THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Rep. Ed Bryant Questions Starr
Thursday, November 19, 1998
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Bryant.
REP. ED BRYANT (R-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Judge Starr. Quickly, let me refer to a column by David Broder in reference to this 400 professors of history letter. Mr. Broder says, "When academics decide to become activists, they sometimes bring badly needed wisdom and perspective to a raging political debate. But when they plunge in heedlessly, they risk looking ridiculous."
He says, "But the House is following the process set forth in the Constitution. This tenured trashing of Congress for meeting its responsibility says more about the state of the history profession than about the law of the land."
I'm glad that we can at times today return back to the facts in this case. And, Judge Starr, you have -- I want to commend you for setting forth a clear, documented, compelling case against the president. You have provided a road map for us to see how and when the president chose deception rather than truth at many important crossroads in our judicial system's search for the truth.
And I must say that I have seen this before, but you mentioned it again in your statement. I think it's one of the most chilling episodes I think I can imagine in American history occurred with Dick Morris. And again, I will read from your statement an account of Mr. Morris's testimony. But this is one of the choices you refer to on page 21 at the bottom --
MR. STARR: Yes.
REP. BRYANT: -- one of the choices the president makes.
"After the public disclosure of the president's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky and the ongoing criminal investigation, the president faced a decision; would he admit the relationship publicly, correct his testimony in Mrs. Jones' case, and ask for the indulgence of the American people, or would he continue to deny the truth?
"For this question, the president consulted others. According to Dick Morris, the president and he talked on January the 21st. Mr. Morris suggested that the president publicly confess. The president replied,`But what about the legal thing, you know, the legal thing. You know, Starr and perjury and all?' Mr. Morris suggested they take a poll." Mr. Morris suggested they take a poll. "The president agreed. Mr. Morris called in with the results. He stated that the American people were willing to forgive adultery but not perjury or obstruction of justice."
And our president of the United States, the chief law enforcement officer of this country, the one who hires the attorney general and the 93 U.S. attorneys who enforce all the federal laws against you and me, this president said, "Well, we'll just have to win, then." That is chilling. that is absolutely scary that we've got that mentality in the position of being the chief law enforcement officer. As a former prosecutor -- and I know you have tremendous credentials -- I know it frightens me to have these circumstances existing.
I have two questions for you. I don't know what the answer is to that, and I think that's one of the reasons we're here today. But two questions. I'm not going to have the opportunity to, perhaps, cross- examine the president. I don't know if he's going to take our invitation, and I don't know if he's going to respond. And I don't think it's appropriate that I question his lawyers here today. But one thing, I have a question on this assertion of privilege.
They make a claim that this is private conduct that underlies this, but yet they go out and file documents asserting an executive privilege claim, which you and I both know is rooted in the Constitution, and it's meant to protect presidential communications regarding official decision-making -- in other words, public conduct.
Is this not talking out of both sides of their mouth, how they can assert privilege for public conduct while saying it's really private conduct?
MR. STARR: I -- oh, I'm sorry.
REP. BRYANT: Let me get the second question --
MR. STARR: Please.
REP. BRYANT: -- so you can answer them both, as I will let you have the balance of the time.
I've alluded to the fact that I feel that your credentials are impeccable, and that based upon your experience and the experience of the many prosecutors you've referred to today, it's tremendous. And based upon all this, I question you from your -- do you have an opinion -- not saying whether or not these are impeachable offenses, but as to the quality of this case in terms of criminal law violations? Is it a -- a circumstantial case, but is it a weak case, a strong case, or something in between?
MR. STARR: With respect to your first question on assertion of privilege, I do agree with you that it is odd; I think it's irregular to both contend that this is entirely a matter involving personal conduct, and at the same time invoke executive privilege to prevent fact witnesses who are being asked facts with respect to that matter. So I think there is an incoherence and an inconsistency with the position.
With respect to the quality of the case, my own judgment, Congressman Bryant, is that the evidence is strong.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman's time has expired.
And I think it now is proper to take a 10-minute recess. I would like to ask the audience to remain in the room until Judge Starr exits the room, and ask the members of the committee either to stay in the room or not go too far away.
The committee stands in recess until 6:10.
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