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Committee Report Condemns President

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  • By Ruth Marcus
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, December 17, 1998; Page A41

    Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee yesterday issued a 263-page report justifying President Clinton's impeachment that condemns his behavior in stinging terms and provides the most specific recitation to date of the "multiple perjurious, false and misleading statements" that Clinton allegedly made in the Paula Jones civil case, before a federal grand jury and to Congress.

    The majority report lays out in unsparing language the case against Clinton, offering details that are not contained in the four articles of impeachment approved by the committee last week and providing the specifics that committee Democrats had said were required so that Clinton -- and those voting on his fate -- would know the precise allegations against him.

    It says that Clinton sought to obstruct justice by -- among other acts -- having Monica S. Lewinsky file a false affidavit in the Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, finding her a job to cement her silence, having secretary Betty Currie retrieve subpoenaed gifts from Lewinsky and then tampering with the testimony of Currie, a potential witness in the Jones case.

    Clinton, the report says, then engaged in an unceasing and lengthy string of lies about his acts -- first to the Jones lawyers, then before the grand jury and finally in his answers last month to 81 questions propounded by the committee.

    "He has disgraced himself and the high office he holds," the report states. "His high crimes and misdemeanors undermine our Constitution. They warrant his impeachment, his removal from office, and his disqualification from holding further office."

    Clinton, the report says, "worked to defeat" the fundamental principle of equal justice under law rather than preserve it. "When he stood before the bar of justice, he acted without authority to award himself the special privileges of lying and obstructing to gain an advantage in a federal civil rights action," said the report. "His resistance brings us to this most unfortunate juncture."

    The report also defends the committee against criticisms that it acted hastily and irresponsibly in releasing the referral from independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and supporting materials, including embarrassing and graphic sexual details.

    It says that Judiciary Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) originally proposed keeping the material secret while the committee reviewed it but that "a chief proponent of immediately releasing" it was Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.). According to the report, Gephardt -- over the objections of the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, John Conyers Jr. (Mich.) -- argued that it would be "futile to hold material back as there would be selective leaking, which would prejudice the president's case."

    But Gephardt communications director Laura Nichols said his willingness to release the referral was contingent on Hyde and Conyers quickly reviewing it first.

    The minority report, also released yesterday, decried what it described as the "dumbing-down" of the impeachment process, saying that Clinton's conduct in trying to conceal his extramarital relationship with Lewinsky, though "wrongful," does not warrant his impeachment.

    "We do not believe that the allegations that the president violated criminal laws in attempting to conceal that relationship -- even if proven true -- amount to the abuse of official power which is an historically rooted prerequisite for impeaching a president," the minority report says.

    Although the minority report gives no ground in conceding that Clinton may have committed perjury in any of his sworn statements, some committee Democrats were not willing to go so far and made that clear in separate statements.

    Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) said he did not sign on to the minority report because, although he "strongly" believes that Clinton's conduct is not impeachable, the minority arguments "place too much emphasis on attempting to prove that the president did not lie under oath and possibly coach a potential witness."

    Likewise, Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.) said that -- contrary to what Republicans assert -- Clinton's "deception occurred largely within the boundaries of the law."

    But, he added, "I do suspect that the president's statements crossed the line on a few occasions, most prominently regarding precisely where he touched Ms. Lewinsky."

    Rep. Thomas M. Barrett (D-Wis.) also declined to sign portions of the minority report contesting the perjury articles.

    Other committee Democrats expressed concerns about censuring the president, saying that while they thought it was within Congress's authority to take that step, they were not sure it was a good idea.

    Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said he had "strong reservations" about censure, in part because it "sets a worrisome precedent" for future presidents.

    Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-Va.) also said there was not a "sufficient factual basis to support the conclusions drawn by the proposed censure resolution" and that "co-equal branches of government should refrain from censuring one another."

    In the majority report, committee Republicans cite many more instances of perjury warranting impeachment than the Starr referral and also essentially charge the president with numerous impeachable acts stemming from the same underlying offenses: for example, allegedly orchestrating the hiding of gifts from the Jones lawyers, then lying about it three times -- in the Jones deposition, to the grand jury and in his answers to questions posed by the committee.

    On the issue of grand jury perjury, the report asserts that Clinton's prepared statement -- that he did not have "sexual relations" with Lewinsky as he understood that term to be used by the Jones lawyers -- was a lie. The statement, the report says, "constitutes a premeditated effort to thwart the investigation and to justify prior criminal wrongdoing."

    It also says that Clinton made other "direct lies" in the statement, including when he said his sexual relationship with Lewinsky did not begin until 1996, when he said he and Lewinsky were alone "on certain occasions," and when he said they had "occasional telephone conversations" that "included sexual banter."

    In fact, the report says, "they were alone at least 20 times and had 11 sexual encounters. The 'occasional' telephone conversations that included 'sexual banter' actually included 55 phone conversations, during 17 of which they engaged in phone sex."

    Deriding Clinton's "twisted interpretations," the report adds, "such 'technical accuracy,' as defined by the president, may pose an even greater affront to . . . judicial proceedings because it makes it impossible to achieve the truth-seeking purpose of such a proceeding."

    The report also says that Clinton lied numerous times in the Jones deposition and therefore committed perjury when he told the grand jury he did not lie in the deposition. "Thus, his assertion before the grand jury that he did not violate the law in the deposition is itself a perjurious, false, and misleading statement and evidence of his continuing efforts to deny and cover-up his criminal wrongdoing," the report says.

    It also accuses him of perjury for testifying to the grand jury that he "said things that were true," albeit misleading, to his aides when in fact, according to some of their testimony, he lied outright to them.


    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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