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 Olympia Snowe was a Republican senator from Maine. She served from 1995 until 2013.
Statement by Senator Olympia Snowe (Republican – Maine)
Mr. President, now that we have come to the end of the process required by the Constitution, I feel we have arrived at an appropriate time to consider a measure required by the President’s conduct.
I rise in support of censure because while I do not find that the President’s behavior constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors requiring removal, I do believe that it compels us to record for history our recognition of the damage we all acknowledge he has inflicted upon the Office of the Presidency and the Nation.
Acquittal must not be the last word. And while I have felt that it would have been more appropriate for the Senate to issue findings of fact in the impeachment case against the President, I am now prepared to support censure so that there is no mixed message for posterity about what the Senate thinks of the President’s actions.
As I said yesterday, the President’s behavior is indefensible, and I for one have no interest in seeing another shameless ‘Rose Garden Jubilee’ after today’s vote by the Court of Impeachment. Acquittal is not exoneration. Nothing we do here today in any way absolves the President’s responsibility for the harm he has inflicted–and the President must know this.
Indeed, this has been a sordid chapter in the history of the Presidency, and it deserves to be closed with a stern warning and a strongly worded rebuke that will leave no doubt to future generations that this process was not simply much ado about nothing. It was, in fact, about something very important–the sanctity of public service.
That’s why I worked with Senators Feinstein and Bennett to include language expressing the will of this Senate that this resolution not be revoked by a future Congress. I also want to thank them for their willingness to include language that makes clear the Senate believes the President should be treated like any other citizen facing criminal allegations once he leaves office in 23 months.
The fact is, even while this body has acquitted the President on Articles of Impeachment, the framers provided for an additional remedy for his conduct in standard criminal court. Why? Because they had known a country where some men were above the law, and some below. And they were determined to create a nation where the level of justice served was not proportional to a person’s pocketbook, social rank or political power.
I believe acquittal, though the proper outcome, by itself could present a skewed picture of the Senate’s findings, and runs the risk that the President will claim exoneration for his actions. Such a claim, evidence of which is already apparent, is quite simply and obviously, wrong.
The President may not have committed high crimes and misdemeanors, but what he has done–in my mind including unlawfully influencing a potential witness–deserves a formal rebuke by the Senate. Censure would be an appropriate and constitutionally permissible way to do this.
For a President who from the very beginning promised the most ethical administration any of us would ever see, censure would be a well-deserved legacy of a promise broken and a Presidency sullied. I will vote for this censure motion and I urge my colleagues to do likewise.