One Day in the Senate Impeachment Trial, 1998



I worked on the team defending President Bill Clinton in the 1998 impeachment trial in the Senate. As one of the junior lawyers I helped get the speech by Williams & Connolly partner Nicole Seligman ready for the Senate floor.  She was to make a speech in support of the Defense motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment at the close of the evidence presented by the house managers. Nicole Seligman is a brilliant lawyer, and her draft speech set forth a well-reasoned argument citing the relevant authority. However, it was very dry.

As I read it, I felt that it needed a hook. I took out my pen and wrote carefully in the margin above one paragraph: now is the moment when the failure of the managers’ proof, the wise prescriptions of the framers and the best interests of the nation all come together to move this great body to dismiss these articles of impeachment. You have listened. You have heard. The case cannot be made. It is time to end it.

The lines I wrote made up the only part of that day played by all the major news networks that night.

Later in the trial I sat with the staffer from the White House who was playing the video clips from the deposition of Monica Lewinsky. We were sitting at a little table tucked on the side of the Senate floor. David Kendall was standing in the well of the Senate in front of Chief Justice William Rehnquist making an argument. As Kendall spoke, Republican senators shouted curses: “F/// you Kendall!”

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