A question and explanation I saw today at FunTrivia.com compared the acquittal of Bill Clinton after his impeachment trial to the cases of three Judges--Claiborne, Hastings, and Nixon--who the author says were removed from office for perjury. The author states that 27 Democrats voted to convict Claiborne, but to acquit Clinton, implying that a double standard was at work. After a careful review of all of these cases, it is apparent no such double standard exists, and the old saying that "a little learning is a dangerous thing" surely applies to this author.
The Claiborne case. Harry Claiborne was a United States district court judge who was convicted by a criminal jury of tax evasion and sentenced to prison. In light of his conviction and subsequent imprisonment, the Senate removed him from office.
I can find no objective source that says any of the impeachment charges against him were for perjury. So, where does this myth come from? Well, after looking at dozens of websites it is apparent that it was a fabrication of the Republicans who were trying to get rid of Clinton. The brief of the House Managers states that: "In 1986, Judge Harry E. Claiborne was impeached, convicted, and removed from office for making false statements under penalties of perjury. In particular, Judge Claiborne had filed false income tax returns in 1979 and 1980, grossly understating his income. As a result, he was convicted by a jury of two counts of willfully making a false statement on a federal tax return in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1)." Again, in Senator McConnell's argument made during Clinton's trial, he states: "Senate precedent establishes that false statements under oath by a public official are high crimes and misdemeanors. In 1986, I sat on the impeachment committee that heard the evidence against Judge Harry Claiborne. After hearing the evidence, I, along with an overwhelming number of my colleagues, concluded that Judge Claiborne had made false statements under the pains and penalties of perjury by failing to disclose certain amounts of income on his tax forms. The Senate--understanding the gravity of a public official making false statements under oath--voted to remove Judge Claiborne from office."
No newspaper account says that Claiborne was removed for perjury; rather, it was for filing false tax returns. The attempt of the Republicans to equate the two just doesn't fly.
The Hastings case. Judge Hastings' crime was accepting a $150,000 bribe in exchange for a lenient sentence for a defendasnt. He was acquitted by a criminal jury after his alleged co-conspirator, William Borders, refused to testify in court.
Nevertheless, the Senate removed him from office for bribery and perjury, the perjury being that he lied about his involvement at his trial. It's clear that his crime was the bribery, and the perjury was tangential to that. Thus, to say he was removed from office for perjury really is misleading.
The Nixon case. Jude Nixon's offense was to intervene in the state court drug prosecution of the son of a friend of his. He lied about this to the FBI, to the DOJ, and to a federal grand jury. He was convicted of this perjury and sentenced to prison. While in prison he refused to resign and continued to draw a salary as a federal judge. In light of this, what choice did the Senate have but to remove him from office? To compare this case to Clinton's is absurd.
The sophistry which the Republicans are guilty of is apparent even more starkly when one considers that Clinton arguably was not even guilty of "perjury". This is because perjury is not just any lying, but rather, it has to be lying about a matter that is *material* to the case at hand. Surely whatever Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky was not relevant to the Paula Jones case, which involved alleged acts occurring many years earlier. Consequently, any lying he did about Ms. Lewinsky should simply be called "lying", and not "perjury".
Anything Clinton did with Ms. Lewisky was not illegal. Thus, it is clearly distinguishable from the above cases involving bribery, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice, and the Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for trying to equate Clinton's case with those other three.
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