THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Dec. 1 Business Session: More Subpoenas
Tuesday, December 1, 1998
REP. HYDE: And the committee will stay here, because we are going to meet for the purposes of conducting business pursuant to the notice. Mr. Conyers, we are going to discuss some subpoenas, and we need authority from the committee to issue them. I will be more detailed in a moment, but Mr. Conyers has a motion to limit debate, and I yield to him.
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D-MI): Mr. Chairman, this would expedite the proceedings, and I think would should that we are apologetic to keeping our very distinguished witnesses here much longer than we had anticipated. We also have a number of members who have flight schedules that require us -- and I hope that you and the members will indulge those of us who will not be able to stay long -- that we dispose of this. We have an expedited process which I think will be quite brief and dispositive.
And let me -- could I make that motion at this point?
REP. HYDE: Please, please.
REP. CONYERS: I appreciate it. I move that the committee now meet to consider the schedule subpoenas, and I further move that the debate on such motion be confined to 15 minutes per each side. And I --
REP. HYDE: Is there any objection?
REP. HYDE: Hearing no objection, so ordered. And I would advise the next panel -- first of all, very grateful for your patience and understanding. This will take about a half hour that we are going to do now --
REP. CONYERS: Or less.
REP. HYDE: Or less. Then we will take maybe 15 or 20 minutes for luncheon and then we'll be back. So I would suggest if you get back in one hour, the panel, we will be ready for you and we will try to plow through. And I apologize for the inconvenience. These witnesses are free to go.
REP. CONYERS: Could we have the motion then?
REP. HYDE: Yes. No, we are not going to do executive -- we are going to go right into this.
I recognize Mr. McCollum for purposes of a motion.
REP. BILL MCCOLLUM (R-FL): Mr. Chairman, I have motions at the desk which I ask to be considered en bloc. I move that the committee authorize the issuance of the following subpoenas. Number one, subpoena duces tecum to Attorney General Janet Reno --
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA): Mr. Chairman, point of order, Mr. Chairman. Could we ask people, if they want to stay, stay. If they want to leave, leave. We do want to focus on this. So those people who are frozen in indecision have got to come to a decision -- either sit down or get out.
REP. CONYERS: Quietly.
REP. MCCOLLUM: I, having assumed the chair, I will recognize you, Mr. Frank, as having made a salient comment, and I would like to continue the motions as they are being distributed.
The following subpoenas are in this motions, proposed for them. A subpoena duces tecum to Attorney General Janet Reno for the following documents: one, memorandum from director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louis J. Freeh, to the attorney general, dated November 24, 1997; interim report, number two, regarding the campaign finance investigation dated July 16, 1998, along with an August 12, 1998 addendum submitted by the former head of the campaign finance task force, Charles LaBella, and James Desarno (sp), assistant director, FBI -- (inaudible) -- task force to the attorney general, the director of the FBI.
REP. : Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent it be considered as read.
REP. MCCOLLUM: If I might, if you would withhold, I would just summarize them if I could.
REP. : I'll withhold.
REP. MCCOLLUM: Number three, memorandum from Lee J. Radek, chief, Public Integrity Section, to James K. Robinson, assistant attorney general, Criminal Division, dated August 5, 1998, reviewing the LaBella and Desarno (sp) interim report; and, number four, memorandum by James K. Robinson, assistant attorney general, Criminal Division, dated August 25, 1998, analyzing the LaBella-Desarno (sp) interim report.
The second subpoena is a subpoena duces tecum to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr for the following documents: any and all files directly or indirectly concerning John Huang, included but not limited to notes of interviews and memoranda of interviews, transcripts of depositions, grand jury transcripts, tape recordings, logs, immunity agreements, orders of immunity, and/or proffer letters.
And number three, a subpoena to appear at a deposition before the committee to the Honorable Louis Freeh, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
And, four, subpoena to appear at a deposition before the committee to Charles LaBella.
I will now recognize myself to explain what we are doing with this process, and it will be part of the time we are going to consume. Hopefully I won't take five minutes.
I believe the committee has a duty to issue a subpoena duces tecum to Attorney General Reno in order to procure the memoranda of Charles LaBella and FBI Director Louis Freeh that concern the appointment of an independent counsel related to campaign finance abuses. Mr. LaBella is the former chief of the Justice Department task force charged with investigating violations of campaign finance laws. Attorney General Reno has custody over the documents, and could order the production of the memoranda to the committee. We seek to depose Mr. LaBella and FBI Director Freeh to question them about the content and conclusions of the memoranda. Both Mr. LaBella and Mr. Freeh have recommended that Attorney General Reno appoint an independent counsel to investigate whether senior Clinton administration officials violated campaign finance laws. This means that these well respected law enforcement officials believe there is substantial and credible evidence that senior executive branch officials may have violated the law. In fact, FBI Director Freeh has testified that the LaBella memorandum may point to illegal actions on the part of President Clinton.
By requesting these subpoenas we are following the dictates of H. Res. 581, which directs that this committee investigate fully and completely whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach President Clinton. I believe it's our duty to examine any credible evidence that may indicate criminal wrongdoing by the president, which in turn may constitute impeachable offenses.
I have heard the reflexive refrain from the other side that we are on a "fishing expedition" or making a desperate stab in the dark in order to get the president. That simply is not the case. This committee cannot turn away from information that the director of the FBI and others tell us may bear directly on the resolution under which we are operating. Frankly I hope that after we review the memoranda and talk to Messrs. LaBella and Freeh that we can conclude that the president did not break the law or commit impeachable offenses in regard to any activity alleged in the memoranda. Regardless, it is our duty, and it requires us to look into this.
Finally, I recommend the committee authorize and issue a subpoena to the independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, to turn over to the committee all information in his possession related to John Huang. Given the testimony of the independent counsel before this committee, and given that any documents related to Mr. Huang may be relevant to allegations of obstruction of justice by the president, the committee would be remiss in its responsibility to investigate wrongdoing if it did not seek this information.
Numerous times the chair has stated that he would like to wrap up this inquiry -- I have stated it, and Chairman Hyde has stated it -- by the end of the year, and we are on a pace to do so. Our desire is to conclude this arduous task before us and to move swiftly by issuing these four subpoenas in determining whether any information provided to us aids us in our duties.
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman --
REP. MCCOLLUM: Mr. Conyers, I recognize you for five minutes --
REP. CONYERS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. MCCOLLUM: -- or such time as you may consume up to the time limit.
REP. CONYERS: This is a request for one, two, three memorandums and an interim report from the attorney general's office, the FBI. And I'd just like to point out that my objection to the committee's expanding again the scope of this impeachment inquiry by going on an open-ended fishing expedition into campaign finance issue -- this is not appropriate, nor is it correct, nor is it fair, nor is it relevant.
Instead of an impartial search for the truth, it's my worry that this is becoming an impeachment inquiry in search of a high crime. First, there is no shred of evidence anywhere indicating that the president committed any violation of law, let alone a violation that would amount to an impeachable offense. There was absolutely no reference to any improprieties concerning campaign finance law and the resolution of inquiry. Nor was there any reference to such matters in Mr. Starr's referral on September 9th, nor in his testimony before the committee on November 19th. To be frank, in my view what appears to be happening is that the members of the majority -- Republicans recognizing that there is little interest in moving forward on impeachment, based on the limited matters set forth in the referral, are now seeking unilaterally to expand the inquiry without any basis in fact or law, in a rather desperate attempt to breathe new life into a dying inquiry.
Ironically this is exactly contrary to the repeated declarations of Chairman Henry Hyde that the committee had their hands full with the September 9th referral, and have no interest in expanding the committee's inquiry.
Number two, expanding this inquiry at this date -- this late date -- makes a mockery, because there is no time to seriously pursue any fact issues. The committee simply must stop asserting as facts the statements of prosecutors, whether it be Mr. Starr or Mr. LaBella, instead of considering actual evidence, which we have not done to date.
Opening up a line of prosecutorial inquiry is a serious matter, and doing so in the context of an impeachment inquiry makes this a matter of constitutional significance. Therefore it should not be lightly, as I fear that it is being done here today.
Third, if it appears that a court or the Justice Department has determined that none of this material bears on any issue in our impeachment inquiry, trying to pressure the department with broad subpoenas is simply a bullying tactic without any proper basis or precedent. We must all live by the rules of law. We simply cannot simply wave our magic wand and change the law by issuing some subpoenas to the White House and to the Justice Department over matters over which they have no control, as the case appears to be in this instance.
And so I am disappointed that we are giving up our gavel -- your gavel, Mr. Chairman -- to the Dan Burton view and his now discredited campaign finance inquiry. Haven't we had enough of that already? The American people want closure to the inquiry. They don't want us chasing down rabbit trails which have been explored over and over again, and did not -- have never led to the White House. Please, I urge a no vote on this motion.
REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman. I will just respond very briefly, then recognize the gentle lady from Texas.
But first of all, we are not confined to the Starr referral. That was the debate we had on the floor with the resolution that empowered us to review the material from the independent counsel, Mr. Boucher and the Democrats' very narrow scope, and we wanted a wider scope. And we prevailed. So we are not bound by the parameters of the Starr referral. And anything else that comes to our attention while we are still duly constituted it seems to me is justifiable -- in fact, we are duty bound to explore it.
Now, we are not exercising or participating in a wild goose chase -- we hope we are not -- but we are looking for discovery. We are trying to find some things, and we have good reason to believe they may be there. Every deposition is a form of discovery. But we have been criticized for not having enough witnesses. Now we are criticized for having too many witnesses. one begins to -- criticism no matter what we do. And I understand that, and I accept it. But we are simply trying to proceed to do our job. And I have absolutely committed myself to finishing this this year, and so with your cooperation we will finish it -- this month as a matter of fact.
And so I recognize Sheila Jackson Lee for such time -- who do you want me to recognize?
REP. FRANK: She's first, and I'll go next.
REP. HYDE: Okay.
REP. FRANK: Let Sheila go first.
REP. HYDE: Sheila Jackson Lee -- five minutes.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. You know you are absolutely right that we are here today to find out the truth. But I also think, as Dr. Battalino indicated, that we are here for justice and fairness for all.
I believe it wasn't until 12 noon when our staff had a meeting yesterday, and palpably -- probably as late as 7:00 when any knowledge was made to any of our staff as to the actions for today.
Also, Mr. Chairman, I would say to you that even though we have a free-for-all pursuant to the resolution passed by the House and drafted by the Republicans, there should be some order to our process. And frankly we have already heard from Mr. Starr who, as the Office of
Independent Counsel, has had four years -- almost five years and $40 million to discover any wrongdoings against the president, who has already told us there is nothing --
REP. CONYERS: Will the gentle lady, the distinguished gentle lady from Texas yield?
REP. JACKSON LEE: I'd be happy to yield to the gentleman.
REP. CONYERS: Let me suggest to her that with a 15-minute limit we have got to recognize a senior member and perhaps one other person. If we could share this --I
REP. JACKSON LEE: I'll be finishing up, Mr. Chairman, very quickly.
REP. CONYERS: Thank you so much.
REP. JACKSON LEE: Thank you. That we have already heard from Mr. Starr that he has nothing on Filegate, barely nothing on Whitewater, and certainly nothing on Travelgate. This series of inquiries, of questioning the integrity of the attorney general, who has already looked at this matter, is questioning the integrity or the work of the committees in the Senate and the House. It is redundant. And frankly I don't know whether we could find the truth, Mr. Chairman, in the four short weeks that you have committed to finishing this matter. I would simply say that fishing it is, but unfair it certainly is, and we are not doing ourselves a service or the process of impeachment, the constitutional process of impeachment, by now going on a wild fishing expedition where we don't know where it will end up and whether or not the truth will be found or not. What we need to do is pass campaign finance reform laws, and that's how we'll get to the end of the solution of what you're trying to do. I hope that we can vote these possible inquiries down and move on with the process.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman --
REP. CONYERS: Can we reserve the time that was left from the five minutes?
REP. HYDE: You surely may.
The gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Barr.
REP. ROBERT BARR (R-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Having served these last two yeas on the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, with all due respect to the ranking member, who does not serve on that committee, and as far as I know, did not appear at any of the numerous hearings that we've had, the gentleman would know, had he done so, that there is indeed a great deal of evidence contained in the memorandums that are the partial subject matter of the first motion by the chairman. That is, the November 1997 memorandum authored by FBI Director Louis Freeh, and the July 16, 1998 memorandum with addendum, authored by Charles LaBella, who was appointed by the attorney general to review specifically the matters regarding campaign finance violations.
The fact of the matter is, almost a year ago, Director Freeh testified directly to this Congress, through the Government Reform and Oversight Committee. And while the ranking member may not like that committee, the fact of the matter is that when a person testifies before Congress, when they are sworn to do so before a congressional committee, they are indeed speaking to the Congress, and one cannot, I don't think, discount their testimony under oath, simply because one doesn't like who the chairman of the committee is, before which they may be testifying.
The fact of the matter is, that the director of the FBI testified, nearly a year ago, that pursuant to the independent counsel statute, which requires -- requires -- the appointment of an independent counsel if there is substantial and credible evidence that a covered person -- in other words, the president or the vice president of the United States, may have violated federal criminal laws. The Director of the FBI stated, in his opinion, that that portion of the independent counsel statute, regarding those covered persons, mandates the appointment of an independent counsel to review these matters.
With regard to Charles LaBella and the later memo, he reached the same conclusion. I think it is very, very relevant, Mr. Chairman, both pursuant to general rules of the House, as well as to the specific charge to this committee to conduct an inquiry of impeachment not limited simply to the work of the independent counsel, Mr. Starr, I think it is entirely relevant that we subpoena these particular documents. They could not be more relevant to issues involving violations of federal law by the president and vice president.
And I would therefore urge our colleagues, if they are indeed interested in a search for the truth, to support these motions. If they are indeed not interested in a search for the truth, then they may wish to either abstain or vote no. And I yield back.
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman, controlling the time on our side, I would yield to the distinguished gentleman from Virginia, Robert Scott, one minute.
REP. SCOTT: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I just had a couple of questions for the ranking member. First, were you consulted with the expansion of time and about these subpoenas? And second, are you aware of any precedence of congressional subpoenas being issued for memos soliciting opinions from senior officials, when they are advising Cabinet members?
This seems to be a fairly delicate area to get into, because you would expect the senior officials to give candid responses to the Cabinet official. And if these memos are going to be subject to subpoena, that would certainly have a chilling effect on their candor. And then third, following that up, do we have specific probable cause, or any reason to believe that this information is actually going to be there, after two committees have already gone through this material?
REP. CONYERS: I thank the gentleman. For probable cause, I've listened as carefully as I could to the two statements that have been made by the chairman and the chairman of the subcommittee on crime. I haven't heard any, and I haven't known about any before now.
You're quite right, there has been no notice. These were formed and framed today. They have not been in existence very long. And the sensitivity of the senior officials being brought here, if you read the Washington Post, as I have, we're talking about 6(e) material. And for the attorney-general to try to leap over that hurdle, is something that's unimaginable. there's no precedent. There's no precedent without a 6(e) order.
Could I yield a minute to a member of the committee that I once chaired, Mr. Barrett, the gentleman from Wisconsin?
REP. BARRETT: Thank you. Very, very briefly. I am at a loss as to why we are expanding the jurisdiction of this committee. If this were new material that we needed to resolve, in connection with the impeachment inquiry against the president of the United States prior to the end of this year, I could understand it.
All of this is material -- and this is an issue, as Mr. Barr has pointed out -- that has been covered in the Government Reform and Oversight Committee. That is a committee that has spent $7 billion in the last two years, investigating different issues. It has conducted over 150 depositions, and issued over 1200 subpoenas.
That's an active committee. I don't see any reason for us to duplicate what they're doing, and I have yet to see any tie between that and the impeachment inquiry against the President of the United States.
REP. CONYERS: I thank a member of that committee. The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Delahunt, for a minute.
REP. DELAHUNT: Thank you, Mr. Conyers. I would just associate myself with the remarks of my friend, Mr. Barrett. But I'd like to pose a question, either to the chair or to the chair of the subcommittee. Is there in your possession, or does any member of the staff, or any member, have new evidence -- new evidence of wrongdoing, which would serve as a predicate for a reconsideration as to whether a subpoena, either duces tecum, or a subpoena for the person, should issue?
I read something -- I think it was in the Boston Globe this morning -- something about a "mystery witness." Is there a mystery witness?
REP. CONYERS: I can tell, you from my perspective, that neither I or our staff, have any --
REP. DELAHUNT: No, but I directed that question to the chairman, Mr. Hyde.
REP. HYDE: If there is a mystery witness, it's a mystery to me. (Scattered laughter.)
REP. DELAHUNT: Okay.
REP. CONYERS: Okay, I recognize Barney Frank from Massachusetts.
REP. FRANK: We are indeed in the wild goose chase. We're not just in the wild goose chase, we're in the Wild Goose Chase of the Week. Last week's was Kathleen Willey. This week's was unrelated perjury. Next week's is, presumably, campaign finance.
I am struck by the lack of collegiality implicit in this. Our next-door neighbor, the chairman of government affairs, has been investigating this, it seems, for a very, very long time, with an intensity all his own. And nothing has come of it.
My understanding was that that committee had the right to refer something to us, and they chose not to do it. So we have decided that we're not going to allow for the possibility that the gentleman from Indiana, the chairman of that committee, is covering up for Bill Clinton, we're going to get that information. (Laughter.)
Let me make one statement which I am totally confident of. There isn't anybody in this room who thinks that this will avail us anything.
What we have, I think, is this situation. People in the most conservative wing of the Republican Party, are terribly unhappy that all of this Clinton-hunting is coming to so little. Kenneth Starr disappointed them on several occasions. He disappointed them when he put an end to the notion that Vincent Foster was anything other than a tragic suicide. Let's not forget that many of those baying for the president's blood, were arguing that there was some foul play there, other than the suicide of an unfortunately troubled man.
Mr. Starr belatedly, reluctantly, but nonetheless finally, put Whitewater, the FBI files, and the Travel Office, outside of the reach of this committee. We were talking a couple of months ago about patterns and about broader issues, they aren't there.
We had a brief fling with the notion that Kathleen Willey would bring us something. There was a brief fling with the notion of getting John Huang to talk about efforts with Webster Hubbell. None of it has happened. This is the last desperate grasp of a group of people who are determined to impeach the president, and haven't yet been able to put it together.
Long since forgotten, was the notion that you would not go forward with an impeachment in a partisan way. In the 18 years I've been here, I have seen very few issues as partisanly dealt with other than the organization of the House, than this one. Every vote's been partisan. All the decisions have been unilateral. People are looking to push through narrowly a vote -- I don't think they'll be successful -- but hoping to push through on the floor of the House a vote, in which there is a narrow vote for impeachment.
And they're trying to get that vote for impeachment, by the way, by telling people, "Oh, don't worry. We need you to vote for impeachment, but it's not really impeachment. It's really censure. We just need you to vote for it, because everybody knows the Senate won't do anything about it. So, what's a little disruption of the country among friends? It's very important for us to keep our political activists happy, by going forward."
And part of this notion that you've got to keep the political activists happy, is it's kind of the political equivalent of the exhaustion of remedies: no stone must be left unturned, no rock, no pebble, no speck. All the way down to the specks.
No one thinks that the campaign finance situation is going to yield in anything like this time period, evidence about the president of the United States. Simply getting the LaBella memorandum, is a way they hope to add to some embarrassment. What we've had for the past few weeks, has been an effort to build a political case against the president.
We have had inaccurate statements that have said "Well, where's the exculpatory evidence?" The fact is, that it's kind of hard to give exculpatory evidence, when one ground for the perjury in the grand jury, is the president remembers the sex -- which he acknowledged -- as having begun in February of '96, and Ms. Lewinsky said it began in November of '95. What's the exculpatory evidence he's going to bring in? A February calendar saying "Oh my God, Monica and I finally did it today."
What exculpatory evidence is there to prove that? One charge of perjury is that when the president said before the grand jury, that he thought that oral sex was excluded from the definition at the time of the deposition, that he was telling the truth. What's the exculpatory evidence to say "Yes, I really did believe that."?
So, what we have, is a desperate effort that I think demeans this process. Going at this point, at this late date, when it can't possible be adequately explored, into campaign finance, is just one last cry of "Oh my God, what are we going to do?" And I think it is not useful for this process.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has all expired on the Democratic side. I'll yield myself just a couple of minutes. One distinction between the Burton Committee and our effort here, is that the documents we're seeking, the LaBella report, the Freeh report, which everybody in town knows recommended an independent counsel, but has been kept in the deep freeze, was never made available to them.
We also know that some 95 people took the Fifth, or fled the country. Now, to just look away, and say "Gee, Burton didn't solve it, and Thompson didn't solve it, I guess we can't solve it." We're taking a look at this. And we're going to take a look, and it's justifiable that we take a look.
And lastly, the gentleman from Massachusetts talks about flailing around and floundering around, and not having any coherent plan. The Paula Jones suit got settled for a lot of money. And one can hardly say that was just out of the generosity of the White House's heart.
So, there's time. We are going to investigate as best we can, to fulfill our mandate. And I regret that the Democrats view everything we do as partisan. You know, that's a two-way street. I haven't seen an awful lot of bipartisanship on your side. But I didn't expect it.
In any event, I yield to my friend, Mr. Conyers.
REP. CONYERS: If there is anything that I can do to demonstrate our legitimate, deep-felt need for bipartisanship, you may suggest it to me, on or off the record.
We have extended ourselves. There's very little you can do, when we're reading about the proceedings in the newspaper. I mean, how can we be anything but going along? You're driving the train, not us.
REP. HYDE: Well, if the gentleman will yield, if the gentleman wants to show a new-found spirit of cooperation, let's vote these subpoenas out by a voice vote now, and go get some lunch.
REP. FRANK: What's your second option, Mr. Chairman? (Laughter.)
REP. WATERS: Will the gentleman yield?
REP. HYDE: Surely.
REP. WATERS: Mr. Chairman, what do you expect to do? Bring people back, who have fled the country, or make people change their testimony, who took the Fifth?
REP. HYDE: We just want to look at the documents, and see what was redacted there, and to see whether they lead to the White House. That's all. No one has ever seen them. They're very quiet. We want to look at them.
REP. WATERS: Mr. Chairman, if I just may. One of the things that I think you are hearing being objected to, is this helter- skelter search. In my estimation, if you're going to have a hearing, let's have a real -- let's get all the witnesses, let's get all the information from the Senate, let's get all the information from the congressional hearing.
REP. HYDE: We've reviewed all this. We've reviewed it, and I'm sure your staff has.
REP. WATERS: No.
REP. HYDE: Oh, it hasn't?
REP. WATERS: We have not talked about witnesses. As a matter of fact, when you talk about getting memorandums, I do want the memorandums from other senior members of the staff of Janet Reno who was advising her otherwise. I'm just saying to you, Mr. Chairman, you can't half-step, you can't half-do it. Either you're going to do it, or you're not going to do it.
REP. HYDE: Yeah, but we'll do it our way, if you don't mind.
REP. WATERS: Ooh, that's quite obvious. You've been very partisan on this. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: All time has expired, and without objection, the previous question is ordered, and the question occurs.
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman, can we get a roll call?
REP. HYDE: You surely can.
REP. CONYERS: Thank you.
REP. HYDE: The question occurs on the motion offered en bloc, and the clerk will call the roll.
(Roll call vote is called.)
REP. HYDE: The clerk will report.
CLERK: Mr. Chairman, there are 20 ayes and 15 nos.
REP. HYDE: And the motion is agreed to. And the committee will stand in recess until 2:00 sharp.
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