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tv   Chairman Peter Rodino Opening Statement  CSPAN  August 5, 2014 8:10pm-8:25pm EDT

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where president nixon was heavily supported. so for them their careers were on the line as well and they tended to be fairly cautious during the course of the examinations. it was hard to tell. some were hard core for and some who were pretty tentative looking at the facts but understanding that they were in difficult positions as well. so, it was hard to know exactly who was going to vote which way in terms of the totality of the groups but i think the night before, the day before when congressman railsback held that meeting in his office, when i saw the seven people who were there as such knew pretty much how they would vote. >> secretary cohen, thank you for your perspective. from the house judiciary committee the impeachment hearings. you'll hear the opening statements including that of congressman bill cohen, freshman
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republican from maine. will allow me a personal reference. throughout all of the painstaking proceedings of this committee, i, as the chairman, have been guided by a simple principle: the principle that the law must deal fairly with every man. for me, this is the oldest principle of democracy. it is this simple but great principle which enables man to live justly and in decency in a free society. it is now almost 15 centuries since the emperor justinian, from whose name the word justice is derived, established this principle for the free citizens of rome. seven centuries have now passed since the english barons
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proclaimed the same principle by compelling king john, at the point of a sword, to accept the great doctrine of magna carta. the doctrine that the king, like each of his subjects, was under god and law. almost two centuries ago, the founding fathers of the united states reaffirmed and refined this principle so that he or all men are under the law and it is only the people who are sovereign. so speaks our constitution. and it is under our constitution the supreme law of our land that we proceed through the sole power of impeachment. we have reached the moment when we are ready to debate
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resolutions whether or not the committee on the judiciary should recommend that the house of representatives adopt articles calling for the impeachment of richard m. nixon. make no mistake about it. this is a turning point whatever we decide. our judgment is not concerned with an individual but with a system of constitutional government, it has been the history, and the good fortune, of the united states ever since the founding fathers that each generation of citizens and their officials have been, within tolerable limits, faithful custodians of the constitution and of the rule of law.
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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. this committee must now decide a question of the highest constitutional importance. for more than two years there have been serious allegations by people of good faith and sound intelligence that the president, richard m. nixon, has committed grave and systematic violations of the constitution. last october, in the belief that such violations had in fact occurred, a number of
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impeachment resolutions were introduced by members of the house and referred to our committee by the speaker. on february 6th, the house of representatives by a vote of 410-4 authorized and directed the committee on the judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist to impeach richard m. nixon, president of the united states. the constitution specifies that the grounds for impeachment shall be, not partisan consideration, but evidence of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. since the constitution vests the sole power of impeachment in the house of representatives, it falls to the judiciary committee to understand even more
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precisely what high crimes and misdemeanors might mean in terms of the constitution and the facts before us in our time. the founding fathers clearly did not mean that a president might be impeached for mistakes -- even serious mistakes - which he might commit in the faithful execution of his office. by high crimes and misdemeanors they meant offenses more definitely incompatible with the constitution. the founding fathers with their recent experience of monarchy and their determination that government be accountable and lawful wrote into the constitution a special oath that the president and only the president must take at his
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inauguration, and in that oath the president swears that he will take care that the laws be faithfully executed. the judiciary committee has for seven months investigated whether or not the president has seriously abused his power in violation of that oath and the public trust embodied in it. we have investigated fully and completely what within our constitution and traditions would be grounds for impeachment. for the past 10 weeks we have listened to the presentation of evidence in documentary form, to tape recordings of 19 presidential conversations and to the testimony of nine witnesses called before the entire committee.
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we have provided a fair opportunity for the president's counsel to present the views of the president to this committee. we have taken care to preserve the integrity of the process in which we are now engaged. we have deliberated, we have been patient, we have been fair. now the american people, the house of representatives and the constitution and the whole history of our republic demand that we make up our minds. as the english statesman edmund burke said, during an impeachment trial in 1788, it is by this tribunal that statesmen who abuse their power are accused by statesmen and tried
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by statesmen. not upon the niceties of a narrow jurisprudence, but upon the enlarged and solid principles of state morality. under the constitution and under our authorization from the house of representatives, this inquiry is neither a court of law nor a partisan proceeding. it is an inquiry which must result in a decision, a judgment based on facts which must stand for all time. in his statement of april 30th, the 1972, president nixon told the american people that he had been deceived by subordinates into believing that none of the members of his administration or his personal campaign committee were implicated in the watergate
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break-in and that none had participated in efforts to cover up that illegal activity. a critical question this committee must now decide is whether the president was deceived by his closest political associates or whether they were, in fact, carrying out his policies and decisions. this question must be decided one way or the other. it must be decided whether the president was deceived by his subordinates into believing that his personal agents and key political associates had not been engaged in a systematic cover-up of the illegal political intelligence operation
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of the identities of those responsible and of the existence and scope of other related activities affecting the rights of citizens of these united states. or whether, in fact, richard m. nixon in violation of the sacred obligation of his constitutional oath has used the power of his high office for two years to cover up and conceal responsibility for the watergate burglary and other activities of a similar nature. in short, the committee has to decide whether in his statement of april 30th and other public statements the president was telling the truth to the american people, or whether that
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statement and other statements were part of a pattern of conduct designed not to take care that the laws were faithfully executed, but to impede their faithful execution for his political interests and on his behalf. there are other critical questions that must be decided. we must decide whether the president abused his power in the execution of his office. the great wisdom of our founders entrusted this process to the collective wisdom of many men. each of those chosen to toil for the people at the great forge of democracy, the house of representatives, has a responsibility to exercise independent judgment. i pray that we will each act with the wisdom that compels us
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in the end to be but decent men who seek only the truth. let us be clear about this: no official, no concerned citizen, no representative, no member of this committee welcomes an impeachment proceeding. no one welcomes the day when there has been such a crisis of concern that he must decide whether high crimes and misdemeanors, serious abuses of official power or violations of public trust have, in fact, occurred. let us also be clear. our own public trust, our own commitments to the constitution is being put to the test. such tests historically have come to the awareness of most peoples too late, when their rights and freedoms under law
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were already so far in jeopardy and eroded that it was no longer in the people's power to restore constitutional government by democratic means. so let us go forward. let us go forward into this debate with good will, with honor and decency, and with respect for the views of one another. whatever we now decide we must have the integrity and the decency, the will and the courage, to decide right. let us leave the constitution as unimpaired for our children as our predecessors left it for us. i now recognize the gentleman from michigan.

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