THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Rep. Zoe Lofgren Questions Starr
Thursday, November 19, 1998
REP. HYDE: The gentlelady from California, Ms. Lofgren.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt that this is one of the most embarrassing chapters in American history. Certainly, the president's sexual misconduct was embarrassing to him and his family and it was embarrassing for all of us to be bombarded with what seemed to be limitless details about it. But also embarrassing has been the reaction of Congress to the referral made by Mr. Starr in September.
What we should have done was this: Ask how these allegations, if true, could destroy our American constitutional system of government, something Mr. Starr did not address in his over-450 pages in the report. But it is the central, indeed, it is the only question that is before Congress, because impeachment is a constitutional remedy for constitutional threats.
What have we had instead? We've seen the independent counsel investigating the sex life of the president. We've seen titillating details leaked to the press, leaks that were prejudicial and in stark contrast to the evidence confidentially submitted by the special prosecutor, Mr. Jaworski, 24 years ago. And I would note that it is prosecution. Ms. McDougal was not counselled into a jail cell.
After we tossed the independent counsel's X-rated material all over the airwaves and onto the Internet, this committee did hardly anything. The House acted to refer to this committee September 11th. Today, November 19th, over two months later, we're having our first, and so far only, noticed full committee hearing where we are hearing our only witness, the prosecutor. This would never be allowed in a court proceeding, and there are ethical questions in my mind about the propriety in these proceedings as well.
We have the chief prosecutor testifying as a fact witness. More than that, we have the prosecutor vouching for one witness over another, ignored his testimony by witnesses that favors the president, Ms. Lewinsky's statement that she was never asked to lie, that there was no bargain for a job, Ms. Currie's statement. We have cafeteria advocacy, only those statements that fit the getting the president, not the exculpatory.
We want to exult justice and the rule of law, but there's not been a mention of the intimidation or abuse of witnesses to get statements damaging to the president.
I agreed to listen this morning to Ms. Sara Hawkins (sp) in my office. And she came in, and she was obviously one of those uncomfortable people who had been addressed by the special prosecutor's office. She was repeatedly threatened with prosecution in an effort to get her to cooperate -- threats that were reinstated after she spoke in criticism to the press after being told twice by the prosecutors that there wasn't evidence to prosecute her. She lost her business; her career is ruined; her family is hurt. She never had her day in court, and I wonder about the rule of law for her.
Much of America believes this investigation is the living embodiment of what Justice Scalia warned against in his dissent in the case of Morrison v. Olsen, upholding the independent counsel statute.
Justice Scalia warned that the independent counsel could be a foe of the president with a staff full of refugees from the defeated administration, the worst kind of danger of abuse of prosecuting power.
There is no question that the president did not tell the American people the truth about Ms. Lewinsky. He admitted that.
We allege, in the report, that he lied under oath. But I note that you, Mr. Starr, are under oath yourself this morning. And on page 36 of your testimony, you swear that you go to court, not on the talk-show circuit. This very morning, you appeared on "Good Morning America." Isn't that a false statement under oath? And should you be prosecuted for perjury because of this false statement?
Given your answer to Mr. Inglis, I would think so. However, I would not urge that. I think that's preposterous. That cannot be what is meant by the Founding Fathers in impeachment.
You know, I wasn't going to ask any questions. But because you're here and you might have knowledge about this one thing, I do want to pose really two -- really three quick questions:
First, when did you first hear any information to the effect that a tape recording existed of a woman -- any woman -- who claimed to have had a sexual contact with President Clinton?
Two, in or about November 1997, did you discuss with any person the possibility that a tape recording might exist on which a woman claimed to have had sexual contact with President Clinton? Yes or no.
And finally, I know, we all know, that there is an investigation into leaks from your office to the press. Reporters promise confidentiality to sources, and they are very serious about that. I am asking you today, will you release the press from their vow of confidentiality to you and your deputies so that this can be fully investigated?
MR. STARR: Well, you have asked a number of questions.
Let me go back to -- you mentioned --
REP. LOFGREN: Three.
MR. STARR: Yes.
The second question, I frankly did not understand. I honestly just did not get -- I was trying to take notes --
REP. LOFGREN: I'll read it really quickly: In or about November 1997, did you discuss with any person the possibility that a tape recording might exist on which a woman claimed to have had sexual contact with President Clinton?
MR. STARR: I am not recalling that. The specificity of your question suggests that there may be information, and I'm happy to respond to information if that is --
REP. LOFGREN: How about the question?
MR. STARR: -- if that's -- if that's relevant.
REP. LOFGREN: Is there any possibility that the answer is yes?
MR. STARR: I have no recollection of it, but I am happy to search my recollection. This is the first time anyone has asked me such a question, and you're asking about something --
REP. LOFGREN: So it was possible that it was before January, then?
MR. STARR: Yes, I gather -- but you said very specifically November of 1997, so that's -- and I will search my recollection --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The chair will interrupt.
MR. STARR: I will search my recollection --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Does the gentlelady have information that the Independent Counsel's Office had this information?
REP. LOFGREN: I would just like an answer to my question. I have been asked these questions and I would like -- I think the gentleman is under oath and he can answer the question.
MR. STARR: I think I did. I did.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Well does the gentlelady have information to this effect?
REP. JACKSON LEE (?): Is she on the witness stand?
REP. LOFGREN: I'm answering the question.
(Off-mike cross talk among committee members.)
REP. LOFGREN: I'm not a witness.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The witness will respond.
MR. STARR: Yes. I do not have a recollection of that, but I am happy to now search my recollection and to go back, in light of the specificity of your question, and to provide the committee with information.
REP. LOFGREN: So you would agree to answer that, under penalty of perjury, if we followed up in a written request, after you've had time to reflect upon it?
MR. STARR: Well, I am happy to consider any question, and if it is viewed as germane to what is before you. If this is an effort to try to search my recollection and to see if there's something that perhaps I'm not able to recall --
REP. LOFGREN: Well, if I may --
MR. STARR: Excuse me. May I -- may I answer this question?
REP. LOFGREN: Certainly.
MR. STARR: I think I've been fairly patient --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentlelady from California will allow Judge Starr to answer the question without interruption.
MR. STARR: Yes. No, I beg your pardon.
No, it does seem to me that if there is an issue that you view as germane, I am happy to consider it and I will evaluate it. I've given you my best answer now.
Now, with respect to --
REP. LOFGREN: I believe it is germane, and I would like an answer to the question --
MR. STARR: Yes. Yes, I understand. Thank you.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentlelady from California asked Judge Starr three questions. Could she please give Judge Starr the courtesy of allowing him to answer the questions?
REP. LOFGREN: I would love to get an answer to the questions.
MR. STARR: I have concluded what I need to say. Thank you.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Okay. The witness has concluded. The gentlelady's time is expired.
REP. FRANK: There was only one answer.
There are two answers missing.
REP. LOFGREN: What about the other two questions, sir?
REP. FRANK: That was only one answer. There were three questions.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Okay. The witness will respond if the witness feels --
REP. LOFGREN: The first question --
MR. STARR: Yes. The first question --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The witness will respond --
MR. STARR: What was the first question? I'm sorry.
REP. LOFGREN: The first question was: when did you first hear any information to the effect that a tape recording existed of a woman, any woman, who claimed to have had a sexual contact with President Clinton?
MR. STARR: I'm unable to answer that question without -- you know, I will have to approach -- you're saying any information relating to any -- and I would have to search my recollection. I've prepared today for questions that go to this referral. So I will have to search my recollection. So --
REP. LOFGREN: Well, I think I will -- we'll look for an affidavit on that, too. And I think you did discuss the opening and expansion of this yourself.
REP. : Mr. Chairman, point of order. The gentlewoman's time long ago expired, and those of us who are still waiting an opportunity to question the witness would appreciate members remaining within their time frame.
REP. LOFGREN: Mr. Chairman, the practice has been to allow the witness to answer.
REP. : Mr. Chairman -- (off mike) --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: (Strikes gavel.) Regular order. Everybody will suspend --
REP. FRANK: What about the third question? And the --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Does the witness have any further answer to the questions that had been posed by the gentlelady from California?
MR. STARR: Not at this time. I believe there will be other issues.
REP. : The third question --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentlelady's time has expired.
REP. FRANK: You can't ask a prosecutor tough questions.
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