1998: Patrick Leahy Called Impeachment Trial Witnesses ‘a Make-Up Exam for an Incomplete Inquiry’

In this Aug. 6, 1998 file photo, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, jokes with 'Batman', also known as Ryan LeBlanc , in Burlington, Vt. Leahy is renewing his fascination with the Caped Crusader by appearing in a scene in the next Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises,' which will …
AP Photo/Toby Talbot

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee adamantly opposed Senate impeachment witnesses during former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, declaring that the trial was “not a make-up exam for an incomplete inquiry by the House.”

Leahy, who escorted Chief Justice Roberts to the Senate on Thursday, opposed the proposition of witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial of Clinton, contending that the inquiry conducted by the House should have sufficed.

“Witnesses would not fill the holes in the Managers’ case. The Managers only became interested in hearing from witnesses once they faced trouble obtaining a conviction in the Senate,” he said at the time.

He continued:

They had an opportunity to interview witnesses when this matter was still before the House. But the House Judiciary Committee called no fact witnesses…Having chosen to proceed in the House without witnesses, the Managers were in no position to demand that the Senate hear witnesses. A Senate impeachment trial is not a make-up exam for an incomplete inquiry by the House.

Leahy, however, defended his decision in a statement to Newsweek, contending that the differences between the two trials “could not be more stark.”

He said:

The differences between today and President Clinton’s trial could not be more stark. Unlike President Clinton, President Trump directed all witnesses with relevant information about his conduct not to cooperate with the House inquiry… As a result, the Senate does not have any prior testimony or documents from important witnesses such as John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Robert Blair, and Michael Duffey. Not a single document. Not a single minute of testimony under oath. If these witnesses had cooperated with the House’s inquiry, we would not be in this position.”

Leahy is far from the first Democrat whose previous positions on impeachment have come to light.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) blasted impeachment as an excuse to air “any and all grievances that anybody ever had with the president” in 1998.

She stated at the time:

Right now we have a situation where any and all grievances that anybody ever had with the president are being heaped on and talking about impeachment without even defining what the laws may have been that were broken, with applying the facts to them, without even defining – if even those laws were even broken – if that amounts to an impeachment offense.

Similarly, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), one of the House impeachment managers, accused Republicans of running a “lynch mob” against Clinton.

“I wish we could get this over with quickly. … In pushing the process, in pushing the arguments of fairness and due process the Republicans so far have been running a lynch mob,” he said.


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