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Rep. John Conyers Questions Starr

  • More Transcripts From the Hearings

  • By Federal News Service
    Thursday, November 19, 1998

    REP. CONYERS: Thank you very much.

    Mr. Starr, it's very clear under this process, which many of us do not agree to, that trying to question you for five minutes is an ambitious and hopeful undertaking that doesn't quite achieve our objectives. Would you be willing to respond to additional questions, should the time run out on us, to these other questions that might be put to you in a written form?

    MR. STARR: We'll try to be as helpful as we can, sir, if there are written questions, depending on the chair's ruling; whatever the chair determines is appropriate, because I don't know --

    REP. SENSENBRENNER: Without objection, members may submit written questions for the record. I'd like to establish a deadline for the questions and for the responses by Judge Starr so that the questions and answers may be included in the record before our authority runs out.

    REP. CONYERS: Thank you very much.

    REP. SENSENBRENNER: What deadline would the gentleman from Michigan suggest?

    REP. CONYERS: I don't have one right now. But could we agree on one very shortly? A week.

    REP. SENSENBRENNER: Okay. Without objection, questions shall be submitted in a week, which happens to be Thanksgiving, and the responses within a week. Is there objection by members of the committee? Hearing none, so ordered.

    REP. ROGAN: Mr. Chairman? Reserving the right to object. My only concern is -- if I may address the reservation. My only concern at this point is that the request, as phrased by my friend from Michigan, theoretically could be an invitation to an open-ended, encyclopedic presentation of questions to Judge Starr that neither he nor his office will have the appropriate amount of time to respond. I'm assuming that if questions are propounded to Judge Starr's office --

    REP. CONYERS: Could I allay my friend from California's problems and his reservation by saying that all I seek is a full record so that no member has been cut off from a question that they should try to ask within the five-minute rule on the inquiry on the impeachment of a president of the United States.

    REP. ROGAN: I thank my colleague's clarification. My assumption, Mr. Chairman, is that, with unanimous consent, that also comes a degree of reasonableness. And if there is a problem --

    REP. CONYERS: Of course.

    REP. ROGAN: -- with Judge Starr's being able to propound answers in a timely fashion, he would be able to notify the committee and we would be able to review this issue again.

    REP. SENSENBRENNER: Absolutely. And the chair, the acting chair, would request that members funnel their questions either through Chairman Hyde or Ranking Minority Member Conyers rather than firing them off directly to Judge Starr.

    REP. CONYERS: Exactly. I thank you for the order. I thank you for the interest.

    REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman from Georgia.

    REP. BARR: (Inaudible) -- what exactly are we being asked to -- (inaudible)? I'm not sure I understand.

    REP. SENSENBRENNER: To allow written questions by --

    REP. BARR: (Inaudible) -- to be put to the independent counsel and he has to answer them within a week?

    REP. CONYERS: A week, yes.

    REP. BARR: I object.

    REP. SENSENBRENNER: Objection is heard.

    Well, I have tolled your five minutes, so the gentleman is recognized for five minutes now.

    REP. CONYERS: Well, we just went through a process in which we had, I thought, agreement. What we're doing here, then, ladies and gentlemen, is saying that within a five-minute period, 16 members, including Mr. Starr's response, have five minutes to ask him anything that they want. I think that this is patently unworkable, and all I suggested was an additional method of communicating with you in writing, sir.

    REP. SENSENBRENNER: Well, if the chair can respond to that, the rules of the House of Representatives in these instances provide for recognition of members for five minutes apiece. And the chair, at the beginning of this hearing today, said that members would be recognized under the five-minute rule. So far there have been only two people who have spoken -- Mr. Lowell, who received two extensions, and yours truly who got his questions in within five minutes.

    Now, I don't think we want to be staying here until midnight. I would hope that the five-minute rule, which seems to have worked well for decades, can be adhered to and members can be concise. So, again, I will move the clock back to zero and the gentleman from Michigan is recognized for five minutes.

    REP. CONYERS: All right, it's clear to me that some members do not want a full and open discussion with the witness, the only witness here today. So let me just propose -- yes, ma'am.

    REP. WATERS: (Off mike.)

    REP. CONYERS: No, I was going to ask my questions, but I'll yield to you if you'd like.

    REP. WATERS: Well, no. It's just that the chairman is back, and I'm not sure that he was privy to your request.

    REP. HYDE: Have you yielded to her? Because this is your time.

    REP. CONYERS: Yes, I did.

    REP. WATERS: Well --

    REP. HYDE: Okay. That's all right. You want to submit written questions to the witness?

    REP. WATERS: Yes.

    REP. CONYERS: That's the only point, sir.

    REP. HYDE: Well, I have no objection if he has no objection. But I would like them -- they would be returned when we hear from the president. How's that? A simultaneous return of questions. (Laughter.) Is that a good idea? (Scattered applause from audience.)

    REP. CONYERS: Well, I don't know if we should condition our questions to Mr. Starr on whether the president and his counsel have chosen to raise whatever questions you have with him.

    REP. NADLER: Would the gentleman yield?

    REP. CONYERS: Of course, I would.

    REP. NADLER: I would simply point out that the request for the ability to submit written questions is made on behalf of members of the House on this side, and presumably the other side of the aisle. We have no control over whether the president testifies. It's up to him, and the two subjects are separate.

    REP. HYDE: You do see the fairness, though. That's a big word around here.

    REP. NADLER: No, I don't. I don't see the fairness, frankly.

    REP. HYDE: You don't?

    REP. NADLER: The president will testify or not as he determines. That's his determination in this proceeding. And frankly, the ranking minority member suggested that it would be helpful to the members of this committee in ascertaining the facts and having a full and fair proceeding that we have the opportunity to submit written questions in addition to five minutes. I think that's reasonable. But it's either reasonable or not reasonable, regardless of what the president chooses to do in his own capacity.

    REP. CONYERS: Well, Mr. Nadler, I thank you very much.

    REP. NADLER: I yield back.

    REP. CONYERS: The chairman has made it clear that conditionally we can send Mr. Starr questions.

    Another member on the other side, has made it clear that he doesn't want any questions and answers whatever in writing. And so I think the point has been made. I'd like to just go ahead, and try to utilize my questions and answers within the period of time that I have.

    Mr. Starr, I'm concerned about the potential conflicts of interest between your public position seeking to impeach the president, and your private positions representing numerous clients whose agendas are aligned directly against the president. Can you assure this committee that you will provide us, for our information, a complete list of the clients in your distinguished law firm, or the law firm that you were a member of, that you have represented since accepting the position of independent counsel?

    MR. STARR: Yes.

    REP. CONYERS: Thank you very much. I'm particularly interested, of course, in the matters with the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, General Motors, Hughes Aircraft, United Airlines, Bell Atlantic, and a number of others. But thank you so much. I can go to a second question.

    The grand jury leaks. In reviewing your statements concerning this subject, we have two reports, I can ask you about them now, you didn't mention them in your reference to us. Namely, once in the Washington Times you were quoted as having said "the release of any investigative information by a member of this office or any other law enforcement agency would constitute a serious breach of confidentiality."

    This summer, it became clear that your office had spoken to reporters on background, developed a different standard, telling Steven Brill, quote, "nothing improper about leaking if you are talking about what witnesses tell FBI agents," end of quotations. This to me is quite important. Is there a distinction or a compatibility with both those statements, sir?

    MR. STARR: Yes, in this sense. I'll be very, very brief. We have responded in detail to the article that you mentioned, and I would be happy to provide that to you. I think it's all laid out there. My position is this. We do not issue or release that kind of information. That is our position. Now, what does the law reach? The rule of 6(e), is an issue that I'm sure we'll be discussing later today.

    REP. CONYERS: Yes, well, under the five-minute rule, we may or may not discuss it. And that's the problem. Doesn't your sense of fairness in the courts, extend to congressional hearings, where you have 16 members with five minutes to ask and be answered questions? Isn't that -- doesn't that strike you as somewhat constricting, somewhat limiting, somewhat hard for us to take the advantage of your appearance before us as the witness of the day?

    MR. STARR: Mr. Conyers, I do not want to speak to the rules of the House. May I answer 6(e)? Because I gather that my answers which do not count against your time quite in the same way, but I will be guided by you.

    REP. CONYERS: Well, let me ask you about the Travelgate and FBI files, which you did not mention the exoneration of the president in your reference. Did you include any exculpatory information in your reference, and why didn't you put it in there, instead of putting it in your statement here?

    MR. STARR: We put the statement here. You're right. We did not include that in the referral, because of my views of what the referral was supposed to do. What I viewed this invitation as being, was to try to -- because I was invited. And pursuant to that invitation, we reflected on what is the information that you might need, because we had been told, Mr. Conyers, by the Congress, you know, don't be holding things back. If you have information that could be relevant, provide it. And that's what we have in fact been trying to do.

    Now, if there's a sense that we're providing too much information, we'll be guided by that, because we're trying to be helpful.

    REP. CONYERS: Well, I thank you very much for that response.

    MR. STARR: Thank you.

    REP. CONYERS: And finally, sir, the failure to rule out pardon of Susan McDougal. Is this a very strong or personally held sentiment on your part? We had President Bush pardon six defendants in Iran- Contra, and I was a little bit dismayed that you would deem fit to blow out of proportion the fact that the president refused to comment on the possibility of pardoning Ms. McDougal. Did I read more into that about your attitude about her than I ought to have?

    MR. STARR: No, Mr. Conyers, I think you read it fairly and accurately, and you might very well have a different view that my view is quite wrong. But our view at the time, was that the president did not help the situation of our trying to get to the truth as quickly as possible by his comments. But that's your judgment. We have brought that to your attention for you to assess, and if it's your judgment that that is not an appropriate matter to consider, or your judgment is different, obviously, it's your judgment that controls and governs here.

    REP. CONYERS: Well, I'm glad to know that that's the case, that I still have my judgment intact. Thank you very much. (Scattered laughter.)

    REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. I might say, on the five-minute rule, that's pursuant to the rules of the House. And the Republicans get five minutes, just like the Democrats. So there is an equal burden. We have been extremely generous in questioning, and I don't intend to shut anybody down. But I hope the seating arrangement suits you. That's about all that hasn't been complained of today -- (laughter) -- and I just hope it's okay. We'll change it if you want us -- hassocks, hassocks, very good. Very good, I like that. The gentleman from Florida, Mr. McCollum.

    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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