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Clinton Impeachment: Statement By Senator John Edwards

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 John Edwards was a Democratic senator from North Carolina. He served from 1995 until 2005.

Statement by Senator John Edwards (Democrat – North Carolina)

I add my praise, Mr. Chief Justice, for the work you have done, but I would add one other thing. The last time I saw you before this impeachment trial you were leading a sing-along at the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference. I thought it might be a good idea for this group.

The CHIEF JUSTICE: A healing device.


Mr. EDWARDS: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. I have prepared remarks. But I am not going to use them. I made that decision about 20 minutes ago.

I have been sitting, listening to my fellow Senators speak, and I want to speak to you from the heart. I want to speak to you about a struggle, because I have been through a struggle. It is a real struggle. And I suspect that there are an awful lot of you who have been through the same struggle–both before we voted on the motion to dismiss and, for me, since we voted on the motion to dismiss.

For me, the law is a sacred thing. And that is part of my life. I have seen what the law can do. It is a powerful, powerful thing. It can do extraordinary things for ordinary people. And I believe we have been given a sacred responsibility. I will tell you what that sacred responsibility means to me personally. It means that when I walked in here the first day of this impeachment trial I was 100 percent completely open to voting to remove this President.

And I have to tell you all something, my friends on this side of the aisle, that wasn’t a hard thing for me to do. I think this President has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen.

So I said to myself, what is the right and fair thing to do? And this is what I have done. I have looked–many times until 3 a.m. in the morning–at the evidence in this case. Because I think that is the way we need to make this decision.

The perjury charge, I believe, is just not there. The evidence is not there to support it. I know many of you believe it is there. I respect your view on that. I don’t believe it is there. The obstruction charge is a totally different matter. And this is the way I have thought about the obstruction charge.

I view, in my mind’s eye, the scales of justice. And on one side, where the prosecution makes an allegation, I put their evidence. On the other side I put the defense evidence. And I do believe that for a charge this serious that the proper standard is beyond a reasonable doubt.

So after that evidence is put on both sides of the scale of justice, what happens? I want to just very briefly go through what I think are the four main charges for obstruction.

First, the false affidavit. The prosecution side: There is, in my judgment, clearly a false affidavit. The President had a conversation with Monica Lewinsky about filing an affidavit where he said to her, `You can file an affidavit; that might be a way for you to avoid testifying.’ That is on the prosecution side.

I want to make a really important point for me personally here. I think there is an enormous difference between what has been proven and what we suspect, because I have to tell you all, I suspect a lot that has not been proven.

What is on the defense side? On the defense side: what has been proven in this case is that President Clinton never saw the affidavit, never had a discussion with anyone about the contents of that affidavit. He didn’t know what was in it. He never told, according to her, Monica Lewinsky or anyone what should be in the affidavit.

So that is the evidence on the scales of justice: One for the prosecution; that evidence for the defense. For me it is a very clear thing. The scales tilt in favor of the defense, and they certainly don’t tilt strongly enough to be beyond a reasonable doubt.

The second charge–and the one that bothers me the most–coaching Betty Currie. The evidence on the side of the prosecution: President Clinton has a conversation with Betty Currie just after he has been questioned in his deposition where he makes very declarative statements to her–it happens twice–very declarative statements to her about what he remembers, many of which we now know to be false. And his explanation for that conversation lacks credibility, to say the least, that he was trying to refresh his memory. I doubt if anybody buys that. That is on one side, that is on the prosecution side.

What is on the other side? On the other side we have Betty Currie saying it had no influence on her. But that is not the most troublesome thing for me. The troublesome thing is this: For that conversation to be obstruction of justice, it must have been proven that it was President Clinton’s intent to affect her sworn testimony.

Now, what are the other possibilities? We have a man who has just been confronted with this problem, who is political by nature. And do we really believe that the first thing he thought about is, `I’m going to go protect myself legally’? I suspect the first thing he thought about is `I’m going to protect myself politically.’ He was worried about his family finding out. He was worried about the rest of the staff finding out. He was worried about the press finding out. Do I know which of these things are true? Absolutely not. I don’t know which of them are true. Doesn’t that answer the question? If we don’t know which of those things are true, have they been proven? If we don’t know what was in his head at that moment, how can we find that the prosecution has proven intent beyond a reasonable doubt?

The third charge, the job search. On the prosecution side of the scales of justice, we have an intensified effort to find a job for Monica Lewinsky. I think that has been proven. I think that has been proven clearly. On the other side, we have testimony from Monica Lewinsky that she was never promised a job for her silence. We have evidence that the job search, although not as intense, was going on before anyone knew she would be a witness. We have Vernon Jordan testifying under oath–I sat there and watched it and looked him in the eye–that there was never a quid pro quo, that the affidavit was over here and the job search was over here.

The reality is, when you put all that evidence on the scale–prosecution evidence on one side, defense evidence on the other–at worst the scale stays even. And the prosecution has got to prove this case in order to remove the President of the United States beyond a reasonable doubt. They just have not proven it no matter what we suspect. No matter what we suspect. So that is the false affidavit which we have talked about, coaching Betty Currie, the job search.

Now to the gifts. Let’s see what the proof is. What is the proof–not the suspicion. On the prosecution side, we know that the President’s secretary went to Monica Lewinsky’s house, got the gifts, took them home and hid them under her bed. I have to tell you, on its face, that is awful suspicious, and it is strong, heavy evidence. The problem is, there is evidence on the other side. That evidence doesn’t stand alone.

First, we have the testimony of Betty Currie that Monica Lewinsky called her. Second, we have the fact that President Clinton gave her other gifts on that Sunday, which makes no sense to me. I heard the House managers try to explain it away. I have been a lawyer for 20 years, and I have been in that place of trying to explain away something that makes no sense. It doesn’t make sense. Monica Lewinsky, herself, testified that she brought up the issue of gifts–not President Clinton–and that the most President Clinton ever said was something to the effect of `I’m not sure. Let me think about that.’

Now when that evidence goes on the defense side and the only evidence on the prosecution side is the fact that those gifts are sitting under the bed of Betty Currie, what happens to the scale? At best, the scale stays even. In my judgment, it actually tilts for the defense. There is no way it rises to the level of `beyond a reasonable doubt.’

Every trial I have ever been in has had one moment, one quintessential moment when the entirety of the trial was described, and in this case we have such a moment. There was a question that had my name on it. The reality is, Senator Kohl wrote it–I tagged on–but it was a great question. The question was, Is this a matter about which reasonable people can differ? I will never forget Manager Lindsey Graham coming to this microphone and his answer was `Absolutely.’ Now if the prosecution concedes that reasonable people can differ about this, how can we not have reasonable doubt?

These things all lead me to the conclusion that however reprehensible the President’s conduct is, I have to vote to acquit on both articles of impeachment.

I have one last thing I want to say to you all, and it is actually most important. If you don’t remember anything else I said, and you weren’t listening to anything else I have said, please listen to what I am about to say because it is so important to me.

I have learned so much during the 30 days that I have been here. I have had a mentor in Senator Byrd, who has probably been a mentor to many others before me. I have formed friendships with people on both sides. Senators Leahy and Dodd, who I worked with on these depositions–wonderful, wonderful Senators. I have learned what leadership is about from these two men sitting right here–Senators Lott and Daschle. I have loved working with Senators DeWine and Thompson. And Senator Specter and I worked together on a deposition. He showed me great deference and respect. I have no idea why, but he did; and I appreciate it. I have deep respect and admiration for my senior Senator from North Carolina, who has been extraordinarily kind and gracious to me since I arrived here.

Let me tell you what I will be thinking about when my name is called and I cast my vote, hopefully tomorrow. I will be thinking about juries all over this country who are sitting in deliberation in rooms that are not nearly as grand as this but who are struggling, just as you all have and I have, to do the right thing. I have to say, I have a boundless faith in the American people sitting on those juries. They want to do what is right. They want to do what is right in the worst kind of way.

An extraordinary thing has happened to me in the last 30 days. I have watched you struggle, every one of you. I have watched you come to this podium. I have listened to what you have had to say. I talked to you informally; I watched you suffer. I believe in my heart that every single one of you wants to do the right thing. The result of that for me is a gift. And that gift is that I now have a boundless faith in you.

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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