tv Sen. Robert Byrd D- West Virginia on Clinton Impeachment Trial CSPAN January 12, 2020 9:05pm-10:01pm EST
1999 interview with senator robert byrd. he talks about the rules, procedures, and history related to the impending impeachment trial of president bill clinton. senator byrd, a democrat from west virginia, served in the u.s. senate for more than 51 years, from 1959 till his death in 2010. he could often be heard discussing history on the senate floor. senator robert byrd, how important is this impeachment trial in the senate? senator byrd: it's very important. i don't know of any constitutional question that would excede the level of or which would even reach the level of importance, a
vote convict or quitt an impeached president. how any time said he personally gone through any kind of an impeachment trial? senator byrd: i have sat through three impeachment trials of federal judges. as president pro temp of the the democrats were in control of the senate, i presided over the convictions of two federal judges, which i believe is probably the highest number of convictions over which any president progra temp has presided. i also prepared for the impeachment trial of former president nixon. host: what is the public going to see that they will be surprised about? i hope that: well,
whichill see a trial in there will be proper the quorum -- decorum. i don't expect them to see, annd d i would want to go to a corner and stand in shame if they saw the senate engaged in a trial such as the o.j. simpson trial. it's not a criminal trial, an impeachment trial is not a criminal trial. differently.ed e that concern an offens is not indictable in a court of law, and that's important to remember. it doesn't have to be an offense indictable in a court of law. it would proceed by rules for
which the people are unaccustomed to seeing as far as the senate is concerned in that senators must stit and not engae in colloquies during a trial. they may ask questions that are the in writing up to presiding officer, the chief justice of the united states. and the chief justice made then propound to those questions. very solemn proceeding. and, if it's conducted by senators appropriately, it can proceeding.pressive host: should the senate conduct any other business while the trial is going on? senator byrd: it can do so. it has done so when there were trials involving these judges,
federal judges. who had been impeached. this being an impeached president, i don't think that the senate should be engaged in other business. there may be some minor housekeeping items that have to be done, but other than that, i think that the senate ought to proceed with this trial conducted fairly and reasonably and get past it. host: i was reading your history of the united states senate. "two lives." you devote a lot 27 and you talk about the andrew johnson impeachment where it one point, the chief justice gaveled the galleries out. the sergeant at arms, move
them out of here. what was that about? why were they that boisterous? senator byrd: in the impeachment we didf andrew johnson, not have the advantage of television or polls or anything, but i think the general consensus would be that the p eople certainly in the area here were for the most part for convicting johnson. many of the state legislatures, the state legislator of west virginia, for example, passed a resolution urging it two senators, the two first senators from the state of west virginia, to vote to convict. to convict, but againstr senator voted
conviction. and there was a strong sentiment for conviction. but the senators in the main voted not to convict. that took courage to go against the public opinion at that point. that trial lasted ten weeks to time of4, 1868, the first vote, that was may 16. then they recess for 10 days and had two more votes on the 26th. the questions involved were far different from when i was here. the chiefte right,
justice required order in the galleries, and the chief justice will do so again. i have great faith in chief justice rehnquist. i don't think th galleries will order.e his requests for the senate certain has had the power to clear the galleries and to arrest any individuals who are causing the disturbance. host: couple of weeks ago you made a statement about what the white house should and should not do. you can correct me if i'm wrong but you said do not tamper with this jury. is it any time during this time the white house contacted you directly? senator byrd: no. host: what would you do if they did? senator byrd: well, they would find out. you would probably hear about it, also. let me make this clear. they are free to contact me
about any other matters. and if they feel if they want to talk to me about this, they are welcome to this office. discourage, discourage even the perception of lobbying a senator. and i warned against this when we were approaching a trial in connection with former president nixon. warned against any attempt to lobby senators. and i saw no evidence of it in that instance. and i so state in my book. the, the whitee house would continue to be
circumspect and would not lobby the members of the senate directly or indirectly. host: what is wrong with that? senator byrd: in the first place, it could be very counterproductive. which i am at this particular point, i could go either way based on the seen, i'vend as i've followed it pretty closely, i could probably go either way. but if there is any attempt to push me to lobby me, to influence me, it would be counterproductive. nnd i suppose there are ma senators feel that way about it.
we senators have read the starr report. we have watched the proceedings of the house judiciary committee every hour and almost every minute of the proceedings. we have watched the debates in the house. we have read editorials and columns and statements in the media. and heard them on, and so, we have a great deal of evidence that our fingertips. we will listen to the managers as they proceed to make the case in the senate. we will listen to the defense, the president or the president himself if he chooses to come. l listen to the replication or the response by the house managers to the response of the defense. we are perfectly capable of making up our own minds. be leftought to alone to do that. this is a very serious matter, and it should not depend upon political party. and any attempt to infuse
partisan politics, that is what lobbying with the, an infusion of partisan politics if the white house engaged in that, would be wrong. the constitution is, and the amendments thereto are color blind. u.s. heard that. -- you've heard that. the constitution are also party blind. and i'm not going to make a judgment based on political party. awould be, if it were republican president, i would feel the same about it, and i said so during the time when a possible nixon trial was approaching. fairly imminent. i took that position. and i have constituents who say don't you do thus and so?
the president the democrat. -- the president is a democrat. i listen to them and i can understand that. to make my judgment i am sworn already as a senator. to defend the constitution. in preparation for this trial i will have to take another oath to do impartial justice to the person impeached according to the constitution, the laws, and it says nothing about the local party. -- about political party. and i will make my judgment as near so as i can entirely, therely free and aside from political party affiliation of the person impeached. ,o do otherwise, to me, to me to do otherwise would not be doing impartial justice under the constitution.
host: should there be a full trial? senator byrd: this is a matter of which the senate will have to decide. host: when you say full trial, that would include the invitation of witnesses, the interrogation of witnesses, the cross-examination of witnesses and so on. senator byrd: we have a great body of evidence already before us. much of which is sworn testimony already. it has not been cross-examined. but it would be possible in my to conduct aus trial without having witnesses called. but, of course, having the manager of the house speak to the articles, make their case, the defense response, and the house managers respond to the response. we could reach a judgment. i do think that we ought to try
to expedite this trial, but do it in a way that is fair and perceived to be fair to the person impeached. do it in a way that is respectful and perceived to be respectful of the house of representatives. and it seems to me that this could be done. when we talk about a full trial, what mean, it depends one means by "full." the glass can be a big glass and be full and can be a small glass and be full. it seems to me we could avoid the interrogation of witnesses, based on all the circumstances, i say, as they exist. but, if it comes to a point where the senate decides to have witnesses, and it makes the
charge, that's in the judgment of the senate, managers and the defense may ask for witnesses and the senate may consider their request. the senate is going to make the judgment as to whether or not it has witnesses appear. if it does, then it ought to be a reduced list. but i'm getting a little too far afield. these are matters the senate will decide to host: do you have a sense of when this will happen? senator byrd: well, i haven't talked with the majority leader. i've only read in the media and heard through the media that matters are moving and that we'll begin this week. host: do you have any sense of how long this process will take, based on your experience over the years? by the way, what year is this for you in the united states senate? senator byrd: this is my 41st
year in the senate. my 47th year on capitol hill. and my 53rd year in politics. i don't have any sense. i do feel that there is a desire to get on with it. and to complete it. get it behind us. i think the american people want that. i think most of us would like to see it done. th host: the rules that you will use for this trial were passed from the -- by the senate in what year? senator byrd: rules of impeachments go back along with. -- a long way. the first impeachment was that of a senator. but the senate expelled that senator. and did not have a trial concerning the impeachment, in 1798. william blount. other impeachments followed. 17, mayd i think 16 or
be little question impeachments. and the senate has convicted seven of the persons impeached. they were all federal judges. there is but one president impeached before mr. clinton. one secretary of war. judges.ral federal and, of course, now there are two presidents. as i say, one senator to begin with. i think the outcome of the trial of the senator would indicate that the senate is of the opinion that members of congress cannot be impeached. senators cannot be impeached. why? because they are not civil officers who get their commissions from the president. the president does not give me a commission. to serve as a senator. so, i'm not a civil officer.
those are the exact words in the constitution. the present, the vice president, all civil officers. so, senators are not civil officers, but they can be expelled, as can house members and they have been expelled by the same vote, a 2/3 vote. the host: do you remember the longest trial? senator byrd: it would've been johnson's. i'm not so sure. some of the judges may have extended over longer periods. but the johnson impeachment trial required about 10 weeks. host: over the holidays, you see all of -- senator byrd: your question was when were those rules written? the rules, which we now have governing impeachments, were formulated in 1868 for the trial of andrew johnson. they have since been modified slightly on a few occasions, but
in the main, they are about the same rules, when we were preparing for the trial of president nixon, i was the majority whip. i was on the senate rules committee. taking anvolved in look at the rules to see if certain modifications were needed. and senator alan, the late senator jim allen, who is a real expert on rules, from alabama and i agreed, that there should be virtually no changes in the rules from what they were in 1868. and that is about the way it ended. host: if you want to change a rule for this particular impeachment trial, how hard is it? senator byrd: a can be hard or can be easy. by unanimous consent it can be done. unanimous consent. but pretty hard to get unanimous consent on a thing like this.
i do not see a need to change any major roles, but the senate can enter its own orders by majority vote. on motions. if we want to modify or alter a rule to fit a particular circumstance in this trial, it would not be, might not be difficult to do. it depends on what rule someone would want to change. i don't anticipate that. host: can you change a rule once you get into the trial itself? senator byrd: could have some modification of a rule but by unanimous consent. host: what kind of power does the chief justice half the presiding officer on the trial? senator byrd: keeps order, maintains decorum, promulgates the questions that may be submitted to him in writing by senators.
host: can he vote? senator byrd: he rules on questions of evidence. the prevalence of evidence -- the relevance of evidence. has a very important part to play. he might vote in the case of a tie vote. host: would he vote, if there was a tie vote, there would not be a tie vote for impeachment, but for conviction itself? if he rules something out of order when it comes to evidence, do you have a way of overruling that? senator byrd: the senate may overrule him by a vote. host: did you have to attend all of the trial proceedings if you are senator? senator byrd: there is nothing that says i have to be there, but the dedication of senators and the fact that this is a very somber and a solemn, an important, vitally important vote, would indicate to me that most of them will be there presently all the time.
anin the two impeachment trial f judges during which i presided we had very good attendance. but we would have much better attendance in this case, because level and a far greater importance. host: what impact do you think he will have on this particular trial? three one been television since 1986. what impact television will have on this trial? senator byrd: well, television will have a constant impact. we're all aware that the people are watching us. through that television lens. that's a good thing. i think we ought to conduct ourselves accordingly. mean we have to have long faces all the time, but we ought to be listening and if we
have any question we ought to put them in writing. listeningnot to be in front of each other are crossing around in front of the chief justice or in front of the managers of the. defense. want to act like grown men and women and feel, and present by our attitudes and actions the fact that this is a very serious and solemn matter. thetelevision will relay trial actions and develop to the american people. host: what is your opinion of what has happened so far? when you look at the house and the way it conducted its business in the last year, this whole investigation. where do you come out, not your verdict, but where do you come out on what you've seen of the
process? senator byrd: well, i hold the highest regardhe and respect. the house of representatives. i serve to their once -- there once. but it is an equal body in most respects of my own. and we have to depend upon comity. and i want to be careful how i answer that question. impressed byorably the proceedings in the judiciary committee. this is not to say that i could have done better than chairman hyde did or as good. i thought under the circumstances he did a good job. that, overall, the situation appeared to be very
partisan. that's bad. it's bad to impeach any president purely along partisan lines. partiesre not little when this constitution was written. and when the provisions concerning impeachment were written, there were no clinical parties. impeachment itself is rooted in antiquity. phrase high crimes and misdemeanors right out of the english experience. we had the colonial experience. it is a good history of impeachment from the year 1635 when the first impeachment occurred in the colonies, to 1805, by two people.
impeachment, to really get the feel of it, one has to go back and study the history of impeachment in the english experience. one can read that in the book impeachment, the constitutional problems. one can read the impeachments in alexolonial era by reading . i don't know whether it is an abbreviation for alexander or not, but it probably is. rights its readers -- he writes a treatise on federal impeachment. one can read it in black's handbook on impeachments. one can learn a lot from reading the chief justice's book, grand
inquest. brian: you read it? sen. byrd: yes. i have read half of it. i have read a lot of material on this matter. the halfad the have -- that you with president andrew johnson's because that was a little more pertinent to me at this point then reading the part adam, mr.f justice chase --ay's, seminole samuel chase. the statement made. this doesn't rise to impeachable offense. this is not an impeachable offense. this and that doesn't constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.
arrive know how people at those conclusions, except they hear someone else perhaps or they have read a little bit, for they make a judgment based or itir own intuitions, could be wishful thinking, or it could be solid. they could have read as much as i have. if one is going to understand what high crimes and misdemeanors really means, he has to immerse himself in the .istory of impeachment the english experience, the colonial experience, the experience of the states. the states were formed with new substitutions. and before the constitutional convention met in 1787, they some of thead about
things that have happened since then, the impeachment cases. if one -- we had former congressman gerald ford who made a statement during the discussions in the house when they were thinking about impeaching mr. justice douglas in which he said, and whateverle offense is a majority of the house of representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history. sat through three impeachment trials, there is more truth than fiction in that statement because that is exactly what it amounts to. practically speaking, that is
exactly what an impeachable offense is. have some ardent -- we have some articles sent over by the house -- whether or not we want to vote up or down, and we can't vote maybe or amend those articles in the house, but if we want to convict only want to acquit, we can do that. by what hamilton number federalist as a 65. he was there at the convention. he and john jay and madison wrote the federalist essays. essay, hamilton speaks of impeachable offenses which proceedses
from the conduct -- misconduct whichlic men, offenses proceed from the misconduct of words,men or in other from the abuse or violation of a public trust. i have made -- i may have gotten a field from your question but i hear all of this talk and what rises to that level. they are not written down anywhere. there is no absolute strict specific definition of impeachable offenses except view,is a fairly sizable
consensus, that an impeachable offense doesn't have to be an offense that is indictable in a court of law. it doesn't have to be. brian: let me ask you -- sen. byrd: it leads me to one other thing. brian: i will ask this quick. in your book you point out a judge was convicted and impeached, five members didn't vote. they votedm because for impeachment in the house and then moved to the senate. one of them must trent lott. -- one of them was trent lott. you think the members who voted for or against should recuse himself like those senators did in the late 1980's? brian: sen. byrd: it is a matter
for them to decide. it goes back a long way also. of the to the case impeachment of judge pickering. there were members who voted to .mpeach, who came to the senate there were other cases. . believe they all voted in any event there was a case, , inaps in the case of chase which i seem to member there who came overths from the house for a one of them insisted on voting in the senate, and he did. this is not a new question. those members are entitled and they are now senators. the constitution doesn't say they can't vote or that they have to recuse themselves.
we have places where house members who voted for or against came over to the senate and voted. brian: individuals choice. pointk to your earlier about high crimes and misdemeanors. what would you define as a high crime and misdemeanor? have you thought this out? the sen. byrd: it is one of those things one has to think for himself to really get what the framers probably had in mind, seems to me one has to read the precedents they had before them. the men who wrote the who hadtion were men served in colonial legislatures. they had served in the colonies, in public office. they had served in the states before the convention between 1776 and 1787.
the states that had been colonies but had written new prostitution story of some of the framers had served in the legislatures that debated those constitutions. some of them had served in the continental congress, the first which was 1774. the second was 1775. and in 1781, the articles of confederation. many of them served in the continental congress and they had served in the states as governors, attorneys general and in various other offices. they had heard these debates. they knew what the experiences were in the colonies. they were steeped in english history and roman history. the history of the ancients. there wasn't much of a discussion about it. notesle bit in madison's
taken during the convention. into all ofto delve this in order to get a real feel what amounts to high crime and misdemeanor. is it a high crime, a high misdemeanor? relate to public office? it is a political crime. it is not necessarily a crime that is indictable by law, but it is a political crime and it persons,h political and it carries with it political punishments. punishments?re the sen. byrd: they are not punishments in the english experience. of course they were real. one could lose limbs, put in the tower, could go to prison, could
was,ned, as francis taken 40,000 pounds and sent to the tower. yes,e was not revisited -- he was prohibited from holding any office of honor just for profit. also he could lose his life. some of these persons impeached were beheaded after the trial in the house of lords. the house of lords in a few cases, in some cases didn't go to a trial. in our case the constitution doesn't allow the infliction of criminal penalties on persons who are convicted in impeachment trials. they are automatically removed from office. , thee senate convicts
person is automatically removed. he is removed. brian: is there a pension taken away? sen. byrd: i can't recall. in one or more of the judges cases, they were receiving pensions. i don't thinkut the conviction itself automatically cut the pension. because the constitution says they should be subject to removal. so they are immediately removed from office. be additional penalty probably is a penalty. they may be disqualified from ever holding an office of honor, trust or profit under the united states.
brian: maybe or are? sen. byrd: not automatic. in the case of the three judges i am talking about who were convicted in my time in the senate, they were removed immediately upon conviction, but the senate did not vote to disqualify them. if it had, representative hastings would not be a member of the other body today. brian: let me ask you about the censure? sen. byrd: let me say how important it is we retain impeachment as a tool. it is in the constitution, it will be retained, but how important it is to honor and respect it. .o it will be respected commitsy a president murder while he is in office.
prosecutor in the situation, reached a judgment president should not be indicted because it is a separation of powers. if he were indicted, or if you were, had to go across the street and go to court, go to jail, -- we only have one president. and the judicial power, the judicial element, the judicial branch would for a time being have power over the executive. and leon didn't think that ought
to happen. the constitution provides if a person is impeached, or if he serves his turn out, then he can be indicted and tried and judged and punished. but if the president were to commit murder while he is why is impeachment so important? --you can't be indictable that is maybe an academic question. it has never been really settled. i've pointed to the instance of leon jaworski, which has great weight. he was a special prosecutors and a lot of people would agree with him. some might not. some academics would not. but if he is not indictable
while he is in office, if we hen't have impeachment, would remain in office until his term is up. but as long as we have impeachment, that president could be impeached. he could be convicted in a senate trial at immediately removed from the office of the presidency at which time then the legal system could pick it up. brian: what do you think of this discussion about censure? sen. byrd: what about it? brian: would you vote for a censure of this president? sen. byrd: i don't know yet. i will think of it when we come to it. i will say this. i have heard a lot of talk about the censure motion and what the president would accept.
i mean any president, republican or democrat. doesn't matter whether he accepts it or not. the senate can fast a simple resolution. parliamentary permits, that is a simple resolution meaning it cents of the senate area or a concurrent resolution could be passed by the senate and house, which is a sense of congress, both houses. either has to go to the president. they could go to his desk. it,ould sign it, he could -- he could veto it, or let it become law without his signature. the censure negotiated by the white house representing the person who was accused in the
impeachment trial. has theenate inherently power to pass a simple resolution. it has had that since the beginning. the constitution refers to regulations and bills. it is there. they existed long before the house did. there could be a censure very little senate with say whatever he wanted to. nobody could veto it. but that will stand. and a censure is a serious matter. we read in the bible about the mark of cain. the same mark of a censure would be translated through any generations of the person who was censured. it is a very solemn thing when
the congress censures of president or a member of his own. brian: would you be in favor of a fine? sen. byrd: i would not. that would amount to a bill of attainder. we have no business trying to levy a fine on the president. brian: what is a bill of attainder? sen. byrd: one might say there was a fine on the speaker of the house -- he doesn't have to be a member of the house. but he was a member of the house of residence. in that case he was a member of the senate. elected by the people of his district. is --use center that house can do that with its own membership, put censure on him. i suppose it could work out a thesebut not, can't cross
, the departmental device, the executive branch, the legislative and the judicial. they cannot levy a fine on the president. a bill of attainder was used in england and the colonies to some extent and even thomas jefferson drew up a bill of the tender -- bill ofiah attainder against josiah. that a legislative act passes judgment and penalty on a individual by -- without trial. simply legislating the case like collect time parent -- black tom tarrant. that is what they called him, during the reign of charles the first.
1625 to 1640. , 1649. was black tom , heant because he had been was very much against parliament . his name is parliament, just at the moment escapes me. but the house of commons drew on articles of impeachment against him, but he could not be impeached for treason because he .as very loyal to charles i so they couldn't do that. they could not succeed by trying to impeach him and have him convicted in the house of lords. they resulted in a bill of
attainder. they passed legislation and and penalty of the heading, execution on him. bythey executed him legislation, found him guilty and passed a judgment on him and punished him. with death by a piece of legislation, without trial. that is a bill of attainder. brian: what would you think of the president coming to the well of the senate and speaking to the senate? sen. byrd: he would have the right to do so. the impeached person may appear in person. best that he it not, looking at it from his own
standpoint. i think it would be best. brian: why? strange to say, one can inr were attitude certain situations and with certain people result in a change in that person's vote. beyond reasons. ora person appears defiant may bet, it counterproductive. he can probably be just as well represented by a council, but that is a judgment or him to make. -- on him to make. on the other hand we could help
itself, i suppose. but under the circumstances of this particular case, i would advise the person impeached -- i should not say i would advise, i haven't been asked. say, might be the better part of wisdom for him not to appear in the senate. brian: would you be in favor of closing any part of the trial to the public? no. byrd: there might be some particular question that would arise the to discussd want that question in executive session, closed session. but in the main, no. the trial will be open. brian: what about a witness?
but therity sensitive whole issue of [indiscernible] sen. byrd: this is one reason to not havewe ought witnesses in this particular situation appear. testimony that haven't been cross-examined, but i think it could reach a judgment without -- that would be a matter for the senate. wisdom as wetional the fifth i january guess is this will be a two-week , there will be any witnesses, there would be a procedural vote to let you know whether you will have the 67 votes needed to convict and if
there will be censure. what would you say to someone who has watched all of this conventional wisdom evolve? what are the chances it will come out the way we had heard it? the chances it will happen the way you outlined it? i suppose the chances are weighted in that direction. i would not presume to say that that will be the outcome. but that certainly has i think a better than 50-50 chance at being the outcome. however be careful. be careful.
there is no sound and indisputable account as to votes here. votes may shift depending on things that are fun for seems at the moment. who knows. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer 1: this is "american history tv" on c-span3 for each
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military history scholar mark gerges explores the allied decemberf st. vith in on the 75th anniversary of the battle of the bulge. american forces surrendered the belgian town, but mr. gerges argues the fighting caused a delay that frustrated the german counteroffensive. the kansas city public library and u.s. command and general staff college held this event. >> but tonight we are going to be talking about the 75th anniversary of the battle of the bulge. tonight is also probably my farewell introduction, if that isn't a contradiction in terms, for our ongoing signature series with the history department of the command and general staff college. the director of the command school, scott green, is here tonight. scott, can you wave your arm?