The suburbs' fateful role in three presidential impeachments
Lawmakers' remarks in 1974, 1998, 2019 may sound a lot alike
"The last thing I want to do is impeach a president. He was elected."
"I have to do the right thing for the country. I know that what I'm doing is right."
"If the president intends to challenge these (congressional) powers, we will have to see him in court."
Three different men, three different presidents, three different decades.
The common thread: All hail from the suburbs and played or are playing key roles in congressional impeachment inquiries.
When the House Judiciary Committee prepared articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, they relied on answers to questions asked by U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and others in the hearings into whether the president abused his office for personal gain.
But Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Schaumburg and a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, isn't the first suburban lawmaker to play a role in a president's fate. Republican Reps. Henry Hyde and Robert McClory also made history in separate crises.
McClory, a Lake County congressman from 1963 to 1983, was second-ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate scandal involving President Richard M. Nixon and voted "yes" on two of three articles of impeachment in 1974.
Hyde, of Wood Dale, took center stage in 1998 when, as House Judiciary Committee chairman, he presided over the inquiry into whether President Bill Clinton lied about an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
"The last thing I want to do is impeach a president. He was elected," Hyde said in 1998.
He also told the Daily Herald at the time he was frustrated with Democrats for not taking perjury charges against Clinton seriously.
"They say, 'So what? It isn't impeachable because it's about sex,'" Hyde said. "That's really the argument they use. There isn't much doubt that he did willfully misstate the facts under oath. It's pretty clear."
The Clinton impeachment crucible changed Hyde, top aide Pat Durante recalled.
"We faced over 6,000 death threats we got by mail, by phone and by email," Durante said. "I just saw the change in him -- it was all business 24/7. No more terrible jokes in the car."
Hyde's personal life also took a hit when news of an extramarital affair he had in the late 1960s was revealed during the hearing.
"I had warned him, 'I hope you know what you're getting into,'" Durante recalled. "He had a firm belief what he was doing was right."
Hyde told the Daily Herald in October 1998: "I'm 74 years old and I should be tapering off, and here I am at fever pitch in the midst of a titanic struggle with the president of the universe. I would rather be at the beach if I could."
Unlike Hyde, Robert McClory was in the minority on the Democrat-controlled Judiciary Committee during Watergate.
But that made his vote for impeachment of his own party's president a momentous action and resulted in some vitriol from constituents.
"I have to do the right thing for the country," McClory once told an angry voter, his wife, Doris, recalled in 1998. "I know that what I'm doing is right."
The even-tempered attorney from Lake Bluff exploded over Nixon's withholding of tapes from the Judiciary Committee.
"The president's failure to comply threatens the integrity of the impeachment process itself," McClory is quoted as saying in a July 1978 Daily Herald article. "His action is a direct challenge to Congress in the exercise of its solemn constitutional right to act by way of impeachment as the ultimate check on the president's conduct."
Before voting on the articles, McClory noted some people thought he should exonerate Nixon simply because he is a Republican.
But "I do not envision my role in that dim light," McClory said. "The essential question we must answer is not what is best for our party, but what is best for our nation."
Fast forward to 2019, and Krishnamoorthi and fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley of Chicago participated in numerous Intelligence Committee hearings that led to a report recommending Trump's impeachment to the Judiciary Committee.
It comes down to separation of powers, Krishnamoorthi said in April.
"Congress has the power to investigate and the power to hold people in contempt who do not comply with subpoenas," he said. "If the president intends to challenge these powers, we will have to see him in court."
On Nov. 22, he said "there is ample evidence of wrongdoing" on Trump's part.
For Quigley, who grew up in Carol Stream, the bottom line is, "in 2016, Russia attacked our election process, the Trump campaign knew about it, welcomed it, and failed to alert the FBI."