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Impeachment Debate
The Articles Explained

By Ruth Marcus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 18, 1998; Page A48

When the House of Representatives takes up the proposed impeachment of President Clinton, it will consider four articles against him and ultimately vote on each separately. Following is a description of each article, the underlying evidence cited by Republicans and the arguments for and against.

Article I | Article II | Article III | Article IV

ARTICLE I: Grand Jury Perjury | Text


This article accuses President Clinton of providing "perjurious, false and misleading testimony" when he appeared Aug. 17 before the grand jury investigating his relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky. Many analysts view it as the most perilous for Clinton because of the gravity of lying to a criminal grand jury.

In addition, they point to the fact that -- unlike the Paula Jones deposition in January when Clinton was surprised at the extent of questioning about Lewinsky -- the president had ample time to prepare for the grand jury testimony and had been duly warned about the dangers of lying under oath in that setting.

The article cites four separate areas of alleged perjury, asserting that Clinton lied about "one or more" of the following:

"The nature and details" of Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky.

In his grand jury testimony, Clinton did his best to avoid sexual specifics by reading a generalized statement that, although he and the former intern had "inappropriate intimate contact," they did not have "sexual relations" as he understood that term to be used by the Jones lawyers.

The House report supporting the articles of impeachment asserts that the statement itself was perjurious, adding that "the fact that it was prepared beforehand reveals an intent to mislead."

It says Clinton lied in the statement and other parts of his testimony when he said the relationship did not begin until early 1996 -- after her internship ended and she became a White House staff member -- rather than late 1995, as Lewinsky contended. As supporting evidence, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee pointed to Lewinsky's statements to friends at the time, a White House photograph of the president and Lewinsky eating pizza together in November 1995 and logs showing that Lewinsky left the White House shortly after midnight the night of the pizza, and shortly before Clinton's departure from the Oval Office.

They surmise that the motive for Clinton to lie is that he did not want to admit to an affair with an intern, and point to his reported statement, as he pulled at the intern pass around Lewinsky's neck, that "this may be a problem."

It says the president also engaged in "direct lies" when he said he and Lewinsky were alone only on "certain occasions" and had "occasional" telephone conversations when in fact, they had numerous face-to-face meetings and phone calls.

More fundamentally, it says, Clinton lied when he testified about his "contorted and strained" understanding of the term "sexual relations."

Clinton told the grand jury he understands the terms "sexual relations," "relationship" and "affair" to include only intercourse, not oral sex. In addition, he said he believed that the definition of "sexual relationship" used by the Jones lawyers in questioning him -- that "a person engages in sexual relations when the person knowingly engages in or causes contact" with any one of a number of enumerated private parts -- would not apply to a situation in which he had oral sex performed on him.

Impeachment backers say this simply strains belief. As independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr put it in his referral, "That testimony is not credible. At the Jones deposition, the president could not have believed that he was telling 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth' in denying a sexual relationship, sexual relations, or a sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky."

The Judiciary report says Clinton also lied about his contact with Lewinsky "even under his misleading interpretation of that definition." In the critical interchange, Clinton was pressed to define the exact contours of his behavior. After denying he had sexual relations with Lewinsky, Clinton was asked, "Including touching her breast, kissing her breast, touching her genitalia?" He responded: "That's correct."

Lewinsky provided detailed testimony to the contrary that the president, in numerous encounters, caressed her breasts and genitals, both through clothing and directly. In addition, Lewinsky provided consistent descriptions of the limited nature of their encounters at the time to friends, family members and therapists.

The president's defenders argue that it would be a "nearly impossible task," as the minority impeachment report put it, to prove at a Senate trial that the president was lying about what was in his mind about his understanding of the term "sexual relations," and argue that "at most that the president may have been mistaken in construing the definition too narrowly, not that he intended to lie."

They dismiss such issues as when the relationship began as too inconsequential to merit impeachment, pointing to a statement by committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) earlier this month, "It doesn't strike me as a terribly serious count."

And as to the stark difference in accounts about who touched whom where, the Democrats suggest that "the differing recollections of the president and Ms. Lewinsky may be colored by their differing emotional perspectives concerning the intimate events at issue."

Democrats also point to contradictory accounts given by Lewinsky, including telling friends that she and Clinton had relations in the Oval Office without any clothes, that the president invited her to go to Martha's Vineyard with him when the first lady was out of the country, and that the Secret Service took the president to a rendezvous at her apartment.

Lying about whether he lied during the Jones deposition. Impeachment backers say Clinton lied repeatedly during the Jones deposition and committed perjury when he repeated those remarks during his grand jury testimony and said he had testified truthfully during the Jones deposition. (See discussion of Article II, civil deposition perjury.)

Lying about the Bennett statements. They also cite an incident during the Jones deposition during which Clinton's attorney, Robert S. Bennett, argued unsuccessfully that the president should not be questioned about Lewinsky because Lewinsky had already filed an affidavit that, Bennett said, showed "there is no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form with President Clinton." Clinton then said Lewinsky's affidavit was "absolutely" true. In his grand jury testimony, asked about that exchange, Clinton said he was "not even sure I paid much attention to what Mr. Bennett was saying . . . the whole argument just passed me by."

The chief Republican counsel to the committee, David P. Schippers, however, played a videotape for the committee in which Clinton appeared to be listening to the discussion, then said, "Do you think for one moment after watching that tape that the president wasn't paying attention? They were talking about Monica Lewinsky, at the time the most dangerous person in the president's life." Democrats counter that the videotape is not as conclusive as Republicans say. They argue that, at the time, Clinton -- realizing the Jones lawyers had inside information about his relationship with Lewinsky -- "obviously was thinking as fast as he could" and using breaks "to figure out how much the Jones attorneys knew and where the questions were heading. It is completely logical to think that he was not paying attention under all of these circumstances."

Lying about obstructing justice. Finally, Article I accuses Clinton of lying in the grand jury about what Republicans say were his attempts to obstruct justice in the Jones lawsuit and later Starr's investigation. (See discussion of Article III, obstruction of justice.)

ARTICLE II: Deposition Perjury | Text


The second article accuses Clinton of multiple lies in responding to lawyers representing Paula Jones in her sexual harassment lawsuit.

Lies about sexual relations. The alleged perjury began when Clinton answered written interrogatories in which he was asked the names of any government employees with whom he had "sexual relations" while president and answered "none."

Republicans argue that Clinton continued and expanded on that course of perjury during his Jan. 17 deposition in the case, when he denied having "an extramarital sexual affair" or "sexual relations" with Lewinsky.

Again, impeachment backers argue that was a lie, while Clinton defenders point not only to the definition used by the Jones lawyers but to dictionary definitions of sexual relations as including only intercourse and Lewinsky's own statement to Linda Tripp that "we never had sex . . . having sex is having intercourse."

Lies about being alone. Impeachment advocates also say Clinton lied -- among other things -- about whether he had ever been "alone" with Lewinsky in the Oval Office area and, indeed, even the minority impeachment report concedes that "some minority members of the committee have expressed discomfort with the president's responses" on this topic. "Some even concluded that they believed his testimony may have been false."

Asked during the deposition whether he and Lewinsky had "ever been alone together in any room in the White House," Clinton said, "I have no specific recollection, but it seems to me that she was on duty on a couple of occasions working for the legislative affairs office and brought me some things to sign, something on the weekend." Asked specifically if they had ever been alone in the hallway between the Oval Office and the kitchen -- where Lewinsky performed oral sex on Clinton -- the president said, "I don't believe so, unless we were walking back to the back dining room with the pizzas. I just, I don't remember. I don't believe we were alone in the hallway, no."

The GOP report cites Clinton's own grand jury statement that he and Lewinsky were "alone . . . on certain occasions" as further evidence that he did not tell the truth during the deposition questioning.

The White House argues in its lengthy submission to the committee that the president acknowledged he might have been alone with Lewinsky and that the Jones lawyers failed to follow up with specific questions. House Democrats also said that "the lack of materiality of any of the president's responses concerning Ms. Lewinsky in the Jones litigation undercuts arguments that false statements in this civil deposition could support the criminal charge of perjury, much less constitute an impeachable offense."

Lies about gifts. Clinton was asked during the deposition whether Lewinsky had ever given him any gifts. "Once or twice," he responded. "I think she's given me a book or two." In fact, Lewinsky gave Clinton about 38 gifts on numerous occasions.

Similarly, asked whether he had ever given any gifts to Lewinsky, Clinton responded, "I don't recall. Do you know what they were?" According to Lewinsky, she had a conversation with Clinton about what to do with the gifts he had given her just a few weeks before the deposition, when they had been subpoenaed by the Jones lawyers.

Clinton defenders say that his response to the question about whether he had given gifts to Lewinsky -- "Do you know what they were?" -- meant that he did not recall the specific gifts, not that he did not remember giving any. The White House, in its defense, notes that Clinton acknowledged receiving some gifts from Lewinsky, said he remembered some specific items when questioned, and says, "There is not much that is safe from a perjury prosecution if mere 'minimization' qualifies for the offense."

Lies about discussions with Lewinsky about what to do if called in the Jones case. Asked if he ever discussed with Lewinsky the possibility she might be subpoenaed, Clinton responded, "I'm not sure. . . . Seems to me the last time she was there to see Betty before Christmas we were joking about how you all . . . were going to call every woman I'd ever talked to. . . . I don't think we ever had more of a conversation than that about it."

In fact, Lewinsky testified that Clinton called her a month before the deposition to say that her name was on the witness list and suggested she could file an affidavit to avoid testifying. The White House argues that Clinton's description of his joking conversation with Lewinsky is confirmed by Lewinsky and that "the Jones lawyers filed to follow up with questions that would elicit whether that was the only conversation."

ARTICLE III: Obstruction of Justice | Text


Encouraging Lewinsky to file a false affidavit. Lewinsky testified that Clinton raised the idea of filing an affidavit. Although Lewinsky testified that Clinton never told her to lie, the committee report says that Clinton knew any affidavit "would have to be false for Ms. Lewinsky to avoid testifying. If she filed a truthful affidavit, one acknowledging a sexual relationship with the president, she certainly would have been called as a deposition witness and her subsequent truthful testimony would have been damaging to the president both politically and legally." Democrats concede that Clinton and Lewinsky discussed submitting an affidavit to avoid testifying. But they say that does not prove Clinton wanted her to file a false affidavit and that, since the Jones case involved allegations of unwelcome sexual harassment, Lewinsky might have been able to avoid testifying with an affidavit saying she was not the subject of harassment or unwelcome advances.

Encouraging Lewinsky to give false testimony if called to appear. Republicans say that, before Lewinsky became a possible witness, she and the president discussed fabricated stories to use to cover up their relationship and that, according to Lewinsky's testimony, the president repeated those stories when he telephoned her on Dec. 17 to say she was on the Jones witness list. As Lewinsky recalled that conversation, Clinton said, "You know, you can always say you were coming to see Betty or that you were bringing me letters." Clinton said he had "no specific memory" of any conversations with cover stories before Dec. 17 but that if any conversation took place, it was "in a nonlegal context."

Encouraging Lewinsky to hide gifts. Lewinsky testified that she told Clinton the gifts had been subpoenaed at a Dec. 28 meeting and suggested, "maybe I should put the gifts away outside my house somewhere or give them to someone, maybe Betty." She said Clinton replied, "I don't know" or "Let me think about that." Lewinsky testified that later that day Currie called her and said, "I understand you have something to give me" or "The president says you have something for me." Currie then arrived at Lewinsky's apartment, retrieved a sealed box of presents, and put them under her bed.

Both Clinton and Currie have a different version of events. Clinton said that when Lewinsky raised the issue of the gifts, he told her, "If they asked her for gifts, she'd have to give them whatever she had." Currie said Lewinsky called her and asked her to pick up the package, not the other way around.

Republicans argue that Lewinsky's version is more credible and that it is clear that Clinton instructed Currie to retrieve the gifts. They point to a cell phone record showing that Currie called Lewinsky's house that afternoon. Democrats counter that Clinton was not particularly concerned about the gifts, something evidenced by the fact that he gave Lewinsky additional gifts at the Dec. 28 meeting -- something even GOP counsel Schippers acknowledged seems "odd." They say that Lewinsky provided conflicting accounts of her conversations with Clinton and that the telephone call from Currie occurred after the time that Lewinsky said Currie arrived at her apartment to pick up the gifts.

Getting Lewinsky a job to ensure her silence. Impeachment backers say the efforts by Clinton and his allies to help Lewinsky get a job in New York intensified in early December, just after Clinton learned that Lewinsky was on the Jones witness list. They point to the extensive efforts by Clinton confidant Vernon E. Jordan Jr. to help Lewinsky get a job and to keep the president informed of his efforts even as he was also helping Lewinsky obtain a lawyer in the Jones case. When -- after Jordan phoned the chief executive of the company -- Lewinsky finally got a job offer, Jordan telephoned Currie with the news: "Mission accomplished."

As the report puts it, "It is logical to infer from the chain of events that the efforts of the president and others at the president's direction to obtain a job in New York for Monica Lewinsky were motivated to influence the testimony of a potential witness in the case of Jones v. Clinton, if not to prevent her testimony outright."

Democrats point to Lewinsky's testimony: "No one ever asked me to lie and I was never promised a job for my silence." They say that efforts by White House officials to help Lewinsky get a job began long before her name surfaced on the Jones witness list and that Lewinsky raised the idea of enlisting Jordan's help after Linda Tripp suggested it.

Letting Bennett make false and misleading statements. (See discussion under Article I, above.)

Tampering with the testimony of Currie, a potential witness. A few hours after the Jones deposition, Clinton called Currie and asked her to come into the office the next day, a Sunday. Clinton said he asked Currie "certain questions, in an effort to get as much information as quickly as I could," seeking to "ascertain what the facts were, trying to ascertain what Betty's perception was."

Currie testified that Clinton made a series of remarks "more like statements than questions," saying, "You were always there when she was there, right? We were never really alone. You could see and hear everything. Monica came on to me and I never touched her, right? She wanted to have sex with me and I couldn't do that." Currie said she had a similar conversation with Clinton a few days later.

Impeachment proponents note that Clinton repeatedly invoked Currie's name when questioned about Lewinsky during the deposition and that she was therefore a potential witness in the case. His explanation that he was trying to determine the facts "is simply not credible in light of the fact" that he knew some of the statements he made "were clearly false." Clinton's defenders argue that when Clinton spoke with Currie she was not among the potential witnesses listed by the Jones lawyers and that there were only a few weeks left for pretrial discovery. They say that Clinton's statements were not spurred by a desire to influence her testimony but that he was worried that the story of his relationship with Lewinsky was about to leak and, as the minority report put it, Clinton "was testing [Currie] to see how much she knew . . . because it would help dictate the media strategy he adopted."

Lying to aides about his relationship with Lewinsky when he knew they were potential grand jury witnesses who would repeat the falsehoods before the grand jury. After the Lewinsky story broke in the press, Clinton denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky to five aides who were later called before the grand jury. For example, he told John D. Podesta, now his chief of staff, that he did not have any kind of sexual encounter with Lewinsky. He told aide Sidney Blumenthal that he hadn't "done anything wrong," that Lewinsky had stalked and threatened him and likened himself to a character in Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon."

Republicans say Clinton acknowledged his aides were likely to be called as witnesses and would repeat his false accounts before the grand jury, and that his actions therefore amount to witness tampering.

Democrats say Clinton's false or misleading statements to his staff were motivated by a desire to hide an embarrassing relationship, not to obstruct the grand jury. "To put the point most simply: Does anyone really think the president would have admitted to this relationship even if no grand jury had been sitting?" the minority report asks.

ARTICLE IV: Abusing His Office by Lying to and Obstructing Congress | Text


This article is based on the argument that 10 of Clinton's answers to the 81 questions sent by the House Judiciary Committee were "perjurious, false and misleading." The answers -- which essentially restated Clinton's grand jury testimony -- include his statements that he did not discuss Lewinsky's gifts with Currie or instruct her to retrieve them; that he believed Lewinsky's affidavit denying a sexual relationship was accurate; that he did not recall more than a gift or two from Lewinsky when questioned at the Jones deposition; and that he did not try to coach Currie's testimony.

"In responding in such a manner, the president exhibited contempt for the constitutional prerogative of Congress to conduct an impeachment inquiry," the GOP report says. The "answers are a continuation of a pattern of deceit and obstruction of duly authorized investigations." Democrats dismiss the abuse of power charge as a "transparent effort" to liken Clinton's acts to those of President Richard M. Nixon during Watergate. They accuse Republicans of trying to set a "perjury trap" for Clinton and of having "manufactured a count of impeachment" by asking questions he had already answered.


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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