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 George Voinovich was a Republican senator from Ohio. He served from 1999 until 2011.
Statement by Senator George Voinovich (Republican – Ohio)
We are not here today because the President had a relationship that he himself has described as inappropriate and wrong. As House Manager James Rogan appropriately noted, ‘Had the President’s bad choice simply ended with this indiscretion, we would not be here today. Adultery may be a lot of things, but it is not an impeachable offense. Unfortunately, the President’s bad choices only grew worse.’ It is not the President’s inappropriate relationship, but his deliberate and willful attempts to conceal and mislead that brings us to this point.
The very foundation of this nation is the rule of law not of men. The framers of our Constitution specifically provided Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution which states, ‘The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.’
On January 7, 1999, as one of my first official duties as a United States Senator, I took an oath to consider the evidence and arguments in the impeachment case against the President. We answered in the affirmative when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court administered the following oath:
Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?
I understood that the private inappropriate conduct of the President alone did not then and does not now rise to a level necessitating his removal from office. My responsibility is to fulfill the oath I took to determine impartially based on the facts, evidence and testimony whether the President committed high Crimes and Misdemeanors as outlined in the Constitution.
During my 33 years in public office, I have had to make some very difficult decisions. As governor, I had to make determinations on hundreds of requests for commutations and pardons. To my recollection, in no case have I labored more than I have over the Articles of Impeachment of our President.
After an exhaustive study, which included reading volumes of transcripts, watching the taped testimony and listening to the able arguments made by the House Managers, the White House counsel and my colleagues in the Senate, I have reached the conclusion that, beyond a reasonable doubt, the President committed both perjury and obstruction of justice as outlined in Articles I and II in the Articles of Impeachment.
I also have concluded that the President’s obstruction of justice was premeditated and undertaken over a long period of time beginning when he learned that Monica Lewinsky was placed on the witness list in the Jones case.
It is particularly disturbing that he used his brilliant mind and superb interpersonal skills to sweep other people into his scheme, thereby impairing their credibility, all to extricate himself from taking responsibility for his conduct. But for a conclusive DNA analysis, he may have succeeded in that scheme.
By committing perjury and obstructing justice, the President is guilty of high Crimes and Misdemeanors. As constitutional scholar Charles Cooper said, ‘The crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice, like the crimes of treason and bribery, are quintessentially offenses against our system of government, visiting injury immediately on society itself.’
He violated his oath of office and failed to fulfill his responsibility under the Constitution, which provides that the President ‘shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.’ Judge Griffin Bell has correctly noted, ‘A president cannot faithfully execute the laws if he himself is breaking them.’ The President has undermined the fundamental principle that we are a nation ruled by laws and not by men. There is no way in good conscience that we as a nation can have a lawbreaker remain as President of the United States when his conduct in office has included the very same acts that have resulted in the impeachment of Federal judges and have sent hundreds of people to prison. Ours is a nation of equal justice under the law.
I believe the framers of the Constitution had a President like Bill Clinton in mind when they drafted the impeachment provisions in Article II, Section 4–a very popular, brilliant communicator with extraordinary interpersonal skills who abuses his power, violates his oath of office, and evades responsibility for his actions because he believes he is above the law.
One who has committed high Crimes and Misdemeanors disqualifies himself from serving as President, Commander-in-Chief, and chief law enforcement officer. The President also represents much more than these titles and responsibilities. He is a symbol of the greatness of the American people. Presidential scholar Clinton Rossiter observed that the president of the United States is ‘the one-man distillation of the American people.’ And, President William Howard Taft described the president as ‘the personal embodiment and representative of their dignity and majesty.’
By virtue of his own conduct, William Jefferson Clinton has forfeited his elected right to hold the office of president. I sincerely believe that this country can survive the removal of a popular president who has forfeited public trust. But, our country cannot survive the abandonment of trust itself.