That might change as early as Monday, when U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton hears arguments from Clemens’s attorneys, who are seeking to force Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to take the witness stand.
Known on Capitol Hill for wielding his own subpoena power, Issa is fighting a subpoena from Clemens’s attorneys, who say that their client has a right to confront his accuser. House lawyers say Issa is too busy to appear in court and is shielded from doing so by a relatively obscure provision of the Constitution.
Legal experts are split in their opinions on how Walton might rule, but they mostly agree that the showdown highlights a central absurdity of the trial: Lawmakers sought the Justice Department investigation into Clemens’s testimony but won’t appear in court.
“Here you have federal prosecutors going out on a limb to help these guys, members of Congress,” said Roscoe Howard, a former U.S. attorney for the District. “It seems inherently unfair when lawmakers refer someone for prosecution and then don’t show up at a public trial to give their perspective or even tell why this case is as important as they say it is.”
Clemens, baseball’s most decorated pitcher, is charged with lying to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2008, when he denied that he ever took performance-enhancing drugs. The hearing was nationally televised and dramatic: Clemens sat at the same witness table as his chief accuser, his former strength coach.
Under intense questioning from lawmakers that lasted more than four hours, the strength coach, Brian McNamee, alleged that he had injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner with steroids or human growth hormone in 1998, 2000 and 2001. Just as assertively, Clemens denied the accusations, saying he had never taken any such substances.
Within days of the proceeding, the committee’s top Democrat and Republican sent a letter to then-Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey asking federal authorities to investigate whether Clemens “committed perjury and made knowingly false statements during” the hearing and to House investigators.
Federal agents quickly launched an investigation, and a grand jury in the District’s federal court indicted the right-handed pitcher in 2010 on charges of perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress
. The trial has been plodding along since April 16 — two jurors have been dismissed for sleeping — and prosecutors rested their case Tuesday. The defense, which is expected to include testimony from McNamee’s estranged wife and Clemens’s wife, could wrap up by Friday.