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 Timothy (‘Chuck’) Hagel was a Republican senator from Nebraska. He served from 1997 until 2009. He later served as Secretary of Defence in the Obama Administration.
Statement by Senator Chuck Hagel (Republican – Nebraska)
I write this statement at my desk on the floor of the United States Senate. After weeks of listening, reading, reviewing, reflection, analysis and contemplation I have come to the conclusion that I will vote to convict the President on both Articles of Impeachment.
The Constitution is very clear. It requires Members of the United States Senate to vote for or against each Article of Impeachment. No improvising. No substitutions. No censures. No findings of fact. The completeness of the charges against the President is powerful. The issue is abuse of power. Did the President abuse his power and therefore violate the Nation’s trust in him? We must remember that trust is the only true currency elected officials have.
Perjury and obstruction of justice are not just federal crimes. When committed by an elected official they are abuses of power. When committed by a president they constitute an abuse of the highest power. The standards and expectations for America’s elected officials cannot be calibrated. When elected officials bring down those standards and expectations and violate the people’s trust . . . they rip the very fabric of our Nation. There is then a dishonoring of the spirit that is the guardian of American justice.
There can be no shading of right and wrong. The complicated currents that have coursed through this impeachment process are many. But after stripping away the underbrush of legal technicalities and nuance, I find that the President abused his sacred power by lying and obstructing justice. How can parents instill values and morality in their children? How can educators teach our children? How can the rule of law for every American be applied equally if we have two standards of justice in America–one for the powerful and the other for the rest of us?
What holds this Nation, this society, this culture, together? Yes, laws are part of it. But it is really the strong moral foundation anchored by values and standards–the individual sense of right and wrong, personal responsibility, accountability for one’s actions. This is what holds a free people together. Respect for each other–not because a law dictates that action–but rather because it’s the right thing to do.
The President violated his Constitutional oath and he broke the law. His crimes do rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors prescribed in the Constitution. The President’s actions cannot be defended by dancing on the pin head of legal technicality. Every American must know actions have consequences. Even for presidents. All Americans must have faith in our laws and know that there is equal justice for all. The core of our judicial process is the rule of law.
Americans deserve to always expect the highest standard of conduct from their elected officials. If that expectation is defined down over time, it will erode the very base of our democracy and put our Republic in peril. That is the point of the Impeachment Clause of our Constitution . . . to protect the Republic. The Impeachment clause of our Constitution is there to ensure the fitness of an individual to hold high office. President Clinton’s conduct has debased his office and violated the soul of justice–truth. He has thereby debased and violated the American people. I have no other course to follow than to vote to convict President William Jefferson Clinton on both Articles of Impeachment.