THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Rep. Steve Rothman Questions Starr
Thursday, November 19, 1998
REP. STEVE ROTHMAN (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have a statement. We are here today to consider the rule of law in America. I am referring to the rule of law that should be applied fairly to everyone in America, including the president of the United States. That rule of law and fairness must also be applied by this committee and by you, Mr. Starr. Whether the president engaged in offensive conduct or deceptive conduct is not what we are here to decide. Whether the president can or will be brought up on civil or criminal charges is also not what we are here to decide.
We are here to decide whether a United States president for the first time in over 200 years of American history should be judged to have committed treason, bribery or other high crime and misdemeanor, and whether it is necessary to remove our president from office.
In yesterday's New York Times, Mr. Starr, your spokesman, Charles Bakaly, III, said, in describing your work, quote, "We make no judgments. We have simply gathered the facts," unquote. Well, Mr. Starr, that is not what your office has done.
In truth, in your 450-page referral you selected for the most part the facts that tended to show the president in the worst light and those that would bring condemnation to the president, instead of revealing all the facts and the context that might have exonerated the president or shown the uncertainty and ambiguity of the evidence against the president. In fact, in my judgment much of your legal case, Mr. Starr, as set forth to date, rests on unfair innuendo and overreaching inference.
For example, in your 450-page report you dismissed and did not even quote Monica Lewinsky's statement to the grand jury when she said, quote, "No one ever asked me to lie, and I was never promised a job for my silence," unquote. And it was left to a grand juror on his or her own initiative to raise that question, because no one from your office pursued this obvious line of questioning, which would have been beneficial to the president.
In your 450-page report, Mr. Starr, with respect, I think you also failed the American people and this committee by omitting or misrepresenting the following facts that would have been favorable to the president, some of which include: that Betty Currie testified that taking back the president's gifts was her idea; that discussions about a job for Ms. Lewinsky were made more than five months before Ms. Lewinsky was even mentioned as a witness in the Paula Jones case; that Betty Currie was not a witness in any proceeding at the time you allege that President Clinton tried to influence her testimony; that it was the Secret Service and not the president who urged the court to prevent their agents from being subpoenaed; that both Ms. Lewinsky and the president have said that the president never asked her to submit a full affidavit.
Mr. Starr, you are, as you have said, an eyewitness to nothing relevant to your referral. You have heard nothing first-hand. You saw nothing first-hand. You have no direct knowledge of any facts relevant to your case for impeachment. You have simply provided us with a one-side 450-page prosecutor's opening statement with unnecessary details of explicit sexual activity designed solely to humiliate and damage the president of the United States.
What motives have driven you to pursue certain evidence only, to characterize that evidence in my opinion in a skewed way and to make the legal case for impeachment founded on innuendo and inference, and with whom you consulted in that process will not in the end determine whether or not I will vote for impeachment. But how you and your deputies have pursued this president, and the case you have set forth for his impeachment does lead me to seriously question the facts you have alleged and to seriously question the conclusions you would have us come to.
REP. HYDE: Your --
REP. ROTHMAN: Mr. Chairman, may I have 30 seconds please?
REP. HYDE: Thirty seconds more, surely.
REP. ROTHMAN: Notwithstanding this, I will withhold my final judgment on impeachment until this inquiry is concluded.
In the end, Mr. Starr, this committee's legacy will not be our decision regarding whether this president is the first in 200 years to be impeached on a finding of treason or bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors; that is Mr. Clinton's legacy. Our legacy will be how we arrived at our decision in faith with the Constitution.
Finally, Mr. Starr, you say in your statement today that you live in the world of the law and you boast that you often win. But, Mr. Starr, this is not about winning and losing in the courtroom. This is not some personal or professional competition between you and Bill Clinton. This is not a legal game or a sport to win or lose. This is about the Constitution of the United States that has kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman. Do you choose to respond? You're welcome to.
MR. STARR: Well, let me say this -- and I'll be, I think for me, extremely brief. I believe, congressman, this is elaborately corroborated by -- if fair-minded people read it they will see that the vast majority of facts are not in dispute. It is for you to assess -- and this is where I think -- you are quite right, in terms of judgments it is your judgment. It is your judgment as to the significance of this. That is entrusted to yo. But we had an obligation to gather facts pursuant to a jurisdictional grant. We gathered them. We believe we were complete. And all the information from which the questions have been drawn with respect to why wasn't this there is all before you. In our judgment to say for example -- to take the one example that you especially emphasized about Ms. Lewinsky's statement, for me it is fair -- and you may disagree with this, and we can agree agreeably to disagree -- to say in referral Ms. Lewinsky has stated that the president never explicitly told her to lie, and to tell the entire story -- not a part of the story that she was interested in telling because of her understandable reluctance to in any way hurt the president of the United States.
We told what we saw as the entirety of the relevant story, and we provided you with all of the additional information for you to evaluate.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease.
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