Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Lindsey Graham On Grounds For Impeachment (1999)

I started this post over a month ago, thinking I could at least identify some of the key ways people are discussing impeachment.

 Given Meuller's comments today implying that Department of Justice policies prevent DOJ from prosecuting a sitting president, it seems a good time to finish this post.

 While I was outlining the basic points in this debate on both sides, I came across this clip from C-Span of Rep. Lindsey Graham acting as the impeachment trial manager, making the argument for Bill Clinton's impeachment to the US Senate.  It's worth posting without too many comments.  I've also written some transcripts of part of it [see below the video], but it's definitely worth listening to him explain what an impeachable offense is.

[I couldn't find the embed button for this clip on C-Span. I thought I'd gotten around that, but it seems all that was embedded was the image. But if you click on it, it will take to you the original video.]

Lindsey Graham Calling for Clinton's Impeachment

Back 1999 Lindsey Graham calls for justice, upholding high standards of the office, getting to the bottom of things and defending women's dignity

Here's a reasonably close transcript of particularly relevant parts of his speech, but the whole thing is worth listening to give Graham's current defense of Trump against impeachment.

[He begins with how his parents owned a 'beer joint' where blacks had to buy drinks and had to leave because they weren't allowed to drink them in the restaurant - "that's how it was then, but it isn't now."
How women used to not be able to sue over sexual harassment, but can now.
How when a president obstructs justice, lies, etc.  it's up to Congress to keep him accountable.]

We all assumed [Clinton] would play fail.  What if he had not shown up? What if he had refused to answer any court order?  What if he had said “I’m not going to play, that’s it.”?  I’m [not] going to listen to you judicial branch? 
You know the remedy we have for that, when presidential conduct gets out of bounds, do you know where that remedy lies?  It lies with us, the United States Congress

When a president gets out of bounds and doesn’t do what he should do, constitutionally . . . it’s up to us to put it back in bounds or declare it illegal.  

How do we regulate presidential misconduct? . . . through the laws and powers of impeachment. . .   

When he chose to lie, when he chose to manipulate the evidence, the witnesses against him, and get his friends to go to bat for him, he vetoed that decision.  It’s worse than if he hadn’t shown up at all.   .  .

What’s a high crime?  How about if an important person hurts somebody of low means.  It’s not very scholarly, but I think it’s the truth.  I think that’s what they meant by ‘high crimes.’ It doesn’t have to be crime.  It’s just when you start using your office and you’re acting in a way that hurts people, you committed a high crime.  

When you decide  that a course of conduct meets the high crime standard under our constitution for the president, what are we doing   what are we doing to the presidency?

[There’s discussion here where Graham acknowledges that lying about intimate personal actions is something that is hard not to do, that he himself might do it.  That the Senate shouldn’t ignore basic human failings.  But that Clinton lied again to the Grand Jury even when warned it could cost him the presidency.  The burden then that would be put on future presidents is not to lie under oath against a plain citizen.  Then he says what would be expected of other presidents.]

Don’t cheat in a lawsuit by manipulating the testimony of others.  Don’t send public officials and friends to tell your lies before a federal grand jury to avoid your legal responsibilities.  Don’t put your legal and political interests ahead of the rule of law and common decency.  If you find these are high crimes, that is the burden you’re placing on the next office holders.  If they can’t meet that burden, this country has a serious problem.   I don’t want my country to be the country of great equivocators and compartmentalizers for the next century.

What I’m asking you is just his job description.  We’re asking him to be the chief law enforcement officer of the land.  

[More talk about how Clinton defied a 9-0 Supreme Court decision saying that he had to stand trial even while president.  Then he goes on to talk about the impeachment of Judge Harry Claiborne.  That used the same standards as for president - treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors.  He was removed for “filing a false income tax return under penalties of perjury.”  Judge claimed cheating on taxes was related to his job as a judge.  But Senate said it was.]

“You [the Senate] took a broader view and I’m certainly glad you did.  Because this is not a country of high officials who are technicians.  This is a country based on character, this is a country based on having to set a standard that others will follow willingly.  

[He goes on to quote other lawmakers’ words about the scope of impeachment.   Then he talks about the impeachment of Judge Nixon who perjured himself before a grand jury. Then Judge Hastings convicted and removed from office by the Senate.  Acquitted before he got here.  Conspirator was convicted, but he was acquitted.  And was impeached despite the acquittal.  

Impeachment is not about punishment.  Impeachment is about cleansing the office.  Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.  

[Discussion of Clinton case.  It will be hard, because while the evidence is clear, the president is popular.  Setting aside an elected president is a difficult decision.  To undo that election is a tough decision.]

Here's a Grenville, South Carolina newspaper article offering Graham's reasoning for supporting Trump now when he was for Clinton's impeachment.   I'd note that there is simply so many more incidents of misconduct, of lying, of obstruction of justice, in the office of president and leading up to the presidency compared to Clinton, that his argument that 'this is different' is absurd.  Yes, it is different.  It's 100 times worse.  

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