, we have to repeat some of the facts. Some of these matters overlap. And so the attention that you’ve given to the matters at hand up to now, your undivided attention is needed continuously.
For instance, we cannot discuss even the application of these statutes to the facts unless we repeat the series of events that catapulted us to this moment in history.
And we must begin, as you have heard countless times now, on and off this floor, we must begin with, in my judgment, with the Supreme Court of the United States, with all due deference to the chief justice, because the Supreme Court at one point in this saga determined in a suit brought by Paula Jones that indeed an average, day-to-day, ordinary citizen of our nation would have the right to have a day in court, as it were, even against the president of the United States.
It is there that all of this began. Because that fellow American, Paula Jones, no matter how she may have been described by commentators and pundits and talking heads, etcetera, did have a bundle of rights at her command. And those rights went even to the core of our system of justice to bring the president into the case as a defendant. That is an awesome, a grand result of the Supreme Court decision at that juncture.
And this is what is being overlooked, in my judgment, as we pursue why we believe that if perjury indeed was committed, and the record is replete that in fact it was; if indeed obstruction of justice was finally committed by the president of the United States, as the evidence is abundant to demonstrate, then we must apply the rights of Paula Jones to what has transpired.
We are not saying that the president, even though the weight of the evidence demonstrates it amply, should be convicted of the impeachment which has brought us to this floor because he committed perjury — just because he committed perjury or obstructed justice.
But because as a result of his actions, both in rendering falsehoods under oath as the evidence demonstrates amply, or in obstructing justice, that because of his conduct, he attempted to or succeeded in or almost succeeded in, and does it matter which of these results finally emerges, attempted to destroy the rights of a fellow American citizen.
That is what the gravamen of all that has occurred up to now really is.
In attempting to obstruct justice, we mean by that obstructing the justice of whom?
It was an attempt, a bold attempt, one that succeeded in some respects, to obstruct the justice sought by a fellow American citizen. That is heavy. That is soul searching in its quality. That goes beyond those who would say: He committed perjury about sex, so what? That goes beyond saying: This is just about sex, so what, everybody lies about sex.
But when you combine all the features of the actions of the president of the United States and you see that they are funneled and tunneled and aimed and targeted towards obliterating from the landscape the rights of Paula Jones, a fellow American citizen, then you must take a second look at your own assertion that “so what?” is just a question of fact about sex.
Many of the members of this chamber and the others have already acknowledged that the president has lied under oath, but then they’re quick to add that “so what?” which is so disturbing in view of the results of what has happened in this case. Before the House of Representatives, and it’s part of your record, we had a group of academicians — professors — testifying. Professor Higginbotham, who since, sadly, I must relate, has passed away since his appearance then — was trying to show how futile it was for us to even attempt to append perjury to indictable, prosecutable offense, that nowhere in the country is it prosecuted regularly, and it’s so trivial, because it’s based on sex.
He went on to give a kind of an example of how trivial it is. Would you expect, he was asking us, and I’m paraphrasing him I know, would you expect to indict the president of the United States for perjury if he lied that in a 55-mile speed limit, even though he was going 56, that he would say I was only going 51, would you indict him on that?
In the repartee that I had with him at that juncture, I asked him would he feel the same if as a result of that perjurious testimony about only going 51 miles an hour there was a victim in the case? That this might be a tort case, an involuntary manslaughter case, a negligence case in which someone died as a result of an automobile accident case.
And the issue at hand would be the speeding — speed limit. Would he feel the same way, if as a result of the perjury committed as to the rate of speed, that someone’s rights were erased from the case by virtue of that perjury?
The gentleman acknowledged that that made a difference, and that’s what the difference is here. The perjury per se, that be a phrase that we lawyers can adopt, the perjury per se is almost a given pursuant to the commentary that we’ve heard from people in and out of this chamber.
But when you add to it, the terrible consequence of seeing a fellow citizen pursuing justice thwarted, stopped in her tracks as it were, by reason of the actions of the president, that is what the core issue here is.
And to take it then from the status of what consequence it had to that fellow American citizen to the next step is, in my judgment, an easier one.
To go to the determination of whether or not there was an impeachable offense. My colleagues will show you how the law of perjury and the law of obstruction of justice fit into this pattern of factual circumstance that we bring to you.
But in the meantime, we must recount, even at the risk of overlapping in some of the testimony, that following the initial recognition by the president that there was going to be a witness list. And that Monica Lewinsky would eventually appear, as she did on that witness list, this occurred. Which is little examined, thus far in the world of the scandal, in which we’re all participants.
And that is this, the first item of business on the part of the Jones lawyers in pursuing the rights of Paula Jones was to issue a set of interrogatories, a discovery procedure that is well recognized in our courts all over the land.
A set of interrogatories arrives at the president’s desk. At this juncture, this is way before the president appeared at the depositions about which you know everything now. The facts have been related to you in 100 different ways. You know that pretty well. I know you do.
But did you know — did you — can you fasten your attention for a moment, knowing that this happened in depositions on a month before, on December the 23rd 1997 when what the president had in front of him were interrogatories that said, that asked: Did he ever have sexual relations with anyone other than his spouse during the time that he was governor of Arkansas or president of the United States?
And there the president answered, or I think that the interrogatory stated, name any persons with whom you’ve had sexual relations other than your wife. And the answer that the president rendered into those interrogatories, under oath, was “none.”
I say to the ladies and gentlemen of the Senate that this was the first falsehood stated under oath which became a chain reaction of falsehoods under oath, and even without the oath, all the way to the nuclear explosion of falsehoods that were uttered in the grand jury in August of 1998.
This little innocuous piece of paper called interrogatories was placed before the president, presumably with or without counsel, but let’s even presume with counsel, and it was a straight question, not with any definitions, no confusing colloquy between a judge and a gaggle of lawyers, no interpretive — interpretation being put on any particular word in the interrogatories, but whether or not sexual relations had been urged or participated in by the president of the United States. And the answer was none, in naming those persons.
What does that mean to you?
Does that not mean to you that, when confronted right at the outset with the phrase “sexual relations” that the president adopted and determined the common usage, well-understood definition of sexual relations that everybody in America recognizes as being the true meaning of sexual relations — meaning sex of any kind?
Did not the president answer that under the common understanding that all of us entertain when we discuss, if more so than the last year than ever before in our lives, the phrase “sexual relations?”
To me, that’s a telling feature in this case, because when you leap over that and get to the depositions, and everything that the president might have said in those depositions, as his counsel have repeatedly asserted to us, was true — that he did not lie, that he did not commit perjury, that he did not evade the truth, that — some of if was puzzling to them, even — but that it did not amount to perjury.
Can they say that about the statement one month before on December 23rd in the interrogatories? That’s extremely important. Now, that is my recollection. Yours is the one that will have to predominate of course, but the weight that I put on it, I urge you to at least evaluate as you begin to level your weight on the evidence that has been presented.
And if that was not enough, on January the 15th, again before the deposition, another interrogatory, this one a request for documents, was submitted to the president. And again, the questioning there was, and you’ll see it in the record, it’s in the record, the request for documents says to submit anything that pertained to Monica Lewinsky, the intern or employee Monica Lewinsky, of whatever description — notes, gifts, whatever. And the president in that particular instance against said “none.”
I’m willing to give the president a reasonable doubt on that, and even ask you if you don’t place as much weight on it as I do, to forget all about that. But the point is that these assertions under oath were made before the Jones deposition was ever even conceived, let alone undertaken on January the 17th.
And so, he cannot, the president cannot use the lawyer talk and judge banter and the descriptions and definitions of sexual relations to cloud the answers that he gave at that time. And all of this in the continuous effort to destroy the rights of Paula Jones, a fellow American citizen.
That brings up the question, if someone, a member of your family, or someone who is a witness to these proceedings, had a serious case in which oneself, one’s property, one’s family has been severely damaged, would you suffer without a whimper perjurious testimony given against you? Would you know down deep that at the end of the day has caused you to lose your chance at retribution, a chance to be compensated for damages, to restore your family life? Isn’t that what our system is all about? Isn’t that what the adverse consequence is of the attempt to obliterate the Paula Jones civil suit?
That’s what it is. Not he committed perjury, so what! It is what the end result of that perjury might be that you should weigh. Skip over the fact that he committed perjury. We all acknowledge that, it is said. But now, tell me what that does to Paul Jones or potentially could do to Paula Jones? Or to one of you or to one of your spouses, or to one of, a member of your community who wants to have justice done in the courts.
Obstruction of justice is obstruction of justice to an individual or to a family. To take from Paula Jones and telescope it upwards to every to community and every courthouse and every state and every community in our land. And there is a Paul Jones eager to assert certain rights. And then, be confronted with someone who would tear it down by false testimony, by lies under oath.
That is what the gravamen (ph) of all of this really is.
One more thing, the counsel for the president, have repeatedly an very authoritatively and professionally have asserted, as many of you have, that this is not an impeachable offense. For after all they say, an impeachable offense — an impeachable offense is one in which there is a direct attack on the system of government, not perjury, not obstruction of justice. So what on those, they imply. They say it does not — perjury, especially about sex — attack the system of government.
I must tell you that, as an eight or nine or 10 year old, I would accompany my mother to naturalization school three or four nights a week where my mother was intent on learning the English language and learning about the history of the United States, as the teachers for naturalization were preparing these prospective citizens. And she was so proud that she learned that the first president of the United States was George Washington, was prepared to answer that question if it was posed to her at naturalization court. And she was so proud when I was testing her preparing her.
Each time I said, “Mom, what are the three branches of government?” And she would say, “The exec, and the legislay, and the judish” in her wonderful, lovable accent. She knew the system of government and she did have to answer that at naturalization court. And she knew that one wall of the three that protect our rights is the judish. She knew that the courthouse and the rights of citizens which are advanced in that courthouse is — are the system of government.
Can anyone say that purposely attempting to destroy someone’s case in the courthouse is not an attack on the system of government of our country?
Mr. Chabot will elucidate on perjury.