Impeach the President?
Friday, April 10, 1998
Bob Barr, the congressman from Georgia's 7th District, is leading the fight to impeach President Clinton. Typing on a computer in his district office near Atlanta, Barr spent an hour in a live, online discussion answering some of the questions submitted by washingtonpost.com readers. The following is a transcript.
Parlin, N.J.: If Starr's report wimps out and only indicates low crimes what is the best we can expect to see from your side of the aisle ?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.):
Stafford, Virginia: What evidence do you have (why not share it with the American people) that leads you to believe the President should be impeached. What is his crime?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): A conscious, systematic effort to subvert U.S. campaign laws, including taking money from the communist Chinese. Systematic subversion of our immigration laws, resulting in thousands of persons with criminal records in their country of citizenship becoming American citizens in time to vote in the 1996 election. Vice President Gore was in charge of that effort. Subversion of our law enforcement agencies, violating the rights of hundreds if not thousands of US citizens' privacy rights, in "Filegate." That's a start.
You introduced your impeachment bill on Nov. 5 with 17 cosponsors. A recent Post story reported that you had picked up three more. Where do things seem to be going with the bill?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): There are, I think, 23 co-sponsors by now. Most Members are simply waiting to see what Ken Starr sends to the House, as he is obligated to do by law regarding evidence of impeachable offenses, and which I suspect he will do within a couple of months or less.
Vineland, N.J.: Why aren't more Reps speaking out such as yourself?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): Many look at the polls rather than principle, and are scared that, with Clinton's high poll ratings (whether accurate or not), we ought not to stand for principle and see that he is held accountable as other officials are. Others hope to reap partisan political advantage by keeping Clinton in power. Still others won't move because they don't want to strengthen Gore by making him President. Unfortunately, principle and the Constitution frequently rank third or lower on a list of reasons why Members move or don't move on something.
Gulf Breeze, Fla.: What is the possibility that Judge Starr has actually been dragging out his investigations in an effort to keep Clinton in office as long as possible before submitting his findings to the Congress?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): I really don't think that. Ken Starr is a very good, and highly principled prosecutor. The delays under which he is operating are the result of the Clinton delaying tactics, not his.
London, Ontario: As an international observer of American politics, I can say without hesitation that a cursory examination of the facts on many different issues reveals that Mr. Clinton is not trustworthy. Do you agree that America is vulnerable to a real test of Clinton that would require resolve and judgment, by enemies of your nation?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): Yes. Nations are placed in peril not by strength but by uncertainty, and when you have a leader who is not trustworthy, that is when other countries take risks, chances, and move on their own without regard to the other nations. I believe we are in a dangerous situation. Just look, also at what we're allowing Communist China to get away with in the areas of nuclear, missile, and computer technology.
Red Hook, N.Y.:
As far as Clinton's latest sex scandal, if this happened to Newt Gingrich, would he still be Speaker? Would the women's groups be as sympathetic?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): The answer is NO to both questions.
washingtonpost.com: You've been fairly vocal in your criticism of the way Gingrich has held back the impeachment proceedings. How has your relationship been with him as a fellow member of the Georgia delegation?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): Good as far as I am concerned. I have tremendous respect for Newt.
Vero Beach, Fla.: How would impeaching the President now impact the stock markets around the world?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): I don't know exactly, but the last time we faced a similar situation, in 1973-74 with Nixon, the sky did not fall, and our nation survived, in many respects, stronger than before.
Trion , Ga.: At one time I understood you to say the independent counsel law should be abolished. If it was, how would there be a check on people such as the Clinton administration who take every opportunity to exploit and break the law?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): Good question. In may view, ultimately, we ought to do away with the Independent Counsel law. It has become a shield behind which Congress can refuse to act, always saying, "oh, we can't do anything because that's the job of the Independent Counsel." The matters these prosecutors are handling, should, repeat, should, be handled by prosecutors in the Dept. of Justice and US Attorneys. These days, when we have a Justice Dept. that is so politicized the cases do not and will not get prosecuted, a good case could be made for the Independent Counsels. But as a general rule, we do not and should not need them.
Douglasville, Ga.: Even though our government and its agencies talk about values both personal and institutional what can you do to really bring back a values-based government? Our current leader has done nothing to fulfill his responsibility as the nations moral role model. Short of impeachment, what other avenues do we have to reestablish our country's value system?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): The Congress should not, indeed cannot, legislate morals. But there is much we can do, first through example, and then through our oversight and investigative work, ensure accountability in our Branch and in the Executive Branch. We can also pass laws that have a moral foundation and that help, not hinder, families and individuals from behaving morally.
Dallas, Tex.: Why does the current Republican leadership cower to Democrats and Bill Clinton? Do they hinge their decisions on poll data only?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): Far, far too many people, including those in the GOP, are doing exactly that. It's most unfortunate. Perhaps, as Shakespeare said about lawyers, "First, let's kill all the pollsters!"
Wiliamsburg, Va.: Can you realistically initiate the impeachment process without a report from Kenneth Starr? Can he submit a report without resolving the executive privilege issue?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): Yes. The constitutional remedy of Impeachment predates by 200 years the statutory notion of an independent counsel. Unfortunately, many congressmen, however, are frozen in place waiting for Ken Starr's report to the Congress. It should not be thus, but unfortunately, it is. Concerning the executive privilege issue, I don't really know since I don't know exactly what he has and what he doesn't yet have but hopes to get, if the claim is (as it will be) overcome.
St. Louis, Mo.: Will Clinton's "assault" weapons ban be rescinded?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): Thank you for putting "assault" weapons in quotes. You obviously know that "assault weapons" are already illegal in the hands of private citizens. With regard to Clinton's import ban, I hope, but doubt we can convince Congress to act, but I am hopeful that civil liberties organizations, such as the NRA, will prevail in court.
Atlanta, Ga.: If Republicans are so worried about perjury, why do they not call more loudly for the heads of the tobacco companies who everyone knows lied before Congress when the said nicotine was not addictive? Certainly, the evidence against them is stronger and the results more horrid than anything in Clinton allegations.
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): While I disagree with your characterization that possible perjury by a company head is much more horrendous than perjury by a sitting president, in fact there is much activity underway to penalize those who might have misled Congress.
Iowa City, Iowa:
You seem to be the lead advocate for impeaching the president. Are you at all concerned of what implications and danger that may have on the office of the presidency?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): I believe terrible damage to the presidency will be done if we fail to uphold the rule of law and of our constitution, in failing to make this President accountable. With regard to my conservative beliefs, they are not the product of where I was born, but reflect careful thought and study over a long period of time, and truly represent the views and underlying philosophy of the 7th District of Georgia. Thanks for the input from Iowa City. Good luck!
Bangkok, Thailand (from a U.S. Citizen): If you were being investigated, and dark secrets of your past surfaced (for example 15 years ago) which showed you were not as honest as you would have us believe -- would you resign?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): My concern is not some "deep dark secret" from Mr. Clinton's past of 15 years ago, but abuse of office in his current capacity as president of this country. For this, he needs to be held accountable. You or I would be, why should not the President?
San Francisco, Calif.: As a Republican I want to know if we are starting yet to screen all potential candidates for their sexual history. The sexual genie is now out of the bottle and we need to know with whom and what has each candidate had sex in his or her past life, whether it was licit or illicit, etc.
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): The "screen" if that's the right term, I use, is the Constitution, and it's reliance on accountability for abuse of office, including systematic violation of campaign laws, immigration laws, labor laws, spending laws, tax laws, perjury, obstruction, subornation of perjury, etc.
Albany, Vt.: Impeachment proceedings will most likely consume the Congress for the duration of such hearings. Why is it more important to hold impeachment hearings instead of addressing the pressing problems of continued big, and getting bigger, Government?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): The problem of big -- and getting bigger -- government, is extremely important, and should not be sacrificed in our agenda. The success of those efforts depend, however, not on whether we begin impeachment proceedings, but getting more conservatives elected to Congress. Impeachment proceedings would be conducted initially by the Judiciary Committee, not the full House, and would I am convinced under the leadership of Henry Hyde, be efficient, fair, professional, and timely.
Hancock, Maine: As a conservative Republican, are you concerned about some of the methods that have been used in Kenneth Starr's investigation of the President? Specifically, are you concerned about the use of illegal wiretap information, requiring people to testify under oath about consensual sexual relationships, and requiring bookstores to turn over lists of books purchased by individuals. It seems to me that these tactics represent big government at its worst and that conservatives, in their zeal to attack the President, are abandoning their principles just to achieve a short-term victory.
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): I wonder if those who criticize Ken Starr were outspoken critics of Judge Bork's detractors who, in their zeal to prevent him from becoming a Supreme Court Justice, went through his garbage and his movie rental receipts? Ken Starr is a careful prosecutor, operating fully within the bounds of the jurisdiction granted him by Atty. Genl. Reno and a three-judge panel. If the Atty. Genl. or President believe he is using improper tactics (I believe he is not), then they ought to remove him.
Elkton, Md.: I realize you're acting on principle with the call for impeachment, but wouldn't leaving Clinton in office in the long run be a better political strategy for the Republicans? It seems that we would be worse off policy-wise with Gore as President, and I think a few more years of Clinton could discredit the Democratic Party beyond the point of return.
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): You cannot out-manipulate Clinton. If we try to leave him in office to do that, it won't work. I don't think that, or Gore, ought to be in the equation at all. Any move ought to be based only on evidence and constitutional principles; not polls or partisan advantage.
Knoxville, Tenn.: Since you started the impeachment process do you think you have been investigated by Clintonite investigators the way Dan Burton was? Have you felt the need for additional personal security for yourself and your family?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): We have been getting many strange communications. We also know the Clinton Administration has an "enemies" file on me and others, even though that's against the law. Still, almost no republicans, and no democrats, seem to be bothered by such tactics.
Folsom, Calif.: I have already written my Congressman, Doolittle, and he has responded. (He has signed on to your amendment). What course of action do you recommend for individuals to take other than the above to support your resolution?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): Let our House Leadership know of your interest and support. Repeat your calls, letters, faxes, e-mails, and internet hits.
Arlington, Va.: Some folks in the Federal City claim that the government has a budget surplus. How can we really have a surplus when the Congress has been raiding the Social Security Trust Fund?
Signed, Concerned Gen-Xer
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): You're right. We do not yet have a surplus. We had the chance last week, to take $30 billion over and above the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, in the Transportation bill, to go to the SS Trust Funds. Instead, it went into highway projects. I and others, but not near a majority, voted against it.
Spring Hill, Fla.: How much money have you, Rep. Armey, Speaker Gingrich, and members of House Judiciary Committee received directly, or indirectly from Richard Mellon Scaife?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): I have no idea what others receive in campaigns from whatever source. I believe the fund you're talking about is not one that can contribute to political campaigns in the first place.
Atlanta, Ga.: Instead of concentrating on the President, don't you think you should put your own house in order when you have received $55,000 in improper campaign contributions according to the Federal Election Commission?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): We have put our house in order. One wishes the Administration would take steps to make itself accountable, but regardless of whether it will, I intend to do what I can to ensure Congress fulfills its responsibility to hold high officials accountable.
washingtonpost.com: You mentioned that you are on a White House "enemies list." Can you please explain that further?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): We don't yet have all the details, though we have asked Ken Starr, the Atty. genl., and GAO to investigate. We do know, from court records, that the White House has admitted it has a system of files on me and Sen. Thompson by name, and others. We also know from other sources in the media, that the Clinton Administration is actively gathering information on all Republican Members of the Judiciary Committee, in an effort to stop action by the Committee. That is wrong and it's very likely illegal.
You frequently update your World Wide Web site with news about issues you think are important. How did you get involved with online communication and why do you spend so much time on it?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.):
My staff is the moving force behind the process itself. I think it's important because so many citizens use and appreciate use of the internet to transmit data and as a medium of communication. I think it's great.
Silver Spring, Md.: If the President did break the law, suborning perjury, do you think Congress has the guts to impeach a popular president in a great economy?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): Man, I hope so. But, thus far there seems to be little stomach for it. However, I hope the weight of incoming evidence changes all that.
Spring Grove, Ill.: If Ken Starr decides to indict Monica Lewinsky and Clinton as an unindicted co-conspirator, will this in effect negate the House of Representatives from having the ability to proceed with impeachment hearings?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): It shouldn't, but as a practical matter it would give "worried" Members yet another excuse not to act.
Riverside, Ill.: What do you think about the President's education plan? What plan do the Republicans in Congress have for improving education?
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): We don't need massive new federal spending and programs. We need tax breaks, education savings accounts, vouchers, and more control in our local schools and families and not in the federal bureaucracy. Home schooling is also an important component we ought to be encouraging.
Martinez, Calif.: I would like to know how much time has been devoted by the staffs of the House and Senate members has been spent on matters related to the investigation of the president.
Also, almost without exception when I hear you speaking or making comments on radio, your actions never seem to be directed at improving this country. It seems you are fairly single-minded in your efforts to bring down the president and/or members of his staff.
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): I think that holding a president accountable to the rule of law, addressing abuses of offices and abrogations of our national security, are indeed things that will improve our country.
Rochester, N.Y.: Thanks for your efforts. My question is: Can the president's spin doctors and trash team be indicted for obstruction of justice and witness tampering. They regularly try to intimidate potential witnesses and anyone who brings allegations of misconduct against the president. They are seriously hampering efforts to get at the truth.
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.): There is a fine line between criticizing and obstructing justice. I believe that line has been crossed by this Administration.
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