THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Rep. Thomas Barrett Questions Starr
Thursday, November 19, 1998
REP. THOMAS BARRETT (D-WI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Starr, I believe President Clinton's actions were wrong and we must --
MR. STARR: I beg your pardon?
REP. BARRETT: I believe President Clinton's actions were wrong, and we must decide as a Congress, as a country, how he should be held accountable.
But I also believe that the ambivalence that this country feels, and that I feel about this matter, is colored in large part by the actions of your office and Linda Tripp.
I'm going to ask you a series of questions, most of which have been asked by Mr. Lowell, and you've given longer answers to, so I would ask that you give short answers. In fact, I believe every one of these questions can be answered with a "yes" or "no." And I'm going to ask you and let you answer right after each question.
Prior to being named independent counsel, you gave your opinion publicly on several occasions that Paula Jones' lawsuit should be allowed to go forward. Is that correct?
MR. STARR: I -- the implicit -- the answer to that, I think, is yes.
REP. BARRETT: It's an easy question, Mr. Starr.
MR. STARR: The answer to that -- I think the answer to that is yes.
REP. BARRETT: Okay. In fact, you even had several conversations with Gilbert Davis, Paula Jones' attorney, and discussed constitutional issues in this case. Correct?
MR. STARR: That is correct.
REP. BARRETT: Let's fast-forward to this year. Your offers -- your office entered into a written immunity agreement with Monica Lewinsky. Is that correct?
MR. STARR: That's correct.
REP. BARRETT: And this written immunity agreement contained a secrecy provision that prohibited her from talking about her testimony, including talking to the media. Is that correct?
MR. STARR: Yes, that's correct.
REP. BARRETT: And your office also provided an immunity letter to Linda Tripp. Is that correct?
MR. STARR: Yes, that is correct.
REP. BARRETT: But Linda Tripp's immunity letter had no secrecy provisions, did it?
MR. STARR: I believe that's correct. I have not -- Congressman, may I be permitted to say just a word? I have not reviewed the Linda Tripp letter in advance of this. But it's my understanding that it does not contain this. But that's my understanding and that's my best recollection.
REP. BARRETT: I'll read it. It's -- "This letter confirms the previous representations I have made to you regarding your client, Linda R. Tripp. As we have discussed, we agree on behalf of the United States that coextensive with the provisions of Title 18" -- blah, blah, blah -- "and no testimony or other information provided in this agreement or information directly or indirectly derived from such testimony or other information may be used against Ms. Tripp in any criminal case, except a prosecution for perjury." That's the essence of the letter.
So nothing in this immunity letter prohibited Linda Tripp from talking to the media. Is that correct?
MR. STARR: But again -- that is correct, but if I could say just a word --
REP. BARRETT: I think you've answered it. I just want to get through my questions. And I think you've answered it --
MR. STARR: Okay, but I need to get through my answer, and I simply need to say one sentence. This was a different kind of immunity --
REP. BARRETT: I understand.
MR. STARR: -- than the immunity granted to Monica Lewinsky.
REP. BARRETT: You've explained to Mr. Lowell.
MR. STARR: Yes. Sorry.
REP. BARRETT: Now on January 13th, 1998, your office sent Linda Tripp, wired for sound, to meet with Monica Lewinsky at the Ritz- Carlton Hotel. Is that correct?
MR. STARR: That is correct.
REP. BARRETT: Indeed, after Linda Tripp had been wired, a reporter for Newsweek called your deputy, Jackie Bennett, and made inquiries about these activities. Isn't that correct?
MR. STARR: I believe the timing of that is correct.
REP. BARRETT: And following that call, there was nothing put in writing to Linda Tripp or her attorney limiting her from talking to the media. Is that correct?
MR. STARR: I think that is correct. I would have to review the record. But I think that your understanding is correct, subject to my review of the record.
REP. BARRETT: And nothing in the written immunity agreement prohibited Linda Tripp from talking to or working with Paula Jones or her attorneys, is that correct?
MR. STARR: That is correct, and we then made it clear, when it was evident that the -- I'm sorry.
REP. BARRETT: I'm talking about the written agreement. And on the eve of the president's deposition in the Jones suit, Linda Tripp met with Miss Jones' lawyers, is that correct?
MR. STARR: That is my understanding now. It was not our understanding or information at that time.
REP. BARRETT: I understand. And at that point, on January 16th, she was an agent for your office and the same day she met with Paula Jones' attorneys?
MR. STARR: That is correct.
REP. BARRETT: Well, I would -- I'm not asking if you liked it or whether you approved of it. I'm just asking factually whether that's true.
MR. STARR: (Inaudible due to cross talk) -- that she was being a witness for us and she was, in fact, providing certain information to us. What we were seeking under this immunity agreement was the information that she said existed.
REP. BARRETT: I'm just asking whether it's true; whether she had acted as an agent for you that day and whether she met with Paula Jones' attorneys that night.
MR. STARR: She had acted as a cooperating witness in connection --
REP. BARRETT: Fine. A cooperating witness.
MR. STARR: Well -- well, she was acting in collaboration with us and if I could be permitted to answer this --
REP. BARRETT: Let me just finish, and I'll ask the chairman to give me a little time, if I could. But she was free to do that because there was nothing in the immunity agreement to prohibit her from doing that.
MR. STARR: Again, the purpose of the immunity agreement was different -- and you're right.
REP. BARRETT: Okay. I just wanted to --
MR. STARR: There was nothing in the immunity agreement because the very nature --
REP. BARRETT: Now, the next day, the next day was, of course, the day that President Clinton was deposed, and there was a question asked of him about whether he had tried to bribe Monica Lewinsky or other things, and he was very surprised by this. And James Fisher (sp), her attorney, responded, and this is from Time Magazine, "I think this will come to light shortly, and you'll understand."
Now, what this tells me, Mr. Starr, is that we start out and you, four years earlier, show your support for not having the president be immune from lawsuit. And in the end we have the attorney for Paula Jones knowing exactly what your office is doing and having one of the key witnesses in your case cooperating not only with you, but with Paula Jones' attorneys. That's why this country feels --
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time is up. The witness may answer.
MR. STARR: Yes, if I could respond briefly. There are a number of premises in your last question that I just respectfully but fervently disagree with. I do not believe that my position with respect to the constitutional immunity of the president, which I discussed with a variety of persons, including Mr. Fiske, Mr. Davis and others, has the slightest bearing or relevance on the questions that were before us in 1998.
You may disagree with that, but that was my judgment. And I would simply say that the position that I took was vindicated by the Supreme Court nine to nothing. That suggests that the particular principle --
REP. BARRETT: I don't quarrel with that at all -- just so you understand, I don't quarrel with that at all --
REP. HYDE: The gentleman is answering.
MR. STARR: But it is also because the issue that had engaged my attention, the possibility that Bob Fiske would file an amicus brief in the Paula Corbin Jones civil case, was likewise information that I did not think had a bearing on the issues that were before us in a criminal case. And that was my judgment. And what we did bring to the Justice Department, to make sure that the department knew what we were doing, was the information that we had, and we said we want to make all information that's available to you, ask questions. And my involvement in 1994 had been very public and, indeed, I had been on various news programs espousing that very position.
REP. BARRETT: Again, Mr. Starr, I don't -- I don't dispute --
REP. CHRIS CANNON (R-UT): Regular order.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from Utah, Mr. Cannon.
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