By Edward Walsh
Abbe D. Lowell, the man Democrats turned to in hopes of preventing impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, is a veteran of Washington's scandal wars.
In choosing Lowell as their chief investigative counsel in the impeachment showdown with Republicans, House Judiciary Committee Democrats tapped a savvy defense lawyer whose clients include former House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.), former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) and numerous other Democrats. But he has also worked for Republicans, including a successful defense of Rep. Joseph M. McDade (R-Pa.) against bribery charges.
A Bronx native, Lowell, 46, has been a Democratic insider in Washington since shortly after he graduated from Columbia Law School in 1977. His first job here was as a special assistant to the attorney general in the Carter administration.
Lowell, who is married and has two children, is a certified liberal Democrat who ran for public office himself once, losing a 1982 race for the Maryland House of Delegates. He has worked as counsel to the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, touring massacre sites in Rwanda and Bosnia, and for the environmental group Greenpeace.
But since the early 1980s, he has concentrated with partner Stanley Brand in building a specialty in white-collar criminal defense cases, the kind of practice that often involves politicians as clients. As a defense lawyer, he has gained a reputation as a fighter who "doesn't shy away from intellectual combat," in the words of Bob Bauer, a legal adviser to House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.).
In his first public appearance as minority counsel yesterday, Lowell appeared very much the aggressive Democrat. He told the committee that he would set out "the enormous differences in approach" by the Republican and Democratic staffs, that he would highlight "the huge gaps between the charges [against Clinton] and the actual evidence," and that the committee should also look at the conduct of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.
The Democratic defense had begun.
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