tv Representative Trent Lott Opening Statement CSPAN July 26, 2014 12:38pm-12:50pm EDT
what confronts us in this case without understanding that unless we fulfill our obligations as these fallible human beings in this genius of a governmental structure, our obligation and our duty is to impeach this president, that this country might get about doing its business the way it should do in pursuant to standards that have been set for this country since its beginning. thank you. >> i recognize the gentleman from mississippi, mr. lott, for general debate. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> for a period not to exceed 15 minutes. >> thank you. this has truly been an awesome, time consuming and exhausting task and i really wonder if any of us could appreciate what this moment in history could mean to our country. at points along the way i have been disgusted with committee proceedings such as when we spent an hour earlier this week trying to decide not whether or
not to have television cameras but whether or not to have lights for the television cameras, i must admit in all candidness, that it has been very fair and i must take this opportunity to thank the chairman for his consideration of this particular member and also mr. chairman i was particularly impressed with several of the comments that you made in your opening statement last night and i would like to refer to those. make no mistake about it, this is a turning point, whatever we decide. our judgment does not concern with an individual but with a system of constitutional government. i believe that. further quoting, "for almost 200 years, every generation of americans has taken care to preserve our system and the integrity of our institutions against the particular pressures and emergencies to which every time is subject." i subscribe to that. quoting further, "the founding fathers clearly did not mean
that a president might be impeached for mistakes, even serious mistakes." these quotes i'd like to direct some of my attention to. but first let me go back and put our present situation into the proper perspective. we are now in the final stages of review of some 15 months of the most intensive investigation of any president of the united states, perhaps of any man. the senate select committee, watergate committee, spent 18 months and over $2 million in its investigation. the grand jury in washington, d.c. have spent over $225,000 in their proceedings since june of 1972. the special prosecutors have been at their task since may 1973 at a cost of over $2.8 million and the house judiciary committee staff of some 100 have been working since january at a cost of over $1.17 million. there are reams of papers. thousands of pages, volumes of material, grand jury evidence, other congressional committee investigation papers, transcripts, tapes, logs, handwritten memos and on and on and on.
the sheer weight in pounds is overwhelming. could any man withstand such scrutiny? could any man go through all of this without some evidence of a questionable statement under pressure or while frustrated or even without revealing some mistakes? i submit, no. and where was a similar counter balancing presentation of the other side of the story? was the whole picture revealed properly? was it in the senate watergate committee in the no. was it in the grand jury or even in this committee? in this committee, the staff was nonpartisan and i must give credit where credit is due for a
fair presentation until, of course, very recently, and that's understandable. but except for a last minute shift in the minority counsel, the arguments against impeachment would not have been presented. the president's counsel, james sinclair, was properly allowed to sit in this presentation of evidence and eventually allowed to participate in limited basis. his was the only argument on behalf of the president until the last presentation by mr. garrison. however, he was the president's counsel, not the committee's counsel, not my counsel. there was not a staff structure for a balanced presentation, in my opinion, and perhaps i share the blame for that. an interesting aside is the fact -- and i get into procedures -- is that last night at 7:30, we received the proposed articles of impeachment the night the debate began. quite often we have been faced at the last minute with what we were fixing to vote on but regardless of that we're
prepared to vote on articles of impeachment. i think it's incumbent on every member to listen and keep his mouth shut until he had enough to make his decision but i must also be frank in saying that i've approached this task from the standpoint that the president was innocent, like any man, under such proceedings, should be presumed innocent until there was clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. you cannot impeach a president because you don't like his philosophy or on the basis of innuendo or contradicted evidence. in my opinion, you cannot impeach a president for half a case or on the basis of parts of several cases put together. and we're not faced with impeaching john dean or john mitchell or mcgruder or any of these others. we are faced with impeaching the president. the line must be drawn directly to the president, clearly to the president. this has not been done. the president had several aides that served him and this country poorly. the legal process is now dealing with them. for every bit of evidence implicating the president, there is evidence to the contrary. what is at stake here is the presidency and this is what has worried me all along. in my part of the country, we do worry about these institutions. we do still hold the
institutions that made this country great dear and important. we have to consider the best interests of this country now and in the long run. we cannot allow political considerations or circumstantial evidence to be the basis for impeaching the first president of the united states in or -- over 100 year and i might add, in so many ways, the best president in that period of time. i think this is a classic example here of how, perhaps all
of us in this committee, have gotten so deep in the forest that we've lost sight of the forest. we're now analyzing every diseased tree and i think we've got to look beyond that. let's take a look at a couple of specifics. there's not one iota of evidence that the president had any prior knowledge whatsoever of the watergate break-in and i don't want to get into quoting half of passages. i guess we could do that on and on, each one quote part and the next something to the contrary. that's the point, so much contradicting evidence. the president himself in the transcript of march 13 referred to the watergate break-in like this. "what a stupid thing, pointless. that was the stupid thing." the president did not participate in a watergate cover-up. true, he did not immediately throw all possibly involved immediately to the wolves. would you without knowing all the facts, have dismissed your principal aide? but upon learning from dean on march 21 the real seriousness of what was happening, he started
taking a series of actions to find out really what the truth, the whole story, the president, on march 22, said that hunt could not demand blackmail money, they wouldn't go along with that, instructed dean to prepare a report for him of what had really gone on. he never got that report. the attorney general was advised to report directly to the president. members of the white house were instructed to go to the grand jury and to tell the truth. i think it is important that you've got to look at what eventually happened. i think that you must consider the fact that the president waived executive privilege for his closest aides, including his counsel. that's what really happened and we could go on and on and on. with regard to elsburg psychiatrist break-in, colston testified that he did not know in advance of the break-in. the part of the article that deals with the contempt of
congress charge, i think is so ludicrous, it deserves no comment. what was the genesis of this? what was involved in the whole thing? i'm not saying other things were not important and i had my difficult moments particularly the conversation of march 21 which i've satisfied myself that the president did not order that payment. but the beginning, really, was with the bombing of cambodia and impoundment of funds. and look at that, the bombing of cambodia led to the eventual end of the longest war in this country's history. it was one of the important ingredients, an impoundment. presidents have been impounding funds since president johnson. i think it's interesting that in the recent article in "the washington post," it came out that under the kennedy administration, through assistant attorney general burt marshall, there was a plan called "stick it to mississippi," my home state.
"stick it to mississippi," remember that and what was involved was the impoundment of funds on some three dozen projects to force mississippi to comply with certain justice department decrees and court decrees. it's impoundment any way you look at it but when it's impoundment of some other area, then it's a different horse. now, many of those here have talked about the youth of america and although i have grown much older in the last few months, i guess i'm still the youngest member of this committee and i have been concerned of what impact watergate would have on the young people of america but i think maybe in the final analysis they see all this more clearly than we do and i really think the young people that i've talked to -- and i talked to a lot of them -- have dedicated themselves to making this system better by working within the system and no matter what we finally do in congress, the presidency will be treated more
carefully by future presidents. so i think we must take care to see that we don't do irreparable damage to the longest single existing form of government in the history of man. my question, in the final analysis, will be this. as strongly as i disapproved of the policies of presidents kennedy and johnson, would i have voted to impeach them based on the evidence before this committee. thank you, mr. chairman. >> committee will come to order. i recognize the gentleman from maryland, mr. hogan, for purposes of general debate, not to exceed a period of 15 minutes. mr. hogan. >> thank you, mr. chairman. more than a century ago in a time of great national trial,