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'They Impeached an Elected President on the Basis of That Record'

Clinton on Trial

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  • Federal Document Clearing House
    Wednesday, January 27, 1999; Page A12

    Following are excerpts of remarks to the Senate by House managers and President Clinton's attorneys over whether to call witnesses in the impeachment trial of the president. House managers want to depose Monica S. Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan, Sidney Blumenthal and the president. Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) said the managers wanted to call 15 witnesses but recognized the Senate would not tolerate that and have reduced their list to three:

    If our motion is granted . . . at no point will we ask any questions of Monica Lewinsky about her explicit sexual relations with the president, either in deposition or if we are permitted on the floor of the [Senate]. . . .

    Secondly, we do not see why the entire process of deposing and calling all of these witnesses right here live would have to take more than just a very few days. . . . We absolutely reject the argument that some have been making . . . that somehow if we have a single witness out here, it's going to take weeks and weeks of protracted delay in this trial. . . .

    I also want to address the argument that's been made by some that witnesses should only be permitted if there is new evidence. . . . [W]e believe . . . that we will present to you new evidence with the witnesses that we have asked you to bring, and let us depose. But . . . that should not be the standard. It should be one of the standards, but not the standard, not the sole standard. There's a lot more to a witness and the reason why you need to have a witness out here than simply new evidence.

    It's especially true in a case like this, where much of the evidence [is] circumstantial and requires you to draw . . . conclusions that involve the credibility of a witness, that involve why it's said, that involve inflections and spontaneity of the witness, the exchange between the counsel asking the questions and the witness, and a description that the flavor of which you simply can't get without having the person here to observe. . . . Demeanor, manner, truthfulness, how the witness impresses you. If you don't have that witness here, and it's a critical witness, there is no way as a trier of fact you can make those judgments fairly. . . . [I]t is terribly critical, not only that we are permitted to depose these witnesses, but with respect particularly to Monica Lewinsky, and perhaps all three of them, that we be permitted to bring those witnesses here at the end of the day and examine them and let the president's counsel examine them. . . .

    For a few of the criminal charges under articles of impeachment -- under both of them -- it's our judgment that the president's guilt is so clear and convincing and compelling that we don't think that any witnesses are needed to be called in deposition or in person. . . .

    On the other hand, we believe that you do need, we need, to bring in witnesses to resolve conflicting testimony, to give you a true picture of the president's scheme to lie and conceal evidence for the other obstruction of justice charges and certainly the last perjury charge. . . .

    In the not too distant future, Monica Lewinsky is going to be free of the gag order and she's going to go out and she's going to talk to people. And freely, she should. At that point in time, she is going to have the public judging her and they're going to be judging this case, as will history.

    And I would suggest that the public at that point and history as well will be judging you and not judging the Senate well if it doesn't let her come here and testify.

    Rep. Edward G. Bryant (R-Tenn.): . . . [F]rom these three witnesses we feel that we have the broadest coverage of the two articles of impeachment. Within the obstruction article, there are in essence seven so-called counts, seven instances that we allege, and with these three witnesses we've managed to cover six of those seven, with the one that we don't quite cover being the tampering with [presidential secretary] Betty Currie. . . .

    Ms. Lewinsky [is] probably the most relevant witness -- that is, aside from the president himself, who so far has indicated through his counsel that he will not testify and, I might add, has not answered the questions that . . . some senators sent to the White House for his answering based on his attorney's statement that he would be willing to answer questions.

    So, with that aside, Ms. Lewinsky is probably the most important witness left. And wouldn't you at least like to see and hear from her on this? As triers of fact, wouldn't you want to observe the demeanor of Ms. Lewinsky and test her credibility?

    As I say, look into the eyes and test the credibility of these witnesses. Compare her version of the testimony to the contested events. And remember, the president's attorneys in numerous ways in their vigorous defense of the president have challenged Ms. Lewinsky's version of the facts. . . .

    And Ms. Lewinsky, if truth be known, probably does not want to come in here and testify. These are not our witnesses. . . . The witnesses . . . are basically White House employees, friends of the White House or former employees.

    These are not going to be our friends if they come in and testify. They are not going to be sympathetic to us, although we would anticipate that they would tell the truth. . . . The president not only committed himself to illegal actions, but he enlisted others to assist, some knowingly and others perhaps unknowingly. And Ms. Lewinsky is one of these who interestingly enough might fit into both categories of knowing and unknowing at different times, and she would be able to share with this Senate the so-called tone and tenor of her conversations with the president. . . .

    It is my feeling that a fair and comprehensive direct examination without interruption could be conducted of Ms. Lewinsky in two to four hours.

    And depending on the length of cross-examination by White House attorneys, we may not need any redirect examination.

    House managers are establishing a good-faith effort to cut our witnesses, as I said, down to three people, and to commit to reasonable times of examination with the assurance that we will finish as quickly as we can.

    And we would hope [this could be achieved] and, perhaps, the Senate would give similar direction to the White House in their defense team. Witnesses can be called and a fair trial could be accomplished if all concerned would agree. . . .

    Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.): My responsibility is to address the testimony of Vernon Jordan and the need to call him as a witness in this case.

    His testimony goes on the heart of one of the elements of obstruction of justice. And that is the job search, and the false affidavit, and the connection, the interconnection between those. . . .

    Since Mr. Jordan last testified before the grand jury . . . July 22, Ms. Currie testified before the grand jury. So any of the facts we gained from Ms. Currie was not utilized in the last examination of Vernon Jordan.

    August 6 -- what happened on that date? Ms. Lewinsky testified before the grand jury and she revealed some new facts during that time that Mr. Jordan has never had an opportunity to explain, respond [to] or answer.

    And I'll go into that. One of them [is] about disposing of notes, the second one about drafting the affidavit. And of course by that time, the DNA on the dress had been revealed.

    And then the next thing that happened was the president's revelation to the nation that this relationship did exist, and then he testified before the grand jury [and] all of the facts [that were] revealed were not available at the time Vernon Jordan last testified before the grand jury. . . .

    Hutchinson details three areas of conflict between Lewinksy and Jordan: whether Jordan knew the nature of her relationship with Clinton, whether Lewinsky and Jordan discussed her subpoena in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case at a Dec. 22, 1997 meeting and whether Jordan and Lewinsky ever discussed Linda R. Tripp. Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Calif.) then made the case for calling Blumenthal. He said Blumenthal's testimony would show how Clinton, knowing White House aides would be called to the grand jury, purposely planted false notions about the nature of Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky.

    Following Rogan's presentation, the floor was turned over to White House defense attorney David Kendall:

    The managers' case is in no way, no way, harmed by being unable to call witnesses at this point. The independent counsel conducted a wide-ranging investigation. It was intense, it was comprehensive of every conceivable allegation against the president after the Lewinsky publicity erupted on Jan. 21, 1998.

    The Office of Independent Counsel has an unlimited budget with unlimited investigative resources, ranging from the FBI to private investigators. Its agents interviewed people all over the country, used several different grand juries, conducted hundreds of interviews, even called people back from abroad.

    If the OIC could have turned up anything that was negative or prejudicial, it would be in those volumes. . . .

    [A]fter five years and $50 million, President Clinton may be the most investigated person in America. I will certainly say this for Mr. Starr, he is thorough. He is thorough. After all the work that has been done for them by the independent counsel, there's simply no way that the House managers are prejudiced by not being able to add to this record at this point. . . .

    We are not at all afraid of what the witnesses would say. Indeed, we know what they're going to say because it's all right there in the volumes before you.

    We think that you have everything there on the basis of which you can make a fair judgment and achieve a fair resolution.

    The managers' hope to call more witnesses is simply a product of their desire, their hope, their prayer that something will come to rescue their case.

    Let's be clear about one thing. Any delay in the process necessary for us to have fair discovery is on their heads.

    Our point here is, that there's simply no need to go outside this record, because what you have before you is voluminous, and it's a completely adequate basis for your decision. . . .

    And if we must, we will as conscientious lawyers seek out that helpful additional evidence through discovery.

    Just recall, in the House, the managers believed that this was an adequate record to come to you and urge removal of the president. They rested on that record in the House and they impeached an elected president on the basis of that record.

    They cannot now complain that it is for some reason unfair to submit this same record to you for judgment at this point. We're not afraid of or reluctant to call witnesses, but we think at the end of the day the addition of more testimony from the three witnesses you've heard about won't affect any evidentiary judgment you've got to make.

    How can they have come this far and now tell you oh, yes, we now need to meet face to face with the witnesses. We don't know what they sound like, we don't how credible they'll be. We've rested our judgment on this. We need to see them personally.

    When confronted with this inconsistency, the managers, who are talented attorneys and successful congressmen, have all argued: Well, the forum has changed. . . . Our dilemma is this: we do not know what we do not know. . . . It's simply impossible from where we now are to see how a witness designated by the House managers can be fairly rebutted, without ourselves having access to all the available evidence. . . . We will be expeditious, but in the event the genie is out of the bottle, we need time; we need access to defend the president in the way any client ought to be defended. . . .

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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