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Rep. Christopher Cannon Questions Starr

  • More Transcripts From the Hearings

  • By Federal News Service
    Thursday, November 19, 1998

    REP. CANNON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. Starr, this has been a long and very tough hearing. Although I, for one, have thoroughly enjoyed your answers. Your name, I think, has been slandered around the country for a year and more, and there have been many factual bases for that slander. We've gone now through, I think, some of the best and brightest -- alleged for that slander, let me say -- of the people in Congress, many of whom have participated in that, in what I would call the president's "Pro- Defamation League." And you know what? They whiffed today; they've gotten nothing. Your answers have been so good that I don't think they've found even colorable impropriety on your part.

    And the answers that you've given being relatively difficult for them, it's easy to see what they've reverted to. We've had a series of repeated, unsubstantiated and, frankly, embarrassing bombasts directed at you with great intensity; then one to four questions leveled at you, sometimes very complicated, with follow-up interruptions that have made your answers difficult. And I might say that -- just point out that the chair has been a lot more gracious with the Democrats than with the Republicans in this hearing today.

    I now see why the pit bulls of this administration have been unleashed on you. You have done a great job and, frankly, I believe that every pundit in America will believe and conclude that your presentation today has changed the nature of this debate from you to the president's acts.

    Let me just clear up a couple of things that I have heard today.

    You talked earlier about the civil perjury in the Jones deposition, and the issue of materiality came up, and you used the term "bogus." Would you just clarify -- did you mean to say that default statements made in the Paula Jones deposition were in fact material and that any argument that they weren't material was bogus?

    MR. STARR: Yes. I wasn't sure -- and you'll forgive me -- because I am not recalling in what specific or particular -- I used that term, and that is a strong term.

    But I do think that the matters that were there and that you have been analyzing do satisfy a reasonable juror's view with respect to the question of materiality, which again, as I have said, is ultimately a jury question. And I think one of the issues, therefore, that you would assess is, "What would I, as a juror, do?" although I hasten to note that your function of course here is ultimately a constitutional function and not an ultimate fact-finding function, although obviously you have great and unbridled and unfettered discretion in terms of how you will define the project or the mission in order to fulfill your constitutional duty.

    REP. CANNON: And that is in the context of the civil action?

    MR. STARR: Yes. And that's in the context of a civil action. I am sorry.

    REP. CANNON: According to the sworn declaration of White House counsel Charles Ruff, the president personally directed him to assert executive privilege to prevent you from questioning some of his assistants. When he was in Africa, the president -- President Clinton denied knowing about the assertion of executive privilege.

    Which is it: Did Mr. Ruff ever amend his declaration, or is the president lying to the public on his Africa trip?

    MR. STARR: To my knowledge, Congressman, there was never an amendment to the declaration. And the declaration was filed on March 17 -- the declaration may be dated March 17 -- and then the president's statement in Africa was on March 24th. So they both can't be right. Either the president had discussed with Mr. Ruff the invocation of executive privilege, or he had not. Both cannot be true.

    REP. CANNON: And I understand that certain White House officials asserted executive privilege with respect to portions of conversations with Vernon Jordan, a private citizen.

    Is this true? And on what basis could such a claim be made?

    MR. STARR: There was an invocation of executive privilege early on, and we believe -- with respect to conversations with Vernon Jordan. They were withdrawn, but we believe that that is part of the pattern of the lavish and, we believe, unfounded invocation of executive privilege. How can a conversation with someone who is outside the government and relating to matters involving an affidavit in a private civil case and securing a job at Revlon for someone, how can that possibly justify a good-faith invocation of executive privilege?

    Perhaps others disagree with me. I gather from the testimony that you've heard, others do disagree with me. But to me, when you look at the totality of the invocation and the withdrawal of executive privilege, I conclude that there is a pattern of abuse.

    REP. CANNON: Thank you, Mr. Starr. I think that 1998 is going to be the year of McGwire, Sosa and Starr. I yield back.

    REP. HYDE: Thank you very much. The gentleman from California, Mr. Rogan.

    Copyright © 1998 by Federal News Service, Inc. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's original duties. Transcripts of other events may be found at the Federal News Service Web site, located at

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