Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat - California)
Voting Record -- Impeachment Trial of William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton
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Statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein on Plans to Vote Against Convicting and Removing President Clinton from Office
February 11, 1999
I will vote against conviction and removal of President William Jefferson Clinton on both articles of impeachment. I do not believe the House managers established beyond a reasonable doubt that this President is guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice. Although I deplore the circumstances that have brought us to this point, I do not believe they present a clear and present danger to the functioning of our government, and therefore this President, who has been a good president for the people of the United States, should not be convicted and removed from office.
But let me be perfectly clear: I do not condone the behavior of President Clinton. I do not defend it, and I do not accept it. The conduct at the heart of the charges is deplorable. The President acted immorally, he acted recklessly, he acted disgracefully. He willfully misled the American people, the members of his Cabinet, his staff and the judicial system. In doing this, he has brought shame and dishonor upon the Office of the President, and, especially, upon himself.
Early on in these proceedings, I realized that never in our nations history has an impeached elected official been convicted and removed from office. At that point, I began to really understand the depth and breadth and importance of the decision that the Senate was being asked to make.
At the very least, this case becomes one of first impression. It sets a precedent. It declares a standard. It will affect presidents in days to come.
When the articles of impeachment first came to the Senate, I listened very carefully, with the understanding that the articles themselves charge felonies, and secondly, that these felonies are drawn around acts of consensual illicit relations, and the subsequent efforts to cover that relationship up.
Historically, many presidents have had liaisons outside of marriage, and the fact that they were never brought to light at the time either means that these liaisons were kept private or that they, too, were covered up in some way.
In addition to being a case of first impression, I very much agree with those who have pointed out that our democracy is different from all other forms of government, in that it offers a kind of stability which allows our leaders to play an important role in the world as well as this nation.
And, secondly, to be elected President of the United States requires a titanic effort and a vote of the entire American people, for a four-year term of office.
Our forefathers, in setting up the impeachment clauses, make very clear that conviction on impeachment articles, by carrying with it removal from office, by a two-thirds vote, is both difficult to achieve and should not lightly be entered into. By these requirements, they strengthened the executive branch, moving it away from a parliamentary democracy.
Alexander Hamilton, in the often-quoted Federalist No. 65, points out that impeachable offenses are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men... they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.
Justice Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution, wrote: It will not be sufficient to say, that in the cases, where any offence is punished by any statute of the United States, it may, and ought to be deemed an impeachable offense. It is not every offence, that by the constitution is so impeachable. It must not only be an offence, but a high crime and misdemeanor.
So, also, with this impeachment comes the need to evaluate whether continuation of this presidency constitutes a danger to the State, that this President must be removed in order to prevent injury to the orderly functioning of government and the security of the nation. Conviction and removal was not meant to punish an individual. Its intent was to provide one way to free the nation from a president whose high crimes presented a threat to the orderly functioning of government.
So when the articles of impeachment proceeded to this body, I listened carefully to the managers presentation, and have come to the conclusion that the charges were not proven in a manner which would stand the test of time and would be sufficient, considering the penalty. As Representative Lindsey Graham pointed out, that penalty is a political death penalty. And as others have noted, the concept of proportionality is an important consideration.
Let me give a few examples of where I believe these felony charges were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, or by clear and convincing evidence, or by a preponderance of the evidence:
Charge: The President encouraged Ms. Lewinsky to execute a false, perjurious affidavit.
Evidence: To prove this, the House managers relied on the testimony of just one witness -- Monica Lewinsky. However, Ms. Lewinsky testified-- directly and repeatedly-- that Clinton never told her to lie. She testified very clearly in her Senate deposition that she and the President never discussed the actual or potential content of her affidavit. Now one might say, Well, he clearly didnt want her to tell the truth. But that, then, is inference; it is deduction; it is not proof.
One may speculate that the President encouraged her to lie, but quite simply the point hasnt been proven.
Charge: The President tried to suppress and conceal the gifts which he had given to Ms. Lewinsky.
Evidence: Here is a major conflict. Monica Lewinsky testified that Betty Currie called her to initiate the retrieval of the gifts. But, Betty Currie testified to the grand jury that it was Ms. Lewinsky who called her to retrieve the gifts.
On this point of conflict, the House managers surprisingly did not call Betty Currie to testify -- the one witness who could have helped the Senate resolve this conflict.
The Managers offered cell phone records as proof that Ms. Currie initiated the retrieval. But other evidence indicates that the gift transfer occurred before the cell phone call. Again, the charge has not been proven.
Charge: The President tried to get Ms. Lewinsky a new job to secure her favorable testimony.
Evidence: Numerous facts contradict this claim:
the job assistance to Ms. Lewinsky started in October, long before she became a potential witness in the Paula Jones case.
Ms. Lewinsky actually got a job offer from the United Nations before she became a potential witness in the Paula Jones case.
the December 11 meeting with Vernon Jordan, to which the House managers attached so much importance, was set up in November, before Ms. Lewinsky became a potential witness in the Paula Jones case.
Representative Asa Hutchinson built much of his case on the supposed fact that the December 11th meeting occurred after Judge Wright issued her order to compel Ms. Lewinskys testimony. In fact, Judge Wrights order was issued in the evening, not the morning as Hutchinson represented, and by that time Vernon Jordan was on an airplane.
The Flawed Process
Additionally, in my mind the articles came to us as a product of a highly partisan deliberation in the House of Representatives, and in a flawed manner in general.
Let me be specific:
all evidence was prematurely released to the world, to be carried over the Internet, and to be reviewed by all of the American people, including grand jury testimony. To my knowledge, it is the first time anyones grand jury testimony has been released to the public before a trial. The President certainly wasnt treated like any other citizen in this regard.
the House Judiciary Committee heard no witnesses to the underlying facts unlike the Watergate hearings or any other impeachment.
the drafting of the articles, which contain a variety of examples, is non-specific and vague, and, as has been said before, makes it possible for a president to be removed from office even when there is not a two-thirds vote for any, much less all, of the individual items in each of the articles, in violation of the requirement for a two-thirds vote in the Constitution.
Those are the flaws.
The process was partisan in the sense that the minoritys rights were trampled upon:
requests for information and subpoenas from the minority were refused.
the House didnt even provide a basic opportunity for the Presidents counsels to review the evidence first, in marked contrast to the actions of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings.
the Independent Counsels presentation was that of an advocate rather than an independent presenter of evidence.
the leadership of the House blocked a censure resolution from coming to the floor of the House of Representatives. There are many who believed such a resolution would have passed.
This partisan and flawed process set the stage for the Senate, leading me to seriously question the impartiality of the process.
I dont want anyone to believe that I am not concerned by the character flaws and the values and the conduct that this chapter of history has revealed. In no way, shape, or form can I condone the Presidents conduct:
He misled the American people.
He misled his staff.
He misled the Cabinet.
He simply didnt tell the whole truth, virtually ever during this entire episode.
Not only was this affair sordid, involving a young intern/employee, but it led to a sequence of events and statements which were aimed at covering up this misconduct, resulting in even more deception.
I was appalled by the Presidents conversation with Sidney Blumenthal, where he characterized Monica Lewinsky as a stalker. And by his conversations with Betty Currie, where he similarly portrayed Ms. Lewinsky as a sexual aggressor. This to me took on a diabolical ring, which was intended to damage this young womans reputation and, secondly, to give him an innocence which was undeserved.
Domestically, I believe that the impact of removing this President would indeed be great, although there is a clear line of succession and the nation would survive. However, the fact that this is a popular, well-respected president, who has done good work for the people of this nation and has strong support must be considered.
Internationally, I believe the impact would be dramatic, different, and de-stabilizing.
Internationally, this President is held in extraordinary regard. His presence, his international clout, his enormous ability, have all combined to help this nation assume a position of dominant leadership in virtually every area of the world today, and to stabilize and further the cause of peace.
Ambassador after ambassador from other countries has told me they do not understand why we are doing this, and that it can only hurt Americas preeminence in the world.
In this light, the strong belief and will of the American people -- who, unlike any other past case, have had all the evidence laid out before them -- still clearly believe that this president does not threaten the nation and should not be removed. These views should be given weight in making this decision.
Three of Americas most respected political leaders, from both parties, beginning with our own former respected colleague the Majority Leader Bob Dole, and Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, have supported and advocated censure as the appropriate remedy in this particular situation.
Let me explain why I believe censure of the President is the right response to this. I hope that the errors of the House are not repeated, and we end up with a partisan vote and outcome, and no final statement that the conduct involved here was indeed serious and the Presidents actions wrong.
While it does not represent an immediate danger to the security and stability of the nation, the Presidents behavior was immoral, deplorable, and indefensible. It sent the wrong message to the nation and our children. I, and many of my Senate colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, believe that the Presidents actions merit strong condemnation and censure, and that there should be a formal means for senators and the Senate to express this condemnation. I would like at this point to particularly thank Sen. Bennett, who shares this view with me and who has been my staunch ally in this effort.
Intent Behind Censure Resolution
I want to clear up once and for all what the intent behind our censure is.
The censure resolution which Senator Bennett and I intend to propose does not express legal conclusions in the court of impeachment. Rather, it would be a legislative measure, expressing our moral conclusions regarding the Presidents conduct in a legislative sense.
The legal conclusions to be made in this case, if any, will be left to a court of law. Our intent is not to bind or influence the court one way or another, for good or ill, in making any determinations which it may about the Presidents conduct.
Instead, our purpose is to speak to the moral ramifications of the Presidents conduct, and to the message that those actions -- and the actions of the Senate in adopting the censure resolution -- send to the people of our nation, especially its youth.
It has become apparent that the only way we will have of moving this censure resolution to the floor is by a motion to suspend the rules, which requires 67 votes. I would hope that at the appropriate time these votes would be present.
So I will vote against the articles of impeachment, and I strongly urge that we thereafter consider a resolution of censure.
Statement by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein on a Censure Resolution of President William Jefferson Clinton
February 12, 1999
[Click to view full text of Senator Feinstein's resolution]
During these trying days, the question has been asked of many of us: What will we tell our children about this sordid period in our nations history?
Mr. President, members of the Senate, I had hoped to be able to tell my granddaughter and, indeed, the rest of our nation, that the United States Senate had come together in bipartisan fellowship to approve a censure resolution that would deliver a clear message that the behavior of President William Jefferson Clinton has been inappropriate, intolerable and unacceptable.
Unfortunately, some in this body, have forestalled our ability to bring such a resolution to the floor of the Senate for a vote. This I regret deeply.
There are moments in history when we are able to rise up against the forces driving us apart and come together with a united purpose. I believe that the censure resolution provided us with just such an opportunity.
While not a cure-all, the resolution is a way to share with our children and the rest of our nation our findings, our sentiments, our belief that the actions of the President are a violation of the trust of the American people and have brought shame and dishonor upon the presidency and the man.
But as has been made clear, those of us who truly believe a strong censure is the appropriate resolution in this case are being prevented from bringing it to the floor of this Senate for a vote.
The main co-sponsor of the resolution is the Senator from Utah, Mr. Robert Bennett. In all, it is co-sponsored by 38 Senators, over a third of the U.S. Senate.
The words of the resolution are strong, but they are fitting words and I believe a bipartisan majority of the Senate would be prepared to vote for this censure resolution if it were permitted to come to a vote today.
Over the past few weeks, I have worked very closely with a large number of Senators to develop a bipartisan resolution, largely because I felt it so important that anyone who looks at this shabby episode of American history understands that while one may not vote to convict and remove a president, one can have profound dismay and concern about the misconduct that was inherent in the articles of impeachment.
That is why I regret deeply that some have seen fit to prevent us from voting on a censure resolution.
Because that cannot happen today, I have joined with the cosponsors of this resolution to formally present it to the Senate and record it in the Congressional Record, making clear for all time the strong censure of this President and condemnation of his actions by at least one-third of the U.S. Senate.
Earlier today, I voted against conviction and removal of the President on both articles of impeachment. I did not believe the House managers established beyond a reasonable doubt that this President is guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Although I deplore the circumstances that have brought us to this point, I do not believe they present a clear and present danger to the functioning of our government, and therefore this President, who has been a good president for the people of the United States, should not be convicted and removed from office.
However, I feel very strongly and sincerely that the acquittal of the President on the articles of impeachment should not be the Senates last word on the Presidents conduct, and that without further action such as a resolution of censure, the wrong message about the Presidents actions and the Senates views thereon will be sent to the country.
One of the most worthwhile experiences of my Senate career has been listening to the remarks of the Senators over the past three days on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Each one gave substantial deliberation, serious thought and research and tried his or her level best to maintain their oath of impartiality.
It should be clear that this was not an easy time. It should be clear that every one in the Senate at every minute of every day wished this were not happening. But we found ourselves caught up in a constitutional requirement that gave us little choice.
I hope we come out of this with a deeper understanding of the divisions and polarization, which all of this has caused, and that every effort can be made, not only by our leadership, but by every member of the Senate in every issue that comes before us to seek out a bipartisanship and to work together to solve the problems facing our nation.
A good start in this process would have been to have allowed a vote on the censure resolution. I hope that when we return from the Presidents Day recess, we will do better.
Intent Behind the Censure Resolution
I want to clear up once and for all the intent behind our censure resolution.
The resolution does not express legal conclusions in the court of impeachment. Rather, it is a legislative measure, expressing our conclusions regarding the Presidents conduct.
The legal conclusions to be made in this case, if any, will be left to a court of law. Our intent is not to bind or influence the court one way or another, for good or ill, in making any determinations which it may about the Presidents conduct.
Instead, our purpose is to speak to the moral ramifications of the Presidents conduct, and to the message that those actions send to the people of our nation, especially its youth.
While the Presidents actions do not constitute a fundamental threat to the nation, neither were they at all acceptable. The Presidents conduct was both willful and wrong, clearly by any standard, his behavior is indefensible.
These actions demeaned the Office of the President, violated the trust of the American people, and brought shame and dishonor upon President Clinton.
Drafting the Resolution
Let me speak for a moment about the process which we have gone through in developing the language. I began the process when I started to doubt whether the Presidents conduct rose to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor for which he should be removed from office.
Senator Herb Kohl was an early partner in this effort, and he and his staff provided valuable input.
As we developed the language further, I sounded out more of my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, on the issue. I was fortunate enough to have Senator Bennett join me as the lead Republican co-sponsor. Senator Bennett has been a stalwart partner in this effort, and it has been a real pleasure working with him.
Many senators offered input regarding the specific language of the resolution, and we have incorporated virtually every suggestion made.
Senators Lincoln, Snowe, Levin, Jeffords, and Schumer, for instance, all have left their imprint upon this text, as has Senator Moynihan, who was appointed by Senator Daschle to join Senator Kohl and myself as a Democratic task force on censure.
In the process of developing this language and striving for a bipartisanship, we have gone through some 25 drafts of the resolution. We believe that the text before you today is that which can obtain the most support from the most senators, of both parties, possible.
As a result of these efforts, I am very pleased that we have been joined by a very significant number of co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. These co-sponsors run the ideological gamut from liberal to moderate to conservative. The breadth of these co-sponsors, I believe, represents the widespread consensus that the Presidents actions merit serious condemnation.
Historical Precedents for Censure
Let me now discuss the ample historical precedents for this censure resolution.
Censure is an extraordinary measure that Congress has used sparingly over the past 200 hundred years.
Censure is rare because it is such a powerful expression of Congressional criticism. In a censure resolution, a House of Congress publicly states its collective view that an individual has acted beyond the bounds of acceptable professional conduct. A censure records for history the major misdoings of public men and women.
Over the past 200 years, the House and Senate have initiated censure proceedings against Executive Branch officials on at least 13 different occasions.
Three times a House of Congress has adopted measures that could be described as a censure of a president. In 1834, the Senate censured President Andrew Jackson. Twice the House has adopted statements criticizing presidents in the cases of John Tyler and James Buchanan.
Censuring President Clinton would be consistent with historical use of this rare, but powerful, Congressional power.
The Case of Andrew Jackson
By far the most famous censure case of a sitting president involved Andrew Jackson.
President Jackson feuded with Congress over the establishment of a bank of the United States.
1. First, In 1832, he vetoed the rechartering of the Bank of the United States on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, elitist, and had failed in establishing a sound currency.
2. Second, Jackson directed the government to withdraw its funds from the Bank. When his Treasury Secretary protested the withdrawal, Jackson removed him from his position.
On March 28, 1834, the Senate voted to censure President Jackson by a partisan vote of 26-20.
The resolution stated:
Resolved, That the President, in the last executive proceedings in relation to the public revenue, has assumed upon himself authority and power not conferred by the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of both.
The censure resolution expressed more than idle words. It dealt Jackson a painful blow in the arena of public opinion and in history.
Soon after the vote, Jackson wrote to the Senate challenging its action. He noted that the Senate resolution was an an imputation upon my private as well public character.
This censure was such a powerful condemnation of President Jacksons actions that his supporters led the Senate to revisit the issue several years later. On January 14, 1837, the Senate voted to expunge the censure resolution from the record by a vote of 24-19
The House of Representatives has adopted two other statements that can be construed as censure motions against a president.
President John Tyler
In 1841, John Tyler assumed the Presidency upon the death of President William Henry Harrison. In contrast to President Harrison, whose Whig views coincided with views of the majority of Congress, Tyler espoused States rights.
Tyler aroused the anger of Congress by vetoing Whig-sponsored bills related to tariffs and the creation of a national bank. Exasperated Members of the House of Representatives finally decided to publicly rebuke the President.
A select committee drafted a report criticizing the President for:
Gross abuse of constitutional power and bold assumptions of powers never vested in him by any law;
for having assumed ... the whole Legislative power to himself, and ... levying millions of money upon the people, without any authority of law;
and for the abusive exercise of the constitutional power of the President to arrest the action of Congress upon measures vital to the welfare of the people ...
On August 17, 1842, the House passed this select Committee report.
President James Buchanan
Along with his Secretary of the Navy, President Buchanan was implicated in a financial scandal. There were accusations of kickbacks and the granting of government contracts to political supporters.
On June 13, 1860 the House of Representatives voted 106-61 in favor of censuring the Secretary of the Navy and stating that President Buchanans conduct deserved its reproof.
The resolution stated:
Resolved, That the President and the Secretary of the Navy, by receiving and considering the party relations of bidders for contracts and the effect of awarding contracts upon pending elections, have set an example dangerous to the public safety, and deserving the reproof of this House.
Other Executive Officials
At least three secretaries of cabinet departments and one ambassador have also been Censured.
These cases include:
1) Secretary of the Navy Isaac Toucey, 1860
On June 13, 1860, the House of Representatives passed a resolution censuring Secretary Toucey in the same kickback and bribery scandal that led to the reproof of President Buchanan.
2) Secretary of War Simon Cameron, 1862
In another corruption scandal, the House passed a censure resolution against Secretary of War Cameron for embezzlement and for entrusting public money to his lieutenant, Alexander Cummings. Mr. Cummings allegedly spent $21,000 of government funds on personal items like straw hats, linen pantaloons, scotch ale, and herring.
3) Attorney General, A.H. Garland, 1886
On March 24, 1886, the Senate passed a resolution of condemnation of the Attorney General for refusing to turn over government papers regarding the removal of a District Attorney from office.
4) Ambassador Thomas Bayard, 1896
On March 20, 1896 the House of Representatives considered a resolution condemning and censuring Ambassador Bayard for diplomatic improprieties. He was charged with making partisan remarks to British audiences.
Censure of Members of Congress
Congress has also used censure to condemn the conduct of its own members. Nine senators and 22 members of the House have been censured.
Indeed, many members of this body personally know former senators who have been censured. To those who argue that censure is a wet noodle across the wrist, I would respectfully request that they ask their colleagues how these former senators felt about being censured. I am confident, because I have had some of these conversations myself, that they would find that censure was felt deeply, and was a very significant stain upon their reputations and legacy.
Censure History Conclusion
In sum, censure is a powerful tool used very sparingly by Congress to condemn unacceptable conduct. Congress has initiated censure proceedings in policy disputes, but it has also criticized executive branch officials in the cases of President Buchanan, Navy Secretary Welles, and President Nixon for personal misconduct.
So to those who argue that passing this censure would establish a precedent for the future where presidents and cabinet officials could be censured, I hope this discussion has made it clear: that precedent has already been set.
Bipartisan Censure Promotes Healing
In this bipartisan censure, we provided the Senate with a real opportunity to achieve a strong, unifying, bipartisan conclusion to this whole tawdry, exhausting and divisive controversy.
The Houses actions were marred with partisanship. Indeed, one example of this was the action of the House leadership to prevent a censure resolution from even being considered on the House floor.
The Senate started its proceedings on a high note, when we came together to agree unanimously, across party lines, upon procedures for the trial. Passing our censure resolution by a strong, bipartisan vote would represent an appropriate bookend to this bipartisan beginning, and would stand this Senate well in the annals of history.
Moreover, it would put the proper historical perspective upon the Senates actions and determinations, which should not be read as a vindication of the President.
I believe that passing this censure on a bipartisan basis would bring a real closure to the process, and would help to heal the divisions between the parties which were created during these proceedings, so that we can move on to work together to address the real problems confronting the American people, like saving social security, improving education, and continuing the fight to reduce crime.
It is time that we move on to these other matters of significance to our people, to reconcile differences between and within the branches of government, and to work together across party lines for the benefit of the American people.
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Last updated: March 02, 1999; Version: 1.3