February 12, 1999
Correspondent: Chris Bury
Anchor: Ted Koppel
ANNOUNCER: This is a Nightline Friday night special.
WILLIAM REHNQUIST: Senators, how say you?
SENATE CLERK: Mr. Abraham? Mr. Abraham, guilty.
TED KOPPEL, ABC News (voice-over): The impeachment trial of William
Jefferson Clinton, 42nd president of the United States, has concluded.
WILLIAM REHNQUIST: It is therefore ordered and adjudged that the said
William Jefferson Clinton be and he hereby is acquitted of the charges in the
TED KOPPEL (voice-over): The seemingly endless and arduous process is
now officially history.
Rep. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), Impeachment Trial Manager: Impeachment is
hard, it was meant to be hard and it's over.
Pres. WILLIAM J. CLINTON: And this must be a time of reconciliation
and renewal for America.
TED KOPPEL (voice-over): Tonight, the trial, it's finally over but is
it time for reconciliation or political payback?
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, this is Nightline. Reporting from
Washington, Ted Koppel.
TED KOPPEL: Hypocrisy can be a useful lubricant and today it was being
liberally applied to the wounds and bruises that have accumulated these past 13
Congresspeople who could barely contain their contempt for one another during
the House Judiciary Committee meetings now speak warmly of working with one
another on future legislation. The President's team at the White House, which
has battled with every ounce of energy at its disposal to achieve Mr. Clinton's
acquittal, looked today for all the world as though they had lost. With a
careful eye on the future, the White House remains a gloat-free zone.
Only that free spirit, James Carville, who has chiseled out a unique career
saying exactly what is on his mind remained true to form. Asked by Katie
Couric this morning whether he would like to bury the hatchet with Kenneth
Starr, Carville suggested that he would prefer to bury the hatchet in the
independent counsel. But Carville side, this was the day on which most people
pretended that the last 13 months will have no or little impact on the next
round of political combat. Reconciliation was the buzz word of the day and on
all sides there was a tangible sense of relief that the trial had reached its
Here's Nightline Correspondent Chris Bury, who has chronicled every part of
this story for us.
WILLIAM REHNQUIST: The clerk will now read the first article of
SENATE CLERK: Article one.
CHRIS BURY, ABC News (voice-over): Any genuine suspense was missing, of
course, but the first vote of its kind since 1868 did convey a certain sense of
drama as the chief justice polled the jury.
WILLIAM REHNQUIST: Senators, how say you? Is the respondent, William
Jefferson Clinton, guilty or not guilty? A roll call vote is required. The
clerk will call the roll.
SENATE CLERK: Mr. Abraham?
Sen. SPENCER ABRAHAM, (R), Michigan: Guilty.
SENATE CLERK: Mr. Abraham, guilty. Mr. Akaka?
Sen. DANIEL AKAKA, (D), Hawaii: Not guilty.
SENATE CLERK: Mr. Akaka, not guilty.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): On article one, perjury before the grand jury,
10 Republicans joined all 45 Democrats.
SENATE CLERK: Mr. Shelby?
Sen. RICHARD SHELBY, (D), Alabama: Not guilty.
SENATE CLERK: Mr. Shelby, not guilty.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): Even such conservatives as Alabama's Richard
Shelby sided with the Democrats and the perjury count did not even muster a
majority, let along the 67 votes needed to convict.
WILLIAM REHNQUIST: Two thirds of the senators present not having
pronounced him guilty, the Senate adjudges that the respondent, William
Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States, is not guilty as charged in
the first article of impeachment.
SENATE CLERK: Article two.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): On article two, obstruction of justice, long
considered the stronger count, five Republicans from northeastern states broke
SENATE CLERK: Ms. Snowe?
Sen. OLYMPIA SNOWE, (R), Maine: Not guilty.
SENATE CLERK: Ms. Snowe, not guilty.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): All 45 Democrats once again held firm and once
again Republicans did not even get the symbolic majority they had sought.
SENATE CLERK: Not guilty.
WILLIAM REHNQUIST: On this article of impeachment 50 senators have
pronounced William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States, guilty as
charged. Fifty senators have pronounced him not guilty.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): Though the final votes were cast mostly along
partisan lines, the proceedings in the Senate from beginning to end had little
of the acrimony so pervasive in the House.
WILLIAM REHNQUIST: The chair wishes to make a brief statement, without
objection, I trust.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): Even the chief justice, who conceded some
culture shock coming over from the Supreme Court, expressed his admiration for
how the Senate conducted itself.
WILLIAM REHNQUIST: I leave you with the hope that our several paths may
cross again under happier circumstances.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): Once the trial officially ended, Senator Diane
Feinstein, the California Democrat, tried in vain to win consideration of a
resolution to censure the President and condemn his wrongful conduct in the
strongest possible terms.
Sen. DIANE FEINSTEIN, (D), California: Mr. President, I move to proceed
to my censure resolution, which is at the desk.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): But Texas Republican Phil Gramm, who has
adamantly opposed censure as unconstitutional, killed it, at least for now,
with a procedural maneuver.
Sen. PHIL GRAMM, (R), Texas: This resolution is not on the calendar and
therefore it is not in order to present it to the Senate.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): At the White House today, the official word
was relief, not vindication, among aides who have been ordered not to gloat.
This afternoon in a solitary Rose Garden performance, Mr. Clinton struck a
careful chord of contrition and healing.
Pres. WILLIAM J. CLINTON: Now that the Senate has fulfilled its
constitutional responsibility bringing this process to a conclusion, I want to
say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I profoundly sorry I am
for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have
imposed on the Congress and on the American people. I also am humbled and very
grateful for the support and the prayers I have received from millions of
Americans over this past year. Now I ask all Americans, and I hope all
Americans, here in Washington and throughout our land will rededicate ourselves
to the work of serving our nation and building our future together. This can
be and this must be a time of reconciliation and renewal for America. Thank
you very much.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): The President took only one question from
ABC's Sam Donaldson. In your heart, can you forgive and forget?
Pres. WILLIAM J. CLINTON: I believe any person who asks for
forgiveness has to be prepared to give it.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): But forgiveness was not on the minds of the
President's harshest critics, the House managers who tried and failed to have
him removed from office.
Rep. STEVE BUYER, (R), Indiana: As I one by one checked off guilty and
not guilty, my gut kept turning over and over. Why? Here's the damage that's
been done to the constitution and the presidency because my great fear is that
future presidents will now flaunt the law in a more egregious manner.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): The one key player not talking today was
independent counsel Kenneth Starr, whose office has considered indicting Bill
Clinton. But ABC News Correspondent Jackie Judd reports that is unlikely, at
least while Mr. Clinton is still in office.
JACKIE JUDD, ABC News: Someone familiar with Starr's thinking said to
me today that Starr respects the institutional integrity of the office of the
presidency and he wouldn't do anything to undermine that. Now, critics may
find that disingenuous, but that's what they're saying. It all points to no
indictment while Mr. Clinton is in the Oval Office.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): Even Henry Hyde, the chief prosecutor, said
Starr should not pursue the President once he leaves office.
Rep. HENRY HYDE (R-IL), Impeachment Trial Manager: I think the
President, well, I don't want to venture too far down this road, but I don't
think indicting and criminally trying him after what we have all been through
is going to be helpful to the country.
CHRIS BURY (voice-over): If there was one universal reaction that
reached across every political divide, it was relief at reaching the end of
Sen. PAUL WELLSTONE, (D), Minnesota: This is the end of a long, sad
year and I think people in the country and all of us are ready to get back to
CHRIS BURY: So the Senate, by constitutional design, has cooled the hot
passions of the House and kept a popular president in office. Even those who
cast losing votes today concede, however grudgingly, that the system worked
pretty well. But in a capital suffering from acute scandal fatigue, the
question tonight is did anyone really win?
This is Chris Bury for Nightline in Washington.
TED KOPPEL: So, are we entering a period of reconciliation or will it
be pay back time? We'll talk with two members of the House Judiciary Committee
when we come back.
TED KOPPEL: And joining us here in Washington, two members of the House
Judiciary Committee, Democrat Barney Frank and Republican Charles Canady, who
was also a House impeachment manager.
Americans, Congressman Frank, love the sort of image of athletes the more
violent the game the better they like the image. Athletes after a football
game or after a boxing match sort of embrace each other afterwards. Any danger
of that happening in this case?
Rep. BARNEY FRANK, (D), Massachusetts: (Washington) Oh, I think
we'll get along much better than some in the media think and maybe even hope,
to be honest. During the impeachment process while things were really very
heated, the House Judiciary Committee was continuing to function on other
business. I serve on a subcommittee that has responsibility for intellectual
property. We put through a major piece of legislation redefining the
responsibilities of online service providers in case of copyright violations.
It was very important to the recording industry and the motion picture
industry. I don't think personal relationships have been damaged. There are
some ideological differences between the parties. On some of these big issues
I think you're going to see some genuine policy differences. But I do not
think that personal factors will be a problem. You know, we're used to
disagreeing with each other, trying to defeat each other and at the same time
TED KOPPEL: Mr. Canady, boy, you sure fooled me. I don't mean you
personally but I mean all of you in the Judiciary Committee. It seemed to get
quite adamant at times. Do you feel the same way that Mr. Frank does?
Rep. CHARLES CANADY, (R), Florida: (Washington) I think Mr.
Frank is absolutely right. I think it's important for all of us to understand
that we are sent to Washington to work together for the good of the American
people. There are ideological differences that divide us on occasion, but we
need to work together whenever we can.
TED KOPPEL: Let me talk for a moment about today's two votes. Does
either one of you, and let's start with you, Mr. Canady, have a sense of
vindication based on what happened today?
Rep. CHARLES CANADY: Well, I am not happy with the ultimate judgment of
the Senate. We prosecuted this case because we believed that the House was
right in impeaching the President. I think the 50 senators, half of the Senate
who voted for an article of impeachment did vote to establish a standard of
integrity for the presidency. I was pleased that half of the Senate agreed
with the House on that.
TED KOPPEL: What about you, Mr. Frank, a sense of vindication?
Rep. BARNEY FRANK: Yes, to a great extent. I think this shows that, in
fact, there was never a basis for throwing the President out of office, a basis
for condemning his irresponsibility, yes, and for his lying to cover-up his
private consensual sexual affair. But, you know, you generally start out here
with the partisan lines drawn. I mean people, after all, Democrats supported
Bill Clinton for president and Republicans opposed him. As Henry Hyde himself
said earlier, but frankly appeared to have forgotten, you don't undo an
election unless some of the people who supported the winning candidate have
changed their mind and think now he's no longer worthy of support. And so you
start off basically partisan and I felt some vindication that to the extent
there were partisan deviations in the Senate, it was Republicans on the one
article, on the perjury article, a very significant number of Republicans
saying no, this is not a basis for throwing the man out of office. And so I do
feel that that validated our position.
TED KOPPEL: For all the talk of reconciliation today, and Mr. Canady,
if you would answer first and then Mr. Frank, the same question to you, do you
think when we move into the campaign phase of the year 2000, which is not that
many months away now before the campaigning begins, that the campaigning itself
will have a particular edge to it this year? Do you feel more targeted, Mr.
Canady, than you did when you ran just a few months ago?
Rep. CHARLES CANADY: Well, I feel less targeted than ever because I'm
not seeking reelection.
TED KOPPEL: Ah.
Rep. CHARLES CANADY: And as a matter of fact, I was unopposed in the
last election also. But I think it is extremely difficult to predict what the
next election is going to be like. That is a long time away in the world of
politics and I think it would be a mistake for either side to turn that
election into a game of recriminations. I think we have philosophical
differences. We need to present our vision for the future to the American
people and let the American people make their judgments about us based on our
vision for the future of the country.
TED KOPPEL: So the behavior of Republicans both on the Judiciary
Committee and in the House, Mr. Frank, you think that's a, you think that's an
appropriate issue for the next election?
Rep. BARNEY FRANK: Well, for the first time Mr. Canady and I disagree
on this show and I would have to say to my good friend Charles, you wish. In
fact, it comes with no grace for the Republicans to say that this shouldn't be
an issue. The Republican Congressional campaign committee bought TV ads in
October of this past year trying to make this an issue. They wanted to make it
an issue. They tried to use it against Democrats. It did not work. Indeed,
it backfired. Having tried to use the impeachment process as an issue against
Democrats in October of '98, they have very little standing to complain if it
is used against them in the fall of 2000. I think it's a very legitimate
TED KOPPEL: Mr. Canady, you get a quick chance to respond and then
we'll have to wrap up.
Rep. CHARLES CANADY: Well, of course the voters have every right to
take into account the positions that people took on this issue when they vote
in the next elections. That's, that goes with the turf and Mr. Frank is right
to that extent. But I don't think that the next elections will be a referendum
on the impeachment and the trial of President Clinton. It may play a role in
some races in a minor way, but I think if I had to predict I'd say it's not
going to play a big role in the next elections. That's my prediction.
TED KOPPEL: We'll see. Thank you all. I appreciate it. Mr. Frank,
Mr. Canady, good of you to come in.
Rep. CHARLES CANADY: Thank you.
TED KOPPEL: So what's in our immediate future? David Gergen and George
Stephanopoulos, when we come back.
TED KOPPEL: As we have throughout our coverage of the impeachment
process, we're joined again by David Gergen and George Stephanopoulos.
Huge opportunity here, guys. You get to determine whether the last comments on
this historic day are uplifting, profound or simply banal.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, Former Senior Clinton Advisor, ABC News Political
Analyst: (New York) Speaking of banal...
TED KOPPEL: I'll start with you. As you know this man, I'm speaking
now of the President of the United States, is he in fact capable of turning the
other cheek and, I mean, genuinely forgetting about all the hurts of this past
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Not fully. I mean I think that, you know, in
some ways he's the ultimate existential man. He'll have a moment where he
feels fully contrite and full of forgiveness. The next moment he'll be
thinking about how to get revenge. I mean that's just the way he is and the
way he always has been. My guess is he'll probably try to do both. The
question is can he succeed at it and I don't think he can.
TED KOPPEL: Well, actually let me rephrase your answer into a question
for David. How does he succeed not at that but how does he succeed in these
final two years?
DAVID GERGEN, Former Presidential Advisor: (Washington) Well, I
think that's the big decision that he's going to have to make, Ted. I think
he's got a serious, serious dilemma on his hands in this sense. If he wants to
govern and go down as a president who is going to have productive legislative
accomplishments, in my opinion he's going to have to work with the Republicans
and compromise in the direction of the Republicans on Social Security, on
Medicare and on education. But to do that, he would have to abandon his
Democratic base and I think after this impeachment fight, given all the other
insults and humiliations he feels he suffered at the hands of the Republicans,
I don't think there's any chance he's going to do that. His head will tell
him, his head will tell him to work with the Republicans. His heart and soul
now belong firmly to the Democrats.
TED KOPPEL: Well, not just his heart and soul. Doesn't he owe the
Democratic, I mean the Democrats have stood by him through thick and thin, both
in the House and now in the Senate, not a single vote wavering in the Senate.
Is this a man who pays his political debts, David?
DAVID GERGEN: Well, I think he will feel he has to but I think he now
feels bonded with them in a way he never has during his entire presidency. You
know, the days of Dick Morris and triangulation when he was trying to, you
know, to stand above both parties and be himself, I think those days are gone.
TED KOPPEL: Interesting question, George, because, you know, when David
says stick with the Democrats, this is not really a president who's been all
that close to his party over the last six years.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: No, in fact he's been willing to abandon them at
various times. But I think that this is what President Clinton would call a
false choice. He firmly believes and the Demo, and the White House firmly
believes that the Republican Party is in such bad shape in the Congress right
now that they're going to have to move the President's way on Medicare, on
Social Security, on education. Maybe they're wrong, but I think where David is
correct is that, you know, Democrats who heard the President up at Winter Green
yesterday when he met with the House Democrats heard what they thought was a
blood oath from the President not to abandon them. He also will not be able to
abandon them because he has to look out for Vice President Gore's interests and
his campaign in the year 2000. So he is going to stick with the Democrats.
DAVID GERGEN: Yeah, but see, Ted, where I think the Democrats are, I
think those Democrats are misreading the political landscape is to think that
the Republicans will come their way. The Republicans who fell on their sword
over impeachment, who fell on their sword over their basic principles and have
taken such a hit politically are not going to throw away those principles now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And what the White House would say, David, to
that is that they're willing to fall on their sword one more time and hurt
themselves. They're banking on the Republicans finally acting rationally.
DAVID GERGEN: There is no way the Republican Party is going to agree to
a plan to have the government invest $600 billion, $700 billion in the stock
market. The Republicans are not going to agree to a plan that allows the
federal government to, from a Republican standpoint, to federalize local
TED KOPPEL: Let me slip in another subject here before we're all out of
time and you've alluded to it, namely the subject of Vice President Gore. Is
Bill Clinton going to end up being an asset to the vice president or more of an
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's going to be tricky and I think, you
know, the vice president's most problematic statement in the last six months is
the day the President was impeached. He said that Bill Clinton would be one of
our greatest presidents ever. I think that kind of hyperbole, loyal though it
may be, might come back to haunt him.
TED KOPPEL: There is an element, David, of Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon
Johnson here, isn't there?
DAVID GERGEN: There, that's what we thought a few months ago, Ted. I
think that Bill Clinton now is going to be a great asset to Vice President Gore
and the other big person who may be a great asset, we'll know in the next
couple of weeks, is if Hillary Clinton decides to run for the Senate then that
decision has to come soon now and I believe the President would very much like
her to run. That's what I'm hearing from sources close in.
TED KOPPEL: That looked like a rueful smile, George. What did that
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I think Mrs. Clinton is having a lot of fun
playing around with this Senate seat. I still think there's no way she's going
TED KOPPEL: All right, on that note and who knows, we'll, we may have
an answer to that very soon, let me thank you both for your loyal and
interesting and sometimes even charming commentary on what is a very difficult
case. Good to have you with us again. I'll be back in a moment.
TED KOPPEL: Sunday on This Week With Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts,
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, the lead impeachment manager,
and White House Chief of Staff John Podesta.
That's our report for tonight. I'm Ted Koppel in Washington. For all of us
here at ABC News, good night.