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Clinton Impeachment: Statement By Senator Barbara Boxer

The following is a statement from the Senate’s closed deliberations on the Articles of Impeachment against President Clinton, excerpts of which senators were allowed to publish in the Congressional Record for Friday, February 12, 1999.

Senator Barbara Boxer is a Democratic senator from California. She has served from 1993.

Statement by Senator Barbara Boxer (Democrat – California)

Mr. Chief Justice, thank you for your dignity. And to both our leaders, thank you for your patience.

Colleagues, I will vote to acquit the President, and it is not because his poll numbers are high or because the economy is good. And it is not because Bill Clinton is a Democrat.

When I was in the House of Representatives, an impeachment resolution was filed against Republican President Ronald Reagan–an impeachment resolution because of Iran-Contra, which involved selling arms to a terrorist nation with the proceeds going to the Nicaraguan contras. This was against the law of the United States of America–against the law–against the rule of law.

I voted for that law, but I never went on that impeachment resolution against Ronald Reagan because I felt it would have hurt the country and because there was no bipartisan support for it.

I think the same should be said of this impeachment. There is no bipartisan support for it and the President’s removal would hurt the country.

One more preface: It has been said that what the President did in this case was worse than what Senator Packwood did.

In this case, we have a consensual affair, wanted by both parties. It was irresponsible and indefensible: a young woman, a relationship wrong in every way, a president trying desperately to hide the affair.

The young woman was secretly tape recorded and forced to testify. Her mother was forced to testify.

The more than 20 women who complained about Senator Packwood alleged forced sexual misconduct against them. One victim was 17 years old. They wanted to tell their stories.

So each of us can decide for himself or herself the relationship of one case to the other. But surely that is not the issue before us.

Neither is the Paula Jones case, which was thrown out of court by a Republican female judge who ruled that there was no sexual harassment by the President. Testimony about a consensual sexual affair was immaterial.

Yes, the case was later settled, but that doesn’t change its history: no sexual harassment, determined by a Republican female judge.

So, Senator Packwood is not before us, nor is Paula Jones. What is before us is the sanctity of the Constitution.

Let me now offer an apology to my constituents for voting in favor of the Independent Counsel Law in its current form–a law that has given one person an unlimited budget, unlimited scope, unlimited time and an unlimited ability to hurt people, and to hurt them badly.

The Senate is now sitting as a court of impeachment, primarily because, for over four years, we had an Independent Counsel spending more than $42 million searching for an impeachable offense.

And while I condemn the President’s behavior, it was no excuse for the Ken Starr witchhunt, which went from a real estate deal, to several other fruitless investigations, to a sex deal built around illegally recorded phone conversations with someone named Linda Tripp. Linda Tripp, who says she’s like all of us. Heaven help us if all of us act like Linda Tripp, secretly recording our dear friends. What a country this would be!

I also want to comment on one other matter which is personal to me, and that is my daughter’s family connection to the First Lady.

While none of my Senate colleagues questioned the propriety of my participation in the impeachment matter–for which I thank you all–I was the target of a barrage or questions by the media and others outside this body.

I just want to say that yes, my daughter is married to the First Lady’s brother, a brother who loves and admires his sister and doesn’t want to see her hurt. So, I am far from being a defender of the President’s behavior.

But I am a fierce defender of our Constitution.

That is why I have joined a small number of senators, led by the distinguished senator from West Virginia, in fighting amendments to that precious document.

Believe me, being against the line-item veto and the balanced budget amendment were not popular positions in my state; my positions made my reelection tougher. But I have never doubted that defending the Constitution is worth risking my Senate seat, which I cherish so much.

And it is because of my deep reverence for the Constitution that I believe we must reject the articles of impeachment before us today.

Why? Because the high crimes and misdemeanors constitutional requirement for removal has not been met–not even close.

The Constitution does not say remove the President if he fails to be a role model for our children. It does not say remove the President if he violates the military code of conduct, or the Senate Ethics Code. It does not say remove the President if he brings pain to his family.

It says very clearly that the President shall be impeached and removed from office only for committing treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

In his Commentaries on the Constitution, Justice Joseph Story endorsed the view that `those offenses which may be committed equally by a private person as a public officer are not the subject of impeachment.’ This means that presidential impeachable offenses are, generally, acts which could not be done by anyone other than the president.

Impeachment and removal from office was not meant to be a punishment of the President, but rather a protection of the country from a tyrant who would use his or her power against the people and the Constitution.

This President is not a tyrant who is threatening our democracy and freedom or the delicate balance of powers set up by our Constitution. So the `high crimes and misdemeanors’ standard established by the Constitution has not been met in my view.

We must also reject these articles because there is every reason to doubt the House managers’ case on perjury and obstruction of justice. They have presented not one shred of direct evidence for their claims, and the details of their circumstantial case have been decimated in many respects. As one manager said on national television, he couldn’t win the case in a court of law as it was presented in the House.

I don’t see how the case was strengthened in the Senate. In fact, I believe that it was weakened in the Senate.

When you have clear statements by Monica Lewinsky that the President never, ever told her to hide gifts and never discussed the contents of her affidavit–when you have Betty Currie saying she never felt intimated by the President and Vernon Jordan saying the job search was never connected to anything else–it seems to me there is substantial doubt on both counts.

That leads to another point. Rejecting these articles of impeachment does not place this President above the law. As the Constitution clearly says, he remains subject to the laws of the land just like any other citizen of the United States.

As Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution says, the President `shall . . . be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.’ So it should be a comfort to those who believe the President committed crimes surrounding his affair that the President, indeed, is subject to the rule of law–our Founders made that certain.

At this point, I want to thank Senator Tom Harkin for his challenge to the House Managers that the Senate is not a jury. In so ruling, Chief Justice Rehnquist, in my view, gave us the charge to look at the big picture, and that is very important.

Part of that picture is how the House of Representatives acted in this matter. I served in the House for ten years, and I never saw the minority party denied a vote on an alternative of their choosing in an important matter. Yet Democrats and moderate Republicans were denied a vote on censure, and I believe this was a disaster for democracy in that body.

Listen to what a Republican House Member who voted against impeachment wrote to a constituent:

I regret that Congressional Republicans were so blinded by their opposition to President Clinton that they voted to impeach him rather than stand by the traditional principles of their Party. I also regret that threats were made against me by the Republican leadership in an attempt to keep me from voting my conscience.

Those are the words of one of the five brave Republicans who voted against impeachment in the House. To me that speaks volumes about the kind of illegitimate process that got us here, and I believe in my heart that history will judge the House proceedings very harshly.

But I believe that the Senate, if it rejects the articles in a bipartisan way, will be viewed in a better light, and history will say that in 1999 the Senate decided that impeachment should not be used by one party to overturn the results of a presidential election that it did not like.

As Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote of the Senate acquittal of President Andrew Johnson in 1868:

The importance of the acquittal can hardly be overstated. With respect to the chief executive, it has meant that as to the policies he sought to pursue, he would be answerable only to the country as a whole in the quadrennial presidential elections, and not to Congress through the process of impeachment.

If I may, Mr. Chief Justice, I understand from your wise words that the President does not and should not serve at the pleasure of the House and Senate.

The Senate did the right thing in 1868–and by its decision not to remove the President, it brought stability to our nation. We should do no less now.

Voting against the articles of impeachment is the right thing to do to keep faith with our Constitution and to keep faith with our democracy for generations to come.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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