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Clinton Impeachment: Statement By Senator Ernest Hollings

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 Ernest (‘Fritz’) Hollings was a Democratic senator from South Carolina. He served from 1966 until 2005.

Statement by Senator Ernest Hollings (Democrat – South Carolina)

Mr. Chief Justice, I shall vote with a clear conscience not to convict; rather, to acquit. And I have no better authority, of course, than my own Congressman, the manager, Lindsey Graham, when asked–and I will never forget it–by the Senators from North Carolina and Wisconsin: ‘Under the law and the facts as then submitted at the end of the presentation, could reasonable people find differently with respect to guilt?’ and Congressman Graham said, ‘Why, of course,’ that reasonable people could differ. And when the manager says there is reasonable doubt, that ends the case.

But let’s remember that the impeachment clause is not intended to punish the President, but to protect the Republic. And the mistake in this entire presentation on both sides, in my judgment, has been that they have been trying a criminal case rather than a political case. What is really for the good of the country? I go to the understanding of the impeachment clause with respect to the author himself, George Mason, who said, `must be guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors against the State.’ And Justice Story, in the midcentury, said that you could only impeach a President for conduct that only the President could engage in.’

I will never forget, when they gave us the booklet, in the Nixon impeachment, by the eminent professor of constitutional law, Charles Black, he said that `an impeachable offense must constitute a deep wrong to the country, an abuse of Presidential power.’ And everybody is talking about the polls and I think they are significant. When 80 percent of the people believe the President lied, and I believe he did–not on the perjury charge, and not on the obstruction of justice, of course, but I believe he lied–and 80 percent of the people believe he lied, but 70 percent of the people said keep him there. Why? Because there wasn’t a deep wrong to the country.

Let’s get to it. Fooling around–that was what Monica Lewinsky called it–seen as sex and not, fooling around is not a crime. In fact, actual intercourse constitutes adultery, a crime which the managers, I would say, are very familiar with.

We must remember that the fooling around was between consenting adults, both of them sexually experienced. Incidentally, in private both of them are admitted liars. The President said he lied. Monica said that she grew up lying, was taught to lie.

But the managers said, `Oh, this isn’t about sex, this is about crime.’ Really? I have been at the law too long. A sues B for the crime of adultery, sexual misconduct. A and B both swear under oath and through their pleadings and their testimony and not before a halfway grand jury. I always wondered, what if prosecutors went under oath before a grand jury? We would have to build new courthouses. But be that as it may, they swear under oath in testimony before the judge who is trying the case on its merits, and A or B loses–whoever the loser–are they taken over to criminal court and charged for lying under oath and obstruction of justice?

I called a prosecutor in Congressman Graham’s district, an 18-year experienced prosecutor, a Republican, George Duckworth. I said, `George, have you ever taken lying under oath and obstruction of justice for sexual misconduct–have you ever taken that to criminal court?’ He said, `It’s never happened.’

I then went to the chief of all the State prosecutors, John Justice, who happens to be from my State, and he said he had never heard of it.

So we are beginning to get to really what is going on, and that is not to say, whoopee, everybody lies about sex and we can go ahead and do that. We are not saying that at all, because the President can be charged with it, as anybody can. It might be a rare case, but we ought to remember, rather than that one witness that they found–and I guess they will find another one–but the Republican district attorneys who testified on the House side, the deputy attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division, William Weld, they said they would never bring the case.

This case never should have been brought. Any respectable prosecutor would have been embarrassed actually to so charge.

I will never forget when this commenced, David Pryor, the Senator from Arkansas almost 4 years ago, said: Wait a minute, 41 TDY FBI agents coming from one side of Arkansas to the other, 81 support personnel, asking, `Did you ever sleep with Bill Clinton? Do you know anybody who slept with him? I heard you know. We’re going to take you before the grand jury.’ Locking up witnesses who did not testify to what they wanted attested to, paying off others and securing them and hiding the witnesses, and on and on; and thereafter subpoenaing the mother in tears; the Secret Service, the White House steward, the bookstore; some 4 1/2, 5 years and $50 million. And they come up with private sexual misconduct, in privacy. I know it is a public office. It is a public office, but we operate in private in our own offices. To make this thing public after all of that expense and effort, I would be embarrassed as a prosecutor to bring it.

But not Kenneth Starr. He wasn’t embarrassed. He should never have taken it. A member of the Kirkland & Ellis law firm that had an interest in the case, the Jones case, was participating at the time. Instead of recusing himself, he immediately started pursuing that case with the official hand of Government.

Three years ago, seven former independent prosecutors expressed dismay at Starr’s ethics. He was representing private clients inimical to the defendant, our President. The New York Times and other newspapers editorialized that he ought to step aside. But instead of removing himself, he continued to talk to political groups, all the time leaking information and, yes, holding up his findings after 4 1/2 years until after the election and saying he found nothing with respect to Filegate, Travelgate, Whitewater, or any of the other cases for which he was commissioned–no embarrassment at all.

He injected himself so in the House proceedings to where finally his ethics advisor, Sam Dash–who, of course, had been the principal participant in Watergate–had to resign. Then he injected himself over here on the Senate side, and last weekend, during a key moment, of course, he said he was going to bring a criminal indictment. He leaked that information.

So now we have the Justice Department investigating the independent prosecutor for his misconduct in the way he treated the main witness with respect to her access to counsel. And you have an 8-to-1 vote in the American Bar Association, which has been inserted; they say let this independent prosecutor thing die.

Yes, we have, like Bryant said, broad overreaching of power. Not by Clinton. He got into an elicit affair, and he tried like everybody else to cover it up. They sought to characterize it as lying, lying, lying, lying under oath. We had the chief of the managers; he lied not just from January till August, but 30 years –and others over there. The hypocrisy of that crowd.

Yes, we had broad overreaching of powers, mindful, of course, of the reason that we declared our independence 223 years ago–`sending hither swarms of officers to harass our people and seek out their substance.’ We have it now, and we have a chance to try it. We have an impeachment case, but we are trying to impeach the wrong person. That is why the American people are as concerned as they are. That is what you find in the polls that we keep talking about.

Let’s understand, of course, that President Clinton debased the Office of the Presidency, but let’s say once and for all that we are not going to have the political hijacking of the Office of the Presidency. Let’s be certain when we vote this week that we don’t debase the Constitution.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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