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Starr Sends House New Files on Willey

Willey Kathleen Willey. (Reuters file)

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  • By Juliet Eilperin and Peter Baker
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Saturday, November 14, 1998; Page A6

    Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr delivered new information to the House Judiciary Committee yesterday concerning President Clinton's involvement with former White House volunteer Kathleen E. Willey, but both Republican and Democratic sources predicted the material would not delay the committee's plan to finish its impeachment inquiry next month.

    Committee member Chris Cannon (R-Utah) said the latest Starr submission suggests "he has information that may indicate perjury by the president in the Kathleen Willey matter," but he said he didn't think it would affect the impeachment inquiry.

    "Frankly, the Democrats have made it pretty clear they don't care about perjury," Cannon said. "The Democrats on the committee have made up their mind, and there won't be any surprises here. It's unlikely to change the equation."

    Committee sources said they expect the panel to vote on articles of impeachment against the president the first week of December, setting up a floor vote the following week. According to the schedule, Judiciary members will hear Starr testify on his four-year investigation of the president next Thursday and Friday, recess during the week of Thanksgiving, and debate the matter the week afterward.

    Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), who is expected to win the House speakership in an election next week, has indicated to Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) through intermediaries that he hopes the entire impeachment matter can be concluded before he officially becomes speaker Jan. 6, according to sources.

    In an interview Thursday night, Livingston said it was "quite possible" that the full House would vote on impeachment before then.

    "It would be my hope that they could conclude their business, we can deal with whatever their recommendations are before Christmas. We'll see," Livingston said, referring to Hyde and his colleagues on the committee. "If the Judiciary Committee has completed its business and we have something to vote on, it would be my hope that the speaker would call us into session and we'd dispose of it one way or another."

    The two boxes of documents that staff members from each party were given yesterday came in response to an Oct. 2 request made by Hyde and Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the committee's ranking Democrat, asking for any other information Starr might have gathered during his probe concerning Clinton.

    In a letter to committee investigators, deputy independent counsel Robert J. Bittman indicated that the submission was "related" to the referral Starr's office submitted to Congress in September but made no assertion that it included new grounds for impeachment.

    Clinton aides privately said the transmission of the additional material was a tacit admission by Starr that he did not come up with any new hard evidence of wrongdoing by the president. "It shows how pathetic his investigation is and how little there is there," said a White House official who did not want to be named. "We all know if he had anything, he'd go for it."

    In sworn testimony and in an explosive March interview on "60 Minutes," Willey accused Clinton of kissing and groping her in the Oval Office suite when she went to see him in November 1993 seeking a paid job because of family financial problems. The president denied the allegations both in his testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and in his appearance before the grand jury in August, saying that he merely hugged Willey to console her at a time of difficulty. The White House also released notes and letters showing that Willey remained friendly with Clinton after the alleged incident.

    Willey has said that she came under pressure to change her story. She told authorities that Nathan Landow, a Maryland developer and prominent Democratic fund-raiser, talked with her about her testimony. She also complained that shortly before her deposition in the Jones case her car tires were punctured, her cat was killed and an unknown man approached her and made menacing statements.

    Willey's story has been contradicted in part by two witnesses. Linda R. Tripp, who at the time worked at the White House, has said she ran into Willey shortly after she left the Oval Office and Willey seemed happy about a brief sexual encounter with the president. Julie Hiatt Steele, a onetime friend, has testified that Willey asked her to lie to a reporter to corroborate her story of an unwelcome advance.

    According to sources, the boxes Starr gave Congress include the grand jury testimony transcripts of Willey, Steele and Landow. Landow invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he appeared before the grand jury.

    Rep. Charles T. Canady (R-Fla.), a committee member who has not yet viewed the documents, said he would focus on whether the new allegations suggested that Clinton had engaged in a pattern of behavior that mirrored his relationship with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky, the subject of Starr's referral to Congress in September.

    "If there is evidence of lying under oath, evidence of attempting to intimidate witnesses, that would obviously be a very grave matter and would add to the information we have from the independent counsel," he said.

    Several Democrats, including Reps. Barney Frank (Mass.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) and Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), questioned why Starr would introduce new allegations on the eve of impeachment hearings. Frank said it "appears to be an effort to do a heart transplant on impeachment, but I think it comes too late," while Lofgren argued that lawmakers lacked the time to adequately review the new material.

    "From start to finish this has been a chaotic, disorganized process that shames the kangaroos," she said.

    Cannon scoffed at Democrats' complaints about the timing of the documents' release and said he thinks Starr "wants the information to be there so he can be questioned about it" when he appears before the committee Nov. 19.

    According to GOP committee staff, the panel has no immediate plans to vote on releasing the material. However, on Tuesday the committee plans to release the audio tapes of conversations between Tripp and Lewinsky that were given to the committee by Starr's office. Transcripts of the conversations have already been made public.

    Staff writers Michael Grunwald, Guy Gugliotta, Eric Pianin and Susan Schmidt contributed to this report.

    © Copyright The Washington Post Company

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