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 Frank Murkowski was a Republican senator from Alaska. He served from 1981 until 2002, when he became Governor of Alaska.
Statement by Senator Frank Murkowski (Republican – Alaska)
Mr. Chief Justice, it seems to be a prerequisite to speak today for Senators to indicate the number of grandchildren each has. I am proud to say Nancy and I have 11, but I won’t indulge you with naming each of them.
I along with all of you will soon cast our votes on the Articles of Impeachment that have been presented against President Clinton. With the exception of voting on a declaration of war, I can think of no more serious vote that a Senator will cast in his or her lifetime than on removing a President from office. History may or may not tell which vote is correct.
We have deliberated more than 67 hours. Five weeks ago, we met in the old Senate Chamber and on a 100-0 vote departed on a course of action to resolve this matter. The House Managers presented the case against the President. White House counsel presented their defense and then Senators spent two days submitting questions to both sides. We then resolved the question of witnesses by allowing the use of videotapes, and heard final arguments from both sides on Monday. For the past two days, Senators have offered their statements on this matter and we are on target to reach a final vote on the two Articles in less than 48 hours. That’s our Constitutional duty. I am proud and honored to have participated in this historical deliberation and respect each of you and your words.
There are several recollections about the facts in this case that trouble me. Perhaps it is because I am not a lawyer.
In Ms. Lewinsky’s testimony, she indicated that on the first day she met the President, she was wearing a pink identification tag which provides limited access to the White House. The President reached out and held it and said: ‘Well, this could be a problem’ or words to that effect. That tells us something about the President’s character.
Furthermore, after the Lewinsky story broke in the press, the President had Dick Morris conduct a poll and when Morris told the President that the public would forgive him for adultery but not for perjury or obstruction of justice, the President responded: ‘We will just have to win then.’ That tells me something else about the President.
It should also be noted that we would not be here if Ms. Lewinsky had not kept the blue dress which contained the DNA evidence implicating the President beyond a doubt. Without that dress, it would be an old story of ‘He said/She said.’ Think about that.
Finally, we are all held accountable for our actions. But the President refuses to be held accountable. And I have a problem with the repeated reference from the First Lady that the President ministers to troubled people, suggesting that Monica Lewinsky was such a person.
What has been happening, not just here in Washington, but all around the country is something far more disturbing than the trial of a President. What we have been witnessing is a contest for the very moral soul of the United States of America–and that the great casualty so far of the national scandal is the notion of Truth.
Truth has been shown to us as an elastic commodity.
It has been said that this trial is not about the partisan political gamesmanship between the President’s Democratic supporters and the Republican forces on the other side, as the media would have you think.
Indeed one pundit said that more Americans get their ideas and reactions of the impeachment process from Jay Leno than they do from CNN.
The polls show Americans favoring leaving the President in office while they say Republicans appear bent on political suicide.
It has been said that Republicans see accountability, discipline and punishment as fundamental to the very structure of American society and that the President ought to be the ‘stern father’ image and a figure of moral authority.
Clinton’s liberal supporters model American society on the ‘nurturing parent’ concept. To them, the Presidency is less a figure of moral authority than a helpful and powerful friend capable of doing good.
Where were you when former President Nixon resigned? I wondered at the time whether the republic would survive Watergate. We did survive and many believe we are a stronger nation because of that process.
In reaching a judgment in this case, I have reviewed the evidence presented by the House Managers and the able defense offered by the President’s counsel. I have concluded that the President is guilty on both Articles and that the two Articles more than satisfy the Constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors.
I believe the President should be removed from office not because he engaged in irresponsible, reckless, and reprehensible conduct in the Oval Office with a White House intern. He should be removed from office because he engaged in conduct designed to undermine the foundation, the very bedrock, of the concept of due process of law and, by extension, the very notion of the rule of law.
There is no question in my mind that President Clinton intentionally provided false and misleading testimony and committed perjury before the Grand Jury when he told the Grand Jury he was `trying to figure out what the facts were’ when he made the following statements to his Secretary Betty Currie the day after his civil deposition testimony:
‘I was never really alone with Monica, right?’
‘You were always there when Monica was there, right?’
‘Monica came on to me, and I never touched her, right?’
‘She wanted to have sex with me, and I cannot do that.’
Mr. Chief Justice, it is just not credible to believe that these statements were designed to help the President elicit facts since he, and not Betty Currie, knew precisely the type of indiscreet activities he and Monica Lewinsky had engaged in. To believe his testimony, one would have to assume the unbelievable–that the President engaged in these acts with Ms. Lewinsky in the full expectation that Ms. Currie witnessed them.
It is only reasonable to assume that the President’s statements to Ms. Currie, made on more than one occasion (twice), were designed for one, and only one simple purpose: to coach and influence her future testimony. He was clearly seeking to undermine judicial proceedings by encouraging her to lie under oath for the single purpose of protecting him. His conduct not only amounts to false testimony, but provides a clear basis to conclude that the President sought to obstruct justice.
Moreover, it is undisputed that gifts the President gave to Monica Lewinsky, gifts that were subpoenaed in the civil suit against the President, were removed from Ms. Lewinsky’s possession and hidden under Betty Currie’s bed. There is no rational reason that Ms. Currie, on her own, decided to seek the return of the gifts. The only inference that a reasonable person could conclude is that the President asked Ms. Currie to retrieve the gifts in an effort to conceal evidence from the court; evidence that was clearly relevant in the civil case.
The House Managers have presented a credible case showing that the President increased the pressure on his friend, Vernon Jordan, to obtain a private sector job for Ms. Lewinsky when she was named as a potential witness in the civil case brought against the President. It was not a coincidence of events, but rather a concerted effort by the President to secure employment for Ms. Lewinsky to ensure an affidavit that did not harm his interests. Mr. Jordan is not at fault; he was merely a pawn in the President’s strategy to obstruct justice by encouraging the submission of a false affidavit from Ms. Lewinsky.
Mr. Chief Justice, the charges against the President concern perjury, witness tampering, and concealing of evidence. These offenses clearly rise to the level of obstructing justice in the same sense that bribing a witness to testify falsely or destroying evidence amount to obstruction of justice.
Today, there are 115 people incarcerated in federal prisons because they were convicted of perjury. On Saturday, we heard the videotape testimony of Dr. Barbara Battalino who had been an attorney and a VA doctor. Her crime? She lied about sex under oath in a civil proceeding. Her penalty? She lost her medical license. She lost her right to practice law. She was fired from her job. The Clinton Justice Department prosecuted her for perjury and she was sentenced to 6 months of imprisonment under electronic monitoring and paid a $3,500 fine.
Should not the standard applied to Dr. Battalino apply to the President of the United States who swore an oath to `preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,’ when he entered office and who swore an oath to tell the truth when he testified before the Grand Jury? Or should we condone the standard the President suggested in his Grand Jury testimony, when he testified that he ‘said things that were true, that may have been misleading?’ Think about that statement!
Mr. Chief Justice, the foundation of our republic is that we are a nation governed by laws, not by men. For the rule of law to be maintained, there must be a credible system of justice. Any effort to undermine the integrity of the judicial system subverts the principle of a nation of laws. And that system of justice depends for it very survival on maintaining the integrity of the oath that a person swears to tell the truth. Otherwise, if we turn a blind eye and allow people to lie under oath, destroy or hide evidence, or conspire to present false and misleading testimony, the entire notion of justice and truth become meaningless.
The President’s counsel on Monday asked the question: ‘Would it put at risk the liberty of the people to retain the President in office?’ Unfortunately, I believe the answer is yes. The right of an individual to a fair trial is endangered when the President of the United States remains in office having undermined the rule of law by obstructing justice and committing perjury.
Why should a citizen tell the truth in a court room when it does not serve his interest if the President is allowed to perjure himself because it does not serve his interest?
Why should an individual not try to influence the testimony of a witness, when the President suffers no adverse consequences when he seeks to influence the testimony of a witness?
Does anyone in this chamber believe that obstruction of justice is not a high crime and misdemeanor? Does anyone in this chamber believe that President Clinton did not attempt to obstruct justice? If your answer to those questions is in the affirmative, I believe you must, I repeat, you must vote to convict and remove the President. That is the mandate of the Constitution.
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution provides the President. . . . shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.
There is nothing in the Constitution that says that a President with a high popularity rating shall not be removed if convicted. The Framers believed that it was so important to rid the government of officials convicted for such offenses that the Framers gave us no latitude on the question of removal from office.
Mr. Chief Justice, the nation has endured more than a year of what started as a scandal and turned into an obstruction of justice and an impeachment. Again, had there been no DNA evidence, Ms. Lewinsky would have been smeared in the press as a stalker and this case would be closed.
I hope my colleagues in good conscience can put party aside and uphold the oath we took a month ago to be impartial in our judgment of President Clinton. This is a sad day for our contemporary country but a magnificent day for the Founders who recognized that no man is above the law and gave us the tools to remove those who violate the public trust.