1999: Biden Argued Additional Witnesses Were Unnecessary During Clinton Impeachment Trial

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., left, gestures toward William Weld, President Clinton's choice to become ambassador to Mexico, during a Capitol Hill news conference Friday Sept. 12, 1997 after Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. refused to give the stalled nomination of Weld a hearing. Sen. Richard Lugar, …
AP Photo/Ron Edmonds

Joe Biden argued that additional witnesses were not necessary during the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton.

Politico reported on Thursday that Biden, at the time a long-serving U.S. Senator from Delaware, penned a memo to his congressional colleagues ahead of Clinton’s impeachment trial in January 1999. In the memo, Biden argued that the Senate was not constitutionally required to hold an actual trial to examine Clinton’s alleged misdeeds.

“The Senate may dismiss articles of impeachment without holding a full trial or taking new evidence,” Biden wrote. “Put another way, the Constitution does not impose on the Senate the duty to hold a trial.”

Biden, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, cited both historical and institutional precedent within the four-page memo. He also disputed the need for the Senate to call additional witnesses, claiming the “benefit … is not great enough to outweigh the public costs,” including the damage to national prestige and public institutions.

“In a number of previous impeachment trials, the Senate has reached the judgment that its constitutional role as a sole trier of impeachments does not require it to take new evidence or hear live witness testimony,” Biden wrote.

The views outlined in the memo are at odds with the stance congressional Democrats have taken toward the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

In recent weeks, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other members of his caucus have demanded that additional witnesses be called. Democrats contend that the only way to clear or convict Trump is to get testimony from senior White House officials. Included on the Democrats’ list of desired witnesses are former National Security Advisor John Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Republicans, on the other hand, have responded that since the impeachment charges stem from Trump’s suggestion that Ukraine look into Hunter Biden’s work with Burisma Holdings, it would only be fair for the former vice president and his son to be added to the list.

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