President May Face More Than 11 Counts
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, October 3, 1998; Page A01
The chief Republican investigator for the House Judiciary Committee will expand the current list of 11 possible grounds for the impeachment of President Clinton with new counts focusing on witness tampering, obstruction of justice and making false statements under oath, an informed source said yesterday.
During Monday's scheduled committee hearing, investigator David P. Schippers plans to name former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky as a co-conspirator in efforts to obstruct justice, the source said. He will cite other co-conspirators without naming them.
While adding more counts to the list proposed by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, Schippers plans to drop one of Starr's 11 counts, the source said. He will omit references to a presidential claim of executive privilege cited by Starr as evidence of abuse of power. Schippers believes the question of executive privilege is more the province of the judicial branch than Congress, the source said, asking "Who decides what's a frivolous privilege?"
It was not clear yesterday how Schippers's new counts would differ in substance from Starr's "possible grounds" for impeachment, which include perjury and obstruction, in addition to the abuse of power count. Sources said the core of Schippers's presentation will be his discussion of "making false statements under oath," a term that describes deliberate intent to deceive in a legal proceeding but does not have the same gravity as perjury, a serious felony committed by a sworn witness.
The sources said Schippers will describe how making false statements under oath damages the very foundation of the American legal system.
Schippers's presentation will play down references to the graphic sexual details contained in Starr's report, the source said, although it will mention Clinton and Lewinsky's sexual encounters.
The presentation of Schippers, to followed by that of chief Democratic investigator Abbe D. Lowell, will open Monday's hearing on whether to begin a formal inquiry of impeachment against Clinton for his alleged misdeeds in his involvement with Lewinsky.
Lowell is expected to speak for some time about the constitutional standards for impeachment and the difficulty of the process, knowledgeable sources said. He is also expected to contrast the gravity of impeachment with the relative inconsequence of the president's relationship with Lewinsky, the sources said.
After the two lawyers' presentations, the committee will open the debate on two competing resolutions a Republican one recommending a formal impeachment inquiry and one introduced by committee Democrats yesterday calling for an abbreviated process that would end before Thanksgiving. The winning resolution will be put to a vote in the full House late next week.
The announcement of the Democratic plan indicated that the impeachment issue would remain mired in partisan wrangling. Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) warned of the coming battle in a closed morning meeting yesterday with GOP colleagues, and said the GOP resolution would likely pass by a largely party-line vote.
The Democratic proposal, billed by ranking minority member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) as "focused, fair, expeditious and deliberate," appeared designed to reflect the public's growing distaste for the scandal by imposing a deadline.
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), one of the measure's chief drafters, praised it as "consistent with the public interest." He said, "I would suggest that is precisely what the public expects us to do: get this matter resolved fully; get it resolved fairly; get it resolved completely; and get it resolved in the very near future so that the matter does not become a distraction."
The draft proposal, whose details were resolved late Thursday by committee Democrats with help from aides of House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), envisions a two-phase investigative procedure that would end at the latest by Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.
In the first phase, lasting from Oct. 12 to Oct. 23, the committee would convene public hearings to develop a definition of an "impeachable offense," and to decide whether the evidence regarding Clinton's involvement with Lewinsky is enough to begin a formal impeachment inquiry.
If not, the committee will either end its deliberations or "consider the propriety of alternative sanctions," opening the possibility of a censure or some other punishment short of impeachment. Conyers called censure "an option in the resolution, but we haven't given it a life of its own."
In the event of a committee vote for a formal inquiry under the Democratic proposal, the committee would hold hearings and examine evidence from Oct. 26 to Nov. 17, after which it would decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment, "alternative sanctions" or nothing, the proposal said. Should the committee recommend articles of impeachment, the House would reconvene in lame-duck session to debate and vote on the articles by Nov. 25.
The proposal embraces virtually all longstanding Democrat demands that have so far been ignored or rejected by the Republicans the timetable, restrictions on the issues under discussion and particularly the preliminary hearing on impeachment definitions.
Clinton lawyers Charles F.C. Ruff and David E. Kendall expressed similar concerns in a 37-page document they sent yesterday to the Judiciary Committee, saying that without a standard for impeachable conduct, "a vote to proceed with a full-scale impeachment inquiry will have all the intelligibility of the Roman Emperor's thumb in the gladiatorial arena."
"Even if the standard chosen by the Committee is somewhat abstract," they wrote, "it is important that it be agreed upon in advance of voting whether to go forward with an impeachment inquiry. . . . If the rule of law means anything, it means that legal rules and standards are ascertainable in advance of their application to evidence."
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) acknowledged that it "is possible there'll be another referral" from Starr on the other subjects, "but what we have before us now is what we should deal with now, and not start an open-ended, possible two-year, politicized fishing expedition."
In one nod to bipartisanship, Hyde agreed to join Conyers in sending a letter to the independent counsel's office asking Starr if he intends to forward to the House further evidence from ongoing investigations of cases ranging from the White House travel office firings to shady land deals in Arkansas.
But Hyde left little doubt that he did not find much to embrace in the Democrats' alternative, which he said "is certainly made to order for the White House." By "spending a month studying the law of impeachment in the abstract," he said, the committee "does nothing" to further "the search for truth."
The Republican draft proposal, announced Wednesday, proposes no timetable and does not restrict the inquiry to the Starr report on the Lewinsky matter.
Rep. Paul McHale (D-Pa.), one of two Democrats who has called for Clinton's resignation, suggested that at least two dozen House Democrats will vote to open an inquiry. Other estimates of Democratic support range as high as 100.
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