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Clinton Impeachment: Statement By Senator Rod Grams

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 Rod Grams was a Republican senator from Minnesota. He served from 1995 until 2001. He died in 2013.

Statement by Senator Spencer Abraham (Republican – Michigan)

Despite the handicaps placed upon the House managers, I feel they did an excellent job in presenting their case in support of the articles of impeachment and laying out the facts. I listened to them carefully, as I listened to the White House Counsel and the President’s lawyers in their vigorous defense of William Jefferson Clinton.

I have heard some of my colleagues say that it was one particular fact or incident that led them to their conclusion. That was not the case with me. I needed to listen to all the facts throughout the trial, before I truly could decide how I would vote.

But after carefully weighing all the evidence, all of the facts, and all the arguments, I have come to the conclusion–the same conclusion reached by 84% of the American public–that President Clinton committed perjury and wove a cloth of obstruction of justice.

Lead presidential counsel Charles Ruff said in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, and here during the Senate trial, that fair-minded people could draw different conclusions on the charges.

I disagree in one aspect, but agree in another. I personally feel there is no room to disagree on whether the President is guilty of the charges in both Article One and Article Two; he committed perjury and he clearly obstructed justice. But I agree we will differ on whether these charges rise to the level of high crimes which dictate conviction. Again, I believe they do and have voted yes, on both articles.

The President was invited by letter to come and testify before the Senate. As the central figure in this trial, he alone knows what happened, and if truthful, he could have addressed the compelling evidence against him. He refused.

It has been said that many have risked their political futures during this process. Perhaps–yet I will not hesitate telling constituents in my state how and why I voted the way I did. With a clear conscience, I will stand in their judgment and I will live with and respect whatever their decision on my political future may be.

But remember, those who vote to acquit–that is, to not remove this President–will have the rest of their political lifetimes to explain their votes. They also will be judged.

Collectively too, we will have to await what history will say about this trial and how it was handled. Will this Senate be judged as having followed the rule of law; that is, deciding this case on the facts, or will we be remembered as the rule-making body who deferred to public sentiment? The polls say this President is too popular to remove. If we base our decision on his popularity rather than the rule of law, we would be condoning a society where a majority could impose injustice on a minority group, only because it has a larger voice. A rule of law is followed so that justice is done and our Constitution is respected, regardless of popularity polls.

The foundation of our legal system, I believe, is at risk, if the Senate ignores these charges. The constitutional language of impeachment for judges is the same as for the President. Judges are removed from the bench for committing perjury, and also face criminal charges, as do ordinary citizens. We must not accept double standards.

The prospect of such a double standard was raised countless times by the House managers. Consider the irony created by a two-tiered standard for perjury. A President commits perjury, yet remains in office. But would a cabinet member who committed perjury be allowed to keep his or her job? Would a military officer who committed perjury be allowed to continue to serve? Would a judge who committed perjury remain on the bench? They would not, and yet our President, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, is allowed to keep his office after having committed the same offense.

Again, in my view, this is a double standard and is completely unacceptable for a nation that prides itself on a legal system which provides equal justice under the law.

As to our final duty, the final vote, I believe the so-called `so what’ defense has controlled the outcome. `He did it, but so what’ we have heard it a thousand times from a hundred talking heads. We have heard it from our colleagues, too, in both chambers. Well, for this Senator, `so what’ stops at perjury and obstruction of justice. I will cast my vote with sorrow for the President, his family, and for the toll this trial has taken on the nation, but with certainty that it is the only choice my conscience and the Constitution permits me to make.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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