THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Rep. Steve Chabot Questions Starr
Thursday, November 19, 1998
REP. HYDE: Mr. Chabot. Mr. Chabot is recognized.
REP. STEVE CHABOT (R-OH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. Is this on? (Technical adjustments.) Is this mike on?
REP. : No, it's on.
REP. CHABOT: I don't this mike's on.
REP. HYDE: Your mike should be on.
(Cross talk, technical adjustments.)
REP. CHABOT: Okay. That's on now.
It seems pretty clear to me that there's a strategy by Bill Clinton and his allies to demonize anybody who gets in their way -- Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Henry Hyde; you, Judge Starr; this committee; even the press, to some extent. It's everybody else's fault, and everybody else is to blame -- everybody except Bill Clinton, except the president.
Now in criminal cases -- and I think Mr. Canady referred to this -- it's a pretty common practice to do this. If the facts of the case are against you, if your client is pretty clearly guilty, put the police on trial. They planted the evidence, the police are corrupt, they forced your client to sign the confession -- anything to get your client off the hook.
Judge Starr, my question to you is this: How difficult is it for you, as an independent counsel, to do your job when you're up against this onslaught, particularly when you're limited in your ability to defend yourself and to defend the other prosecutors under you and to defend your staff in a public forum -- limited, that is, until today?
MR. STARR: Well, I think it is inherently a challenge. And I must say that it does, in my judgment, raise questions about the relationship between the independent counsel, the Congress of the United States -- and I'm speaking generally -- and also the Justice Department.
But I can only give you my philosophy. I think it's my obligation to follow the rules. And that's what we seek to do. That's why I reached out and tried to get the right kind of ethics advice and the like, to make sure that some of these difficult judgments were in fact done the right way.
And that's all we can do.
But for example, we cannot set up a congressional liaison shop. We just don't have the resources to do that. We can't set up an effective public information apparatus the way the great departments of government do.
So I think it is inherently a grave challenge for an independent counsel to be told: "Go set up shop. And you are out there on your own, and we just look eventually to some report or a conclusion and the like." And you're a bit of the Lone Ranger, as it were, in terms of, "Are you part of any entity and structure?"
And that's one of the reasons -- that, Congressman -- what I tried to do was to create mechanisms whereby we had, not only a deliberative process so that the kinds of issues that are being raised here today we can respond to and say, "Yes, we did have a process in place"; "yes," when there were questions raised about what you did on January 16th at the Ritz-Carlton.
We consulted with the Justice Department. We had experienced prosecutors evaluating it. They were very familiar with the ethics rules. And they made judgments based upon good-faith determinations of what the appropriate procedures were. But we had to create that mechanism all by ourselves, and I have tried to do that to the best of my ability.
REP. CHABOT: Early in the investigation of the Lewinsky matter, President Clinton promised to fully cooperate with the investigators, stating that he wanted to divulge "more rather than less" and "sooner rather than later." How cooperative has the administration been in your investigation?
MR. STARR: With respect to this phase of the investigation, the administration has been uncooperative. To the contrary, it has litigated numerous issues; although, in fairness -- in fairness, I think of the things that we have litigated -- in fairness, the administration has produced a goodly number of records and the like. And so I would say at a routine level, requests or subpoenas for documents and so forth, there certainly has been that, and I don't want to be unfair about saying that.
But there is a marked distinction between the cooperation that we received, for example, in the FBI files matter and the cooperation, or lack thereof, that we received in this and in other phases of our investigations. And to me, one of the markers is the invocation of privileges.
It may very well be that the considered judgment of this body is any privilege can be invoked no matter how unmeritorious one thinks it is; that that's not an abuse.
Perhaps we live in such a litigious age that that's the new way of doing things.
I disagree with that. I think if privileges are invoked for the purposes of delay and have the intended effect of delay, and I think that is what happened here, when they lose, I've heard complaints about the tactics of the investigation, and yet we go to court. And as I indicated earlier, 17 visits to the courts of appeals thus far, we have prevailed in each of those. That sounds like an investigation that's getting it right.
REP. CHABOT: Let me just conclude by referring to your report, towards the end of it, and you stated, and I'll quote, "Given the hurricane force political winds swirling about us, we were well aware that no matter what decision we made, criticism would come from somewhere. As Attorney General Reno had said, "In a high profile case like this, you are damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, so you'd better just do what you think is the right and the fair thing." I hope we'll all do that.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. I thank the gentleman. the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Meehan.
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