Full coverage of the impeachment
Jan. 8, 1999:
and Gigot on the Senate deal.
Jan. 7, 1999:
Gigot discuss the impeachment trial.
Jan. 6, 1999:
Oliphant and David Brooks analyze the beginning of the impeachment
trial in the U.S. Senate.
Jan. 6, 1999:
of impeachment managers on the Senate trial.
Jan. 5, 1999:
former senators discuss the format and duration of the upcoming
Jan. 4, 1999:
Senators are wrestling with a proposal for a shortened impeachment
Dec. 23, 1998:
foreign journalists discuss how President Clinton's impeachment
played around the world.
Dec. 21, 1998:
A growing number of voices are calling for a censure
Dec. 21, 1998:
on the vote to impeach President Clinton.
Dec. 21, 1998:
public reaction from Oregon on the impeachment vote.
Dec. 17, 1998:
& Gigot give analysis of the House's decision to continue
with the debate on impeachment despite the military action in
Dec. 15, 1998:
moderate Republicans came out in favor of impeaching President
Dec. 15, 1998:
Tannen and Shelby Steele debate the impeachment proceedings
of President Clinton.
Nov. 27, 1998: President Clinton answers
about the Lewinsky matter put to him by the House Judiciary
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the White
Chief Justice, Counsel for the President and Distinguished Members of
One of the most memorable aspects of this proceeding was the solemn
occasion wherein every Senator in this chamber took an oath to do impartial
justice under the Constitution.
The President of the United States took an oath to tell the truth in
his testimony before the grand jury, just as he had, on two prior occasions,
sworn a solemn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution
and to "faithfully execute the laws of the United States."
Despite massive and relentless efforts to change the subject, the case
before you Senators is not about sexual misconduct or adultery - those
are private acts and none of our business.
It is not even a question of lying about sex.
The matter before this body is a question of lying under oath. This
is a public act.
The matter before you is a question of the willful, premeditated deliberate
corruption of the nation's system of justice, through Perjury and Obstruction
of Justice. These are public acts, and when committed by the chief law
enforcement officer of the land, the one who appoints the Attorney General
and nominates the Judiciary - these do become the concern of Congress.
That is why your judgment should rise above politics, above partisanship,
above polling data. This case is a test of whether what the Founding
Fathers described as "sacred honor" still has meaning in our time: two
hundred twenty-two years
after those two words - sacred honor - were inscribed in our country's
birth certificate, our charter of freedom, our Declaration of Independence.
Every school child in the United States has an intuitive sense of the
"sacred honor" that is one of the foundation stones of the American
house of freedom. For every day, in every classroom in America, our
children and grandchildren pledge allegiance to a nation, "under God."
That statement, that America is "one nation under God," is not a prideful
or arrogant claim. It is a statement of humility: all of us, as individuals,
stand under the judgment of God, or the transcendent truths by which
we hope, finally, to be judged.
So does our country.
The Presidency is an office of trust. Every public office is a public
trust, but the Office of President is a very special public trust. The
President is the trustee of the national conscience. No one owns the
office of President, the people do. The President is elected by the
people and their representatives in the electoral college. And in accepting
the burdens of that great office, the President, in his inaugural oath,
enters into a covenant- a binding agreement of mutual trust and obligation
- with the American people.
Shortly after his election and during his first months in office, President
Clinton spoke with some frequency about a "new covenant" in America.
In this instance, let us take the President at his word: that his office
is a covenant - a solemn pact of mutual trust and obligation - with
the American people. Let us take the President seriously when he speaks
of covenants: because a covenant is about promise-making and promise-keeping.
For it is because the President has defaulted on the promises he made
- it is because he has violated the oaths he has sworn - that he has
The debate about impeachment during the Constitutional Convention of
1787 makes it clear that the Framers of the Constitution regarded impeachment
and removal from office on conviction as a remedy for a fundamental
betrayal of trust by the President. The Framers had invested the presidential
office with great powers. They knew that those powers could be - and
would be - abused if any President were to violate, in a fundamental
way, the oath he had sworn to faithfully execute the nation's laws.
For if the President did so violate his oath of office, the covenant
of trust between himself and the American people would be broken.
Today, we see something else: that the fundamental trust between America
and the world can be broken, if a presidential perjurer represents our
country in world affairs. If the President calculatedlyand repeatedly
violates his oath, if the President breaks the covenant of trust he
has made with the American people, he can no longer be trusted. And,
because the executive plays so large a role in representing the country
to the world, America can no longer be trusted.
It is often said that we live in an age of increasing interdependence.
If that is true, and the evidence for it is all around us, then the
future will require an even stronger bond of trust between the President
and the nation: because with increasing interdependence comes an increased
necessity of trust.
is one of the basic lessons of life. Parents and children know this.
Husbands and wives know it. Teachers and students know it, as do doctors
and patients, suppliers and customers, lawyers and clients, clergy and
parishioners: the greater the interdependence, the greater the necessity
of trust; the greater the interdependence, the greater the imperative
Trust, not what James Madison called the "parchment barriers" of laws,
is the fundamental bond between the people and their elected representatives,
between those who govern and those who are governed. Trust is the mortar
that secures the foundations of the American house of freedom. And the
Senate of the United States, sitting in judgment in this impeachment
trial, should not ignore, or minimize, or dismiss the fact that the
bond of trust has been broken, because the President has violated both
his oaths of office and the oath he took before his grand jury testimony.
In recent months, it has often been asked - it has too often been asked
- so what? What is the harm done by this lying under oath, by this perjury?
I think the answer would have been clear to those who once pledged their
sacred honor to the cause of liberty.
The answer would have been clear to those who crafted the world's most
enduring written constitution.
No greater harm can be done than breaking the covenant of trust between
the President and the people; between the three branches of our government;
and between the country and the world.
For to break that covenant of trust is to dissolve the mortar that binds
the foundation stones of our freedom into a secure and solid edifice.
And to break that covenant of trust by violating one's oath is to do
grave damage to the rule of law among us.
That none of us is above the law is a bedrock principle of democracy.
To erode that bedrock is to risk even further injustice. To erode that
bedrock is to subscribe, to a "divine right of kings" theory of governance,
in which those who govern are absolved from adhering to the basic moral
standards to which the governed are accountable.
We must never tolerate one law for the Ruler, and another for the Ruled.
If we do, we break faith with our ancestors from Bunker Hill, Lexington
and Concord to Flanders Field, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Panmunjon, Saigon
and Desert Storm.
us be clear: The vote that you are asked to cast is, in the final analysis,
a vote about the rule of law.
The rule of law is one of the great achievements of our civilization.
For the alternative to the rule of law is the rule of raw power. We
here today are the heirs of three thousand years of history in which
humanity slowly, painfully and at great cost, evolved a form of politics
in which law, not brute force, is the arbiter of our public destinies.
We are the heirs of the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic law: a moral
code for a free people who, having been liberated from bondage, saw
in law a means to avoid falling back into the habit of slaves.
We are the heirs of Roman law: the first legal system by which peoples
of different cultures, languages, races, and religions came to live
together in a form of political community.
We are the heirs of the Magna Carta, by which the freeman of England
began to break the arbitrary and unchecked power of royal absolutism.
We are the heirs of a long tradition of parliamentary development, in
which the rule of law gradually came to replace royal prerogative as
the means for governing a society of free men and women.
We are the heirs of 1776, and of an epic moment in human affairs when
the Founders of this Republic pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred
honor - sacred honor - to the defense of the rule of law.
We are the heirs of a tragic civil war, which vindicated the rule of
law over the appetites of some for owning others.
We are the heirs of the 20th century's great struggles against
totalitarianism, in which the rule of law was defended at immense cost
against the worst tyrannies in human history. The "rule of law" is no
pious aspiration from a civics textbook. The rule of law is what stands
between all of us and the arbitrary exercise of power by the state.
The rule of law is the safeguard of our liberties. The rule of law is
what allows us to live our freedom in ways that honor the freedom of
others while strengthening the common good. The rule of law is like
a three legged stool: one leg is an honest Judge, the second leg is
an ethical bar and the third is an enforceable oath. All three are indispensable
in a truly democratic society.
under oath is an abuse of freedom. Obstruction of Justice is a degradation
of law. There are people in prison for just such offenses. What in the
world do we say to them about Equal Justice if we overlook this conduct
in the President?
Some may say, as many have said in recent months, that this is to pitch
the matter too high. The President's lie, it is said, was about a "trivial
matter;" it was a lie to spare embarrassment about misconduct on a "private
The confusing of what is essentially a private matter, and none of our
business, with lying under oath to a court and a grand jury has been
only one of the distractions we have had to deal with.
Senators: as men and women with a serious experience of public affairs,
we can all imagine, a situation in which a President might shade the
truth when a great issue of the national interest or the national security
was at stake. We have all been over that terrain. We know the thin ice
on which any of us skates when blurring the edges of the truth for what
we consider a compelling, demanding public purpose.
Morally serious men and women can imagine circumstances, at the far
edge of the morally permissible, when, with the gravest matters of national
interest at stake, a President could shade the truth in order to serve
the common good. But under oath.... for a private pleasure?
In doing this, the Office of President of the United States has been
debased...and the Justice System jeopardized.
In doing this, he has broken his covenant of trust with the American
The Framers of the Constitution also knew that the Office of President
of the United States could be gravely damaged if it continued to be
unworthily occupied. That is why they devised the process of impeachment
by the House and trial by the Senate. It is, in truth, a direct process.
If, on impeachment, the President is convicted, he is removed from office
- and the Office itself suffers no permanent damage. If, on impeachment,
the President is acquitted, the issue is resolved once and for all,
and the Office is similarly protected from permanent damage.
But if, on impeachment, the President is not convicted and removed from
office despite the fact that numerous Senators are convinced that he
has, in the words of one proposed resolution of censure, "egregiously
failed" the test of his oath of office, "violated the trust of the American
people," and "dishonored the office which they entrusted to him," then
the Office of the Presidency has been deeply, and perhaps permanently,
And that is a further reason why President Clinton must be convicted
of the charges brought before you by the House of Representatives, and
removed from office. To fail to do so, while conceding that the President
has engaged in egregious and dishonorable behavior that has broken the
covenant of trust between himself and the American people, is to diminish
the office of President of the United States in an unprecedented and
Senators: please permit me a word on my own behalf and on behalf of
my colleagues of the House. It is necessary to clarify an important
None of us comes to this chamber today without a profound sense of our
own responsibilities in life, and of the many ways in which we have
failed to meet those responsibilities, to one degree or another. None
of us comes before you claiming to be a perfect man or a perfect citizen,
just as none of you imagines yourself perfect. All of us, members of
the House and Senate, know that we come to this difficult task as flawed
human beings, under judgment.
That is the way of this world: flawed human beings must, according to
the rule of law, judge other flawed human beings.
the issue before the Senate of the United States is not the question
of its own members' personal moral condition. Nor is the issue before
the Senate the question of the personal moral condition of the members
of the House of Representatives. The issue here is whether the President
of the United States has violated the rule of law and thereby broken
his covenant of trust with the American people. This is a public issue,
involving the gravest matter of the public interest. And it is not effected,
one way or another, by the personal moral condition of any member of
either house of Congress, or by whatever expressions of personal chagrin
the President has managed to express.
Senators: we of the House do not come before you today lightly. And,
if you will permit me, it is a disservice to the House to suggest that
it has brought these articles of impeachment before you in a frivolous,
mean-spirited, or irresponsible way. That is not true.
We have brought these articles of impeachment because we are convinced,
in conscience, that the President of the United States lied under oath:
that the President committed perjury on several occasions before a Federal
grand jury. We have brought these articles of impeachment because we
are convinced, in conscience, that the President willfully obstructed
justice, and thereby threatened the legal system he swore a solemn oath
to protect and defend.
These are not trivial matters. These are not partisan matters. These
are matters of justice, the justice that each of you has taken a solemn
oath to serve in this trial.
Some of us have been called "Clinton-haters." I must tell you, distinguished
Senators, that this impeachment is not, for those of us from the House,
a question of hating anyone. This is not a question of who we hate,
this is a question of what we love: and among the things we love are
the rule of law, equal justice before the law, and honor in our public
life. All of us are trying as hard as we can to do our duty as we see
it...no more and no less.
Senators: This trial is being watched around the world. Some of those
watching, thinking themselves superior in their cynicism, wonder what
it is all about. But others know.
Political prisoners know that this is about the rule of law - the great
alternative to arbitrary and unchecked state power.
The families of executed dissidents know that this is about the rule
of law - the great alternative to the lethal abuse of power by the state.
Those yearning for freedom know that this is about the rule of law -
the hard-won structure by which men and women can live by their God-given
dignity and secure their God-given rights in ways that serve the common
If they know this, can we not know it?
If, across the river in Arlington Cemetery, there are American heroes
who died in defense of the rule of law, can we give less than the full
measure of our devotion to that great cause?
I have received a letter last week that expresses my feelings far better
than my poor words.
[Text of the Letter]
Dear Chairman Hyde,
My name is William Preston Summers. How are you doing? I am a third
grader in room 504 at Chase elementary School in Chicago. I am writing
this letter because I have something to tell you. I have thought of
a punishment for the president of the Unites states of America. The
punishment should be that he should write a 100 word essay by hand.
I have to write an essay when I lie. It is bad to lie because it just
gets you in more trouble. I hate getting in trouble.
It is just like the boy who cried wolf, and the wolf ate the boy.
It is important to tell the truth. I like telling the truth because
it gets you in less trouble. If you do not tell the truth people do
not believe you.
It is important to believe the president because he is a important
person. If you can not believe the president who can you believe. If
you have no one to believe in then how do you run your life. I do not
believe the president tells the truth anymore right now. After he writes
the essay and tells the truth, I will believe him again.
PS: Dear Representative Hyde,
I made my son William either write you a letter or an essay as a
punishment for lying. Part of his defense of his lying was that the
president lied. He is still having difficulty understanding why the
President can lie and not be punished.
Chief Justice and Senators-On June 6, 1994, the 50th anniversary
of the American landing on the beaches of Normandy, I stood among the
field of white crosses and Stars of David. The British had a military
band of bagpipes playing Amazing Grace. I walked up to one cross to
read a name, but there was none. All it said was "Here lies in Honored
Glory a Comrade in Arms Known but to God."
How do we keep the faith with that comrade in arms? Go to the Vietnam
Memorial on the National Mall and press your hands against some of the
58,000 names carved in the wall - and ask yourself how we can redeem
the debt we owe all those who purchased our freedom with their lives.
How do we keep faith with them?
I think I know how, we work to make this country the kind of America
they were willing to die for. That's an America where the idea of sacred
honor still has the power to stir men's souls.
I hope that a hundred years from today, people will look back at what
we have done and say they kept the faith.