THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Dec. 9: Questions for White House Counsel Charles F.C. Ruff
Wednesday, December 9, 1998
REP. HYDE: Thank you very much, Mr. Ruff. Would you like a break?
MR. RUFF: Ready when you are, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: Okay.
MR. RUFF: Let me say, just as we venture into the questioning period, there may come a moment or two, with the chair's permission, when I actually turn to one of my colleagues behind me for a little assistance as we get into the specifics.
REP. HYDE: Well, no, but if --
MR. RUFF: If I might have the chair's --
REP. HYDE: -- you want to take a break --
MR. RUFF: No, no, no. I just meant as we go on, it may be necessary for me to turn for a little guidance on the facts. But I'll do it in such a way as doesn't disrupt the process.
REP. HYDE: It would be a terrible waste not to avail yourself of their talent, so I --
MR. RUFF: Indeed.
REP. HYDE: -- understand.
MR. RUFF: Indeed.
REP. HYDE: All right, we're going to operate under a strict five-minute rule. Mr. Sensenbrenner.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Thank you very much, Mr. Ruff. And thank you for a very eloquent statement. I will not get into the business that there were no fact witnesses provided here, because you're obviously the president's clean-up hitter. But I do think that we've got to cut through the academic discourse and the legal hair-splitting that's gone on in order to make an essential determination on whether the president has committed an impeachable offense.
And let me say, for my own part, that I believe at least perjury before a grand jury is an impeachable offense, whether the perjury has been committed by the president or whether it has been committed by a federal judge. I think that that issue was decided nine years ago in the Walter Nixon impeachment. So getting to whether or not the president did make a false statement before the grand jury, let me ask you a few questions.
First, Mr. Ruff, did the president mislead the American people when he denied having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky?
MR. RUFF: He has admitted doing so, Mr. Congressman.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Did he lie, then?
MR. RUFF: Mr. Congressman, I think there is no secret here. When he stood in the Roosevelt Room and said, "I never had sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky," he knew that the vast majority of the people who were listening to him out there would probably understand that to mean that he had no improper relationship with her of any kind. And he knew when he said that -- holding within him, as he did, his understanding that sexual relations means sexual intercourse -- that he was misleading the people who were listening to him.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Ruff, was the president evasive and misleading in his answers in the civil deposition and before the grand jury?
MR. RUFF: I've so stated, and so has he.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Did he lie?
MR. RUFF: The president engaged in an exercise, the hallmark of which was a desire to be as little help to these people on the other side of the Jones case as he possibly could. I think my colleagues' description of his testimony as evasive, misleading and maddening is probably as good as you can get.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: But did he lie?
MR. RUFF: And I'm going to respond to your question. I have no doubt that he walked up to a line that he thought he understood. Reasonable people, and you maybe have reached this conclusion, could determine that he crossed over that line and that what for him was truthful but misleading or non-responsive and misleading or evasive was, in fact, false. But in his mind -- and that's the heart and soul of perjury -- he thought and he believed that what he was doing was being evasive but truthful.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The oath that witnesses take require them to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And I seem to recall that there were a lot of people, myself included, when asked by the press what advice we would give to the president when he went into the grand jury in August, was to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
MR. RUFF: Indeed.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Did he tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when he was in the grand jury?
MR. RUFF: He surely did.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: And how come, following the grand jury appearances, we heard all kinds of allegations of legal hair-splitting and debating the meaning of various types of words and claims that some of the questions were ambiguous? My list includes words such as "is," "alone," "sex" and "sexual relations." Do you have any more?
MR. RUFF: Well, I'll take your list for starters, but I'm not sure how that addresses the question that you put me, which is, did he tell the truth? He made it very clear to the grand jury that he had engaged in an inappropriate intimate relationship. There's nobody who listened to that response --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Ruff, you're saying that some of the questions were ambiguous, and the president really did not understand what those questions were. Now, who do we blame for the fact that the president didn't understand, and we have had all of these redefinitions and legal hair-splitting? Is it the president or is it his lawyers?
MR. RUFF: I don't think you'll find any suggestion that the president didn't understand the questions put to him. What you will find is an effort by him to explain not how he was responding to the questions in the grand jury but how he responded to the questions in the deposition. And that's where the issues are debated over what the meaning of those terms is.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: But whose responsibility is that? Is it the president's responsibility or his lawyers' when he's talking about all of the legal hair-splitting?
MR. RUFF: When the president is answering questions in the grand jury under oath, it is his responsibility to answer truthfully. He did so. What your --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Thank you.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Conyers.
REP. CONYERS: Thank you. I appreciate your coming forward and taking this lengthy amount of time, and I'm very moved by what you've had to say. The question that I think most people are asking themselves is whether, in this 445-page narrative, even assuming that for the benefit of this question that everything in it is true, are there any acts, is there any conduct, are there any things in the narrative that would rise to the level of an impeachable offense?
MR. RUFF: As I've stated, Mr. Conyers, it is our very clear conviction that the answer to that question is no.
REP. CONYERS: Thank you. You pointed out one glaring example of Mr. Starr's omissions. We've noted that a fair amount of exculpatory evidence was excluded as we've gone through our exercise here. But the one concerning the president's response to a question about executive privilege, is that the only example of an important omission that has come to your attention by the independent counsel?
MR. RUFF: As one might gather from not only my testimony today, but submissions that we made both yesterday and earlier, we find many. I referred to a few today in terms of leaving out exculpatory information about the gifts and the job search, and those are, I think, but examples of areas -- and I raise them, Mr. Conyers, in this setting not because of some collateral attack on the independent counsel, but rather to ask the committee to look with care at the record before them.
REP. CONYERS: Have you, Mr. Ruff, any insight into why the president's grand jury testimony was videotaped by the independent counsel?
MR. RUFF: Well, I was not engaged in the discussions over that. I'm advised by my colleague, Mr. Kendall, that this was something on which the independent counsel insisted; nominally, because there might be a missing grand juror. I don't know whether that was, in fact, the case on August 17th or not. But one might surmise that there was some collateral interest in fleshing out the package to be sent to this Congress.
REP. CONYERS: Thank you. What about the struggle that's now going on within the Congress, and even outside of it, to find some intermediate position to which we may all find an exit that we might, with whatever integrity remains, get to a conclusion to this matter? Is there any way that this kind of a resolution might resonate favorably in the White House?
MR. RUFF: I think what I can say, Congressman Conyers, is what we have said before. We are looking for an end to this process. We think it does not advance the public weal to drag it out further. We are open to any reasonable suggestion from any side as a way of finding an end to this.
REP. CONYERS: I appreciate that. And if you believed, Counsel, that the president had abused the powers of his office, would you still be serving as the White House counsel?
MR. RUFF: I think we all have, as our core professional responsibility, an unwillingness to serve where we believe our legal skills are being abused. And I surely would not serve where I thought that was the case.
REP. CONYERS: Thank you very much, Mr. Ruff.
REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from Florida, Mr. McCollum.
REP. MCCOLLUM: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ruff, in your opening comments, you suggested that the matters before us, no matter what we might conclude of the facts, do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses because nothing the president did amounts to subverting the system of government.
MR. RUFF: Yes.
REP. MCCOLLUM: And you also suggested that these were purely personal matters that were involved in this case. I would submit to you --
MR. RUFF: I think not the latter. They arose out of personal conduct.
REP. MCCOLLUM: Very well; whatever your characterization. I would submit to you that the president of the United States committing perjury, if we believe he did, obstructing justice in a court system and lying in the grand jury, are things which subvert the justice system of this nation. If we believe that -- you may not, but if we come to that conclusion, that certainly subverts the American government system, because the justice system is integral to that government system.
So I would suggest they do rise, as was said by Professor Dershowitz the other day with regard to lying and committing perjury before the grand jury, to impeachable offenses for which the president, if we conclude that, should be impeached. Now, let me --
MR. RUFF: May I respond?
REP. MCCOLLUM: I would like to go on to a couple of other points. That's a comment I want to make. I want to ask you a question or two. With regard to how you characterize things, you have obviously every right to characterize, just as Mr. Starr has. You also highlight. There were a number of pages which you submitted to us, 180 or something like that.
At any rate, I find that those things you highlighted were your strongest points, and I respect that. But there are things you didn't highlight particularly that you glossed over more. You only gave us about two and a half pages on the perjury before the grand jury in your written testimony, though you've mentioned it today. You gave us 20 pages in the written testimony on the gift question, and you gave us no comments, though a few pages, on Betty Currie and her specific questions as to whether the president may have tampered with her as a witness.
Now, with regard to the perjury question before the grand jury, the central issue there is whether the president committed that perjury or not, whether he lied or he didn't lie. And the issue there, as I discussed this morning, as you may or may not have observed, in my questioning, boils down to whether you believe Monica Lewinsky or not, it seems to me. The president said one thing, she said another. The fact of the matter is that the president said I did not commit sexual -- or have sexual relations based on the definition the court had given me in the Jones case. Monica Lewinsky described at least two things on several occasions the president did with her which would meet that definition. She's corroborated by having talked to seven different people -- family members and friends -- on several different occasions, at contemporaneous times to engaging in these relationships with the president, having told them precisely what she later told the grand jury that was consistent with that. And no matter what anybody says, to me that's corroboration. That's something you don't want to highlight, Mr. Starr highlighted a little bit, but I do want to highlight because I think that's factually very important.
And the one thing I want to ask a question about goes to the other matter of perjury as well as Betty Currie. When the president testified under oath in his civil deposition that he could not recall being alone with Monica Lewinsky, was he telling the truth?
MR. RUFF: Well, first of all, Congressman, that's not an accurate statement of what he said. He was originally asked, "Were you ever alone in the Oval Office with Ms. Lewinsky?" and he responded, not completely, but accurately, that he recalled being alone with her during the government shutdown when she brought letters to him. Now, it is frequently bruited about that he made some broad- ranging and closed-end representation that he was never alone with Monica Lewinsky. Did not --
REP. MCCOLLUM: Well, he was asked later very clearly, to my recollection of the evidence -- you'll go -- I go back and dig it out -- was he alone, and my reading of it was that he said he wasn't alone. And any fair reading of it would say that -- your parsing, which is in your own reports you gave to us today, your own analysis, would say that "alone" doesn't mean the same thing to me that it does to the average person. If the president thought that he was having relations with her when nobody else was around in a room, that's alone, not simply being in the White House when somebody else was there.
And with regard to Betty Currie, you know, there were a number of times when he went back to her and asked her -- suggested things like -- to her the next day after this deposition was given, he asked her, you know, do you agree; you were always there when she was there, right?
We were never really alone. You could see and hear everything? Monica came on to me, and I never touched her, right?" And so forth. Well the fact is that he knew she was going to be a witness in all probability even though she wasn't on the witness list. And he wanted to know that. That strikes me as very apparent, because he had raised her name a number of times in that deposition.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. Does Mr. Ruff wish to briefly answer?
MR. RUFF: Just quickly. Bettie Currie was not a witness. She was not on the witness list. The discovery process was closing down in Jones. Bettie Currie had been known to the Jones lawyers for months. They could have put her on the list if they'd wanted to. They didn't. She was not on it.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from Massachusetts.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and for the very even-handed and I think appropriate way that you've been presiding over these kind of potentially tricky questions-and-answer series.
Two points, first on hair-splitting. I think we are in a hair- splitting tie -- (laughter) -- because what some of my colleagues on the other side have said is the actual nature of the acts which the president committed is irrelevant. That is, whether or not you lied about interfering with a state court prosecution of your partner's son for drugs -- Judge Nixon; Judge Nixon was accused of lying about whether or not he tried to fix a case in state court using the prestige of his federal judgeship, whether he tried to fix a case for his partner's son -- that that's the same as lying about a consensual sexual affair.
Now, morally, factually, most of us I think would think those are different. But we're told, but technically, if they're both perjury, they're identical. That is, the notion that conformity to technical legal standards trumps all other questions comes from the accusers of the president.
And it certainly is in the situation legal, it seems to me, and reasonable for the president to say, "Well, you have basically said that a consensual sexual act which you have said in an of itself would not have caused all this becomes a constitutional crisis if it conforms to these legal standards." And he is therefore obviously entitled to say, "No, it doesn't."
You cannot have a one-side objection to the invocation of legal standards, because the gravement of the charge against the president is not that he did something terrible, not that, as in the Watergate case, there were substantive violations of people's rights, but that he told untruths, or he didn't tell the whole truth -- he was supposed to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and he only got two out of three -- that that makes it technically perjury. And therefore we go off the substance and into the technical legal situation. And that then requires -- it doesn't just invite, but requires a technical legal rebuttal.
Now, even on those terms, it seems to me with regard to the grand jury there is no showing of perjury, that the president committed perjury.
I must say, Mr. Ruff, that I do not find the rebuttal on the Was- I-alone persuasive. I think the president simply wasn't being truthful when he -- I think he waffled past the point of the line on that. But I also believe that given the circumstances of a civil deposition where the issue of consentual sex was, in my judgment, completely irrelevant to the underlying case, that there's a materiality question. And I know that my colleagues have stressed grand jury perjury. That's the one that they are talking about.
And we now, as you note in your point here, Mr. Schippers dropped two of the three counts in his presentation of grand jury perjury. He skipped the one about May and November, and he skipped the one about what the president thought in August, about what he said in January that is so complicated I never even can say it right.
But the only question, that is the one Mr. McCollum referred to. And I guess we ought to be clear about this. It's an unpleasant subject to talk about. But the fact is, the accusation -- am I correct? -- is that while the president acknowledged before the grand jury that there had been inappropriate intimate contact -- and let's be very clear, Mr. Starr himself notes that that was an admission of sexual contact. Mr. Starr on page 147 of the referral notes that the president admitted to sexual contact. So the grand jury perjury issue is that while the president admitted that there had been inappropriate intimate -- i.e., sexual -- contact between him and Ms. Lewinsky, she had performed sexual contact on him and he did not reciprocate. Is it, in fact, the case that that's the substance of the grand jury perjury, that's the factual issue we're talking about?
MR. RUFF: That's correct, congressman.
REP. FRANK: How would you prove that? I mean, we say "corroboration", but "corroboration" might be that Ms. Lewinsky told somebody. I mean, is there any -- as a lawyer, how do you prove when two people are alone? I mean, if you lied about being alone -- I think he didn't lie about being alone. But if he lied about being alone, that means they were alone. And if they were alone -- (laughter) -- how do we prove perjury? Because it really comes down -- and I -- who touched what? (Laughter.)
Now, we are talking about impeaching the President of the United States, who admitted that he had inappropriate sexual contact. But he kind of short-changed us on the details in a perjurious way. And that's the question: How would you prove one side or the other if you had to?
MR. RUFF: Well, I think my colleagues on the earlier panel made it very clear that first of all, you never bring a case in which you have two people, one of whom was saying X and one was saying not X. But even you did, the notion suggested by Congressman McCollum that somehow you would rely on, as witnesses, people that Ms. Lewinsky told the same story she's now telling the grand jury, whatever motivation there may have been to tell that story, plus noting the fact that, indeed, some of the people she talked to she didn't tell the same story, is, I would think, a nightmare for any prosecutor.
And indeed, Congressman, to take it out of that context would be a nightmare for this country if we tried to try that lawsuit in the Senate of the United States.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Gekas.
REP. GEORGE GEKAS (R-PA): I thank the chairman.
Mr. Ruff, from the very beginning, from the first moment that I reviewed the referral from the independent counsel, I developed reservations about the executive privilege portion of his litany of abuse of power. And since then, I have further examined that and counseled with my colleagues and have reached conclusions that may at some point coincide with your avermence as to that.
But on the other portions of the referral I have some grave questions. As Mr. McCollum brought out from you, in the opening remarks that you made in setting the scene you stated that -- or implied, at least, that no offense that didn't amount to subverting the government or resulting in the inability to lead the nation, anything short of that, no matter what the offense is, would not be an impeachable offense. Is that a fair description?
MR. RUFF: That is fair. I truly believe that, Congressman. And let me just pick up --
REP. GEKAS: No, I -- we agree on that. So I need some more time. We agree on that?
MR. RUFF: Right.
REP. GEKAS: All right.
MR. RUFF: If I may, I'll circle back at the end. But go ahead.
REP. GEKAS: Now, the thing that bothers me about that is you also said that -- in a defense of the president, he didn't commit bribery, as stated in the Constitution; he didn't accept a bribe or give a bribe. I think you gave that as a little example and, therefore, he didn't come within the meaning under the actual, literal wording of the Constitution.
That means to me that if bribery is committed, whether or not it subverts the government, whether or not it deprives him of the ability to lead the nation, whether or not it is an attack on our system of government -- because a bribe can take 20 minutes and then he can lead the nation for the rest of the term -- that means to me that the inclusion of bribery does not require -- does not require -- the subversion of government or an attack on government but is so heinous that it is treated by the Founders as by itself enough to impeach the president.
That's what it means to me
MR. RUFF: May I respond?
REP. GEKAS: Hold on.
MR. RUFF: May I respond?
REP. GEKAS: Now, following that logic, if I come to the conclusion, or others do, that perjury is a high crime or a high misdemeanor, or middle or low or some kind of misdemeanor, something to fit into that structure, and it is not accompanied by subversion of the government or subversion of the system or rendering him unable to lead the nation, that even so, I would be justified if I feel that perjury is such an attack on the government or such a heinous offense and has the result of destroying the case of an American citizen who lawfully brought a lawsuit in Arkansas, if I feel that strongly, you cannot, can you, tell me that I have no basis for doing that simply because it might not render him unable to lead the nation or that it subverts the Constitution?
MR. RUFF: May I respond now, Congressman?
REP. GEKAS: Yes, I think so --
MR. RUFF: All right. Thank you.
REP. GEKAS: -- because I'm exhausted. (Laughter.)
MR. RUFF: I have the advantage on you; I wasn't here this morning.
Two points to make. With all due respect, Congressman, I think your analysis is wrong.
REP. GEKAS: I knew you would do that. (Laughter.)
MR. RUFF: I'll let you know when I think your analysis is right, as you are on the first point --
REP. GEKAS: Yes, of course.
MR. RUFF: What the Founding Fathers determined is that where a president is guilty of treason or bribery, you don't need to ask any other questions. Those two offenses do go so much to the fabric of our government that they are presumptively subversive of his ability to govern. But where it is a question of what fits into high crimes and misdemeanors, you must apply the same test.
REP. GEKAS: I must interrupt you. I have to say this. To me, bribery as in the Constitution is less destructive of the structure of government than is perjury committed by the president of the United States.
MR. RUFF: With all due respect, Congressman, I would only comment that -- and I do appreciate your candor and the strength with which you hold that view -- the Founding Fathers made a different judgment.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.
The distinguished Senator-elect from New York, Mr. Schumer.
REP. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank you, Mr. Ruff. Again, I think your testimony was outstanding. I think the gentleman from Wisconsin said you were the clean-up hitter for the administration. Well I think you've hit it out of the park.
I've always seen this sort of in three levels. First level, even if you agree with all of Mr. Starr's factual allegations, there would be -- you would say the president did a lot of wrong things; it doesn't reach the high bar of high crimes and misdemeanors. And that we talked about yesterday.
And then this morning we talked about the two other -- the non- perjury parts of the OIC's brief, and I think, again, you have destroyed those quite well. The abuse of power charge is just even not brought up in Mr. Schippers' points.
The obstruction of justice really relies simply on somebody's surmise, the OIC's surmise. And to impeach a president because some people felt, with no outside evidence, that Monica Lewinsky was getting a job because of a desire to influence her testimony, as opposed to a desire not to have the world to find out about an illicit relationship strikes me as almost Kafkaesque, and so I think we'd knock that out.
And what you really dwelled on today and what the questions have dwelt on is the third and the last bar to overcome, and that is perjury. And what I think my colleague from Pennsylvania -- and he's made the same, in my judgment, mistake as the colleague of Wisconsin, assuming -- they're assuming that every perjury -- one perjury is, quote, "the same as another" -- arguendo -- just making for the sake of argument, not saying that perjury was done. Mr. Nixon interfering in a state court to get someone out of a criminal proceeding, which is the essence of what our system of laws is all about, that perjury in that case would be different than lying about an extramarital affair.
The reason, I would say to my friends on the other side, you're not getting very far with the American people is they don't buy that. Very few fair-minded individuals would buy that. It is different, it's totally different. And it goes directly to a sense of fairness. Are we trying to be fair and treating someone not as a Democrat or as a Republican or as liberal or as a conservative, or just being fair because what we're doing here is an extremely serious exercise, or do we have other motivations?
But I would ask you, Mr. Ruff, given your, in my judgment at least, superb testimony.
But you've also made the other point here, which is what the president did is not perjurious. "Misleading" and "perjurious" and not the same, is the basic thrust. One is a standard of common usage, as you and I would talk to one another, or even as an elected official talks to his or her constituents, and the other is a legal standard which justifiably is much harder to reach.
So give us a few other types of examples. It doesn't have to be in this case. I mean, I thought of one, and maybe it has holes in it, but, you know, that the earth has a blue sky except for in all the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of miles the sky is blue. But there's one little square mile way down there in Antarctica where the sky is pink. And you ask a witness, Is the sky blue? And the witness says no. Even though it's quite logical that that witness knows the rest of the sky is blue and there's just that one little part that's pink, clearly misleading. But it seems to me if you value our system of laws, if you are not hair-splitting, that that is not perjurious per se unless you could get inside that person's head and know that they never saw the pink square of sky or didn't believe that pink square mile of sky existed. I don't know if that's the right example.
MR. RUFF: It's as good as any, congressman, because it goes right to the heart of what I tried to suggest briefly in my testimony, is that we didn't just dream up the protections we put around possible perjury prosecutions. They serve a societal purpose, and they reflect a judgment about what we do and what we don't do with witnesses under oath. We tolerate a lot of bobbing and weaving, a lot of evasion, a lot of misleading before we say, You perjured yourself and we're going to pursue you criminally.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Coble.
REP. HOWARD COBLE (R-NC): I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Mr. Ruff, I thank you for being with us today. I said something yesterday, Mr. Ruff, I'm going to repeat today.
I'm getting tired of folks saying, Well, the Republicans are unreasonably partisan because they're favoring impeachment. I don't think that's any justification of that, nor do I think it's justification to say that the Democrats are unreasonably partisan because they oppose impeachment. I think reasonable men and women can differ, and I hope that we will carry that on through the end of the -- at least the end of this week and maybe into next week.
Mr. Ruff, I want to address a couple of myths. And I'm not suggesting that you disseminated the myth, but one myth is that we have no evidence because there have been no fact witnesses called. Five volumes sit alongside me that contain the sworn testimony before a criminal grand jury, FBI interviews, depositions, and other material. And I don't believe the critical testimony has been challenged by the other side.
The second myth is that Judge Starr omitted from his referral important evidence favorable to the president. Now, I'm not saying you said this, Mr. Ruff, but others have said it.
MR. RUFF: The truth of the matter is, sir, I have said it. (Laughter.)
REP. COBLE: Well, the truth -- well, you and I may have to disagree agreeably, Mr. Ruff. But I believe every shred of evidence upon which the White House relies was provided, herein, by Judge Starr. On the one hand they say We didn't get anything, and then on the other hand they use it oftentimes to trash him.
But let me put a question to you, Mr. Ruff, if I may. Does the president still believe that Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit denying a sexual relationship is true?
MR. RUFF: Congressman, the president believes that when she submitted that affidavit, that the words "sexual relations," and he has so stated, involved sexual intercourse. And it's on that basis that that affidavit, that that representation, was true. That definition, in his mind, of sexual relations was one that he held in his mind in January and in August, and he has so testified.
REP. COBLE: All right, sir. Now, let me ask you this. I'm wondering why the president did not intervene when his attorney told Judge Wright that Mrs. Lewinsky's affidavit meant there is, quote, "absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form." Now that, Mr. Ruff, it seems to me, I'll qualify that, but it seems to me that's right smack dab in the shadow of obstruction of justice. Now, steer me away from the rocks and shoals if I'm heading for the rocks and shoals.
MR. RUFF: Well, I would like to steer you away from those particular rocks and shoals. Let me put aside for the moment your legal characterization of what that might have been if, indeed, the president intended that his lawyer actively misrepresent the facts to the court. The president has testified -- and having represented several hundred witnesses in depositions, I think I have a fair sense of where this testimony comes from -- that when the colloquy started between Mr. Bennett and the other participants there, the president was not focusing on what his counsel was saying.
Now, I understand that Mr. Starr says nope, not the case, that in fact the president either was paying attention or should have been paying attention and should have cut off that series of representations. I was in the room; I will tell you that I have not -- I don't have a recollection of that particular moment in time, I've not seen the videotape, but the president has testified --
REP. COBLE: Well --
MR. RUFF: -- and it seems entirely reasonable to me in my experience in civil depositions --
REP. COBLE: Mr.. Ruff, let me ask you -- pardon me, but time is running and I want to ask you this. Did not Mr. Bennett, the president's attorney, subsequently admit to the court that the affidavit was not true?
MR. RUFF: No. What he advised the court, quite properly under the rules of professional conduct in the District of Columbia and in
Arkansas, was that Ms. Lewinsky had testified that the affidavit was false.
REP. COBLE: My red light is about -- has illuminated. I will yield back.
Thank you, Mr. Ruff.
MR. RUFF: Thank you, Congressman.
REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman.
The distinguished gentleman from California, Mr. Berman.
REP. HOWARD L. BERMAN (D-CA): Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ruff, did you want to use like a minute of this time to continue --
MR. RUFF: No.
REP. BERMAN: -- to finish your answer, Mr. --
MR. RUFF: I am at your disposal, Congressman.
REP. : Thank you, Paul. (Laughter, cross talk.)
REP. BERMAN: Both sides -- we do it; they do it -- slip and slide between analyzing this as sort of a judicial kind of proceeding with very formal rules and legal relations. You critiqued it, I think inappropriately, when you argued we should not consider ourselves like a grand jury applying those standards in this very important process.
That's why this issue of perjury is a legal conclusion. It's highly technical. We heard an excellent panel this morning describe its element, talk about the difficulty of prosecuting it, talking about the kinds of cases that would be prosecuted.
In all of this, the most specific thing that bothers me is in the context of the testimony before the grand jury. And essentially, in the one area that both Mr. McCollum, I think, and Mr. Frank focused on, in terms of what was touched; essentially, they are looking through all the evidence. It's down to a "he said, and she said" kind of a notion.
I am not a judge. I look at this and apply common-sense rules. And it seems -- I come to the conclusion -- in this case, I hate to say it, I think the president lied. I take the other version of what happened, rather than his.
And I guess the only point I want to come back to is the issue of "I don't care whether that's perjury." I mean, I may care whether it's perjury, but for this purpose that isn't my job to try and analyze that. I am aware of the difficulties of prosecuting it. I don't think anybody should be making those conclusions about it in this context.
But the question still arises: Having said all that, what does it tell us in terms of our constitutional standard we should apply here? And I'd like you to speak a little -- you have already, but I think it's worth hearing over and over again -- your analysis of what one who comes to that conclusion has to do with the issue of whether or not to pass an Article of Impeachment.
MR. RUFF: Thank you, Congressman. This really goes back in part to one of my earlier discussions and questions and answers.
None of us condones perjury if that's what occurred. I happen to believe it did not occur.
Let me accept for the moment your position that it did --
REP. BERMAN: No, no. I didn't say it occurred. I said --
MR. RUFF: If it occurred.
REP. BERMAN: I said I don't know whether it occurred. I think he lied under oath in that particular instance.
MR. RUFF: If you ask the question: Does any violation of the oath, does any violation of a witness' obligation to testify truthfully mean that a president of the United States should be removed from office, that, it seems to me, ought to be the starting point for this discussion.
And it's already been suggested by Congressman Frank, Congressman Schumer and others that you can't simply, when you're dealing with this gravest of constitutional issues, leap from a conclusion we would all agree on, which is that lying is not a good thing, to a conclusion that we're going to overturn our system of government and the mandate of the people. Because if you do that, you're failing to weigh in the balance what I think the Founding Fathers, the framers of the Constitution, had in mind which, as I've said, as bad as this conduct may be, whatever the conduct is, does it mean that the president of the United States should not and cannot lead the country? If you ask that question, people might reasonably disagree about where in the spectrum that inability to lead falls, but if you don't ask the question, you don't ever start getting into the right constitutional debate.
REP. BERMAN: Thank you.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman yields back.
The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Smith.
REP. LAMAR SMITH (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ruff, you have testified today that the president did misled the nation. Some of my colleagues, and I think particularly the last one, said that they felt that the president had actually lied under oath.
MR. RUFF: I'm sorry, I missed that last --
REP. SMITH: Some of my colleagues, particularly my last colleague from California, just said that he thought the president actually lied under oath. You have testified that the president misled the American people, probably on numerous instances. Don't you think that those public statements, and don't you think the president's actions were designed to thwart or impede the investigation of the independent counsel?
MR. RUFF: I really don't, Congressman, and let me tell you why.
REP. SMITH: That seems incredible that you don't think the president's motive was to do just that.
MR. RUFF: But the reason I want to address your question is if you ask it: Would everything have been simpler for the independent counsel if the president had come out on January 21st and said, "Yes, everything they say about me is absolutely true," yes, that would have indeed eased the path.
I guarantee you one thing; it would not have brought us here any --
REP. SMITH: Mr. Ruff, let me reclaim my time. I'm not just talking about that one instance, but the repeated instances of admitted misleading, evasive answers, perhaps lying under oath. Let me just say to you, if there's 1 percent of the American people who don't think that he was trying to, and intentionally trying to, mislead or impede the investigation, I would be surprised. But that's my opinion, and apparently you disagree with it.
MR. RUFF: I do.
REP. SMITH: Let me go on to my next point, and that's this. Yesterday the White House brief that was delivered to us contained this statement, which I assume that you're responsible for. "The referral omitted evidence that exonerates the president." And then, interestingly enough, in many, many instances where you say the referral omitted evidence that exonerated the president, then you cite the appendix itself as the source for the facts that were omitted. By my count, 17 times you referred to the appendix for the facts that you said were omitted.
So my question to you is, don't you consider the appendix to be part of the independent counsel's referral?
MR. RUFF: Congressman, I'm glad you asked that question, because I would have responded to Congressman Coble when he asked the same question. If there's one thing I think we all understand, it is that what the independent counsel chose out of his mass of material to put in the referral ought to have been as honest, as unbiased, as detached an assessment of the facts as he could manage.
And let me say further that when the independent counsel himself came before this committee in his own testimony, he should have, if he had failed to bring to your attention this exculpatory information in the thin little document --
REP. SMITH: But Mr. Ruff --
MR. RUFF: Excuse me, Congressman.
REP. SMITH: No, Mr. Ruff, let me reclaim my time. You --
MR. RUFF: No, you --
REP. SMITH: You've answered my question, the question to my satisfaction. Let me just respond to you that, is that not a prime example of splitting hairs and parsing of words and playing word games to say it should have been in the main body rather than the appendix?
MR. RUFF: Oh, on the contrary, Congressman.
REP. SMITH: As long as it was there and people had access to it, I think arguably the facts were evident and available.
MR. RUFF: Let me ask you, rhetorically, if it was just part of the referral, if it was there for all to see and all to know, why didn't the independent counsel talk about it when he testified to you?
Why hasn't one word been said of it in all the debate --
REP. SMITH: My time is up, Mr. Ruff. Let me -- let the record show that you really didn't respond to my question about whether you considered the appendix to be part of the referral.
And let me ask -- end on one other point. You have said and many others have argued that the actions of the president don't warrant overturning the mandate of the American people at the election. But the point -- the response to that is that the American people didn't know then what they know now. They didn't know in the 1996 election, they didn't know in the 1992 election what they know now, or their votes might well have been different.
Mr. Chairman, I will yield back. Thank you.
REP. HYDE: Thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Boucher.
REP. RICK BOUCHER (D-VA): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ruff, I want to join with others today who have commended you on the quality of your presentation. I think that you have made significant strides in attempting to put this entire sad matter into a clearer context. And I commend you for what you've said.
I would like to take some time this afternoon to explore with you the allegation by the independent counsel that in asserting executive privilege and in asserting attorney-client privilege, the president, in the words of the independent counsel, has abused his office, and the independent counsel therefore suggests that the assertion by the president of these two privileges would be a grounds for impeachment.
My first question to you is: Do you agree that the president, as the caretaker of the executive office, has the responsibility to tend and look after the privileges, including executive privilege and attorney-client privilege, that attend his executive function?
MR. RUFF: I do, and I so advised him, Congressman.
REP. BOUCHER: Isn't it also true that when the executive privilege was asserted in the U.S. District Court, that Judge Johnson, in passing on that privilege, ruled that presumptively the executive privilege did in fact cover many of the communications involving the president's assistants, but that in the particular context in which they were raised in the case, those privileges had to yield for the need for information by the independent counsel?
MR. RUFF: That's correct.
REP. BOUCHER: And isn't it also true that upon that ruling, the president decided not to appeal that decision by the judge and basically dropped that claim of executive privilege at that time?
MR. RUFF: As to the non-lawyers. That's correct.
REP. BOUCHER: And then when the attorney-client privilege claim was appealed and reached the U.S. Supreme Court, isn't it true that two justices of the Supreme Court said that there was no clear legal answer to the question the president was raising, to the claim of attorney-client privilege that he was putting forth, and that there was therefore a clear basis for the Supreme Court to pass on that question?
MR. RUFF: That's correct.
REP. BOUCHER: And so would you not conclude that there was a plausible basis for the assertion by the president of the claims of both executive privilege and attorney-client privilege, the same claims that now in the view of the independent counsel are being suggested as possible bases for impeaching and removing the president from office?
MR. RUFF: Without taking the matter too personally, congressman, I would look not only to the opinion of the two Supreme Court judges, but I'd like to believe that my own assessments and my own advice to the president set a level of plausibility for the claim of privilege that would defeat any suggestion of abuse of power.
REP. BOUCHER: Mr. Ruff, I also would like to explore with you the question of statements made under oath. Now, during the process of these hearings many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have tried to equate the standards for impeaching a president with those applicable to the impeachment of federal judges. And I'd like to ask you if you believe that that is a fair comparison and ask you also what differences you perceive in the standard that should be applicable to the impeachment of a president on the one hand and the impeachment of federal judges on the other.
REP. BOUCHER: Congressman, I think it's fair to say that there is agreement that the pure constitutional test is the same. The difference ought to be in the assessment of the House as to what the impact on our system of government is if you speak about a judge with a lifetime appointment engaging, as Judge Nixon did, in commission of perjury, and the impact on our system of government if you think about removing the president, who has to stand for reelection at least once and as to whose status the public can speak in many different ways.
The president is the single head of the executive branch of government. To remove him from office, it seems to me, cannot be compared with the seriousness, however important it is, of removing a single judge of 900 or so with a lifetime appointment.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman --
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Ruff.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: Thank you.
The gentleman from California, Mr. Gallegly.
REP. ELTON GALLEGLY (R-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ruff, thank you for being here. I know this isn't the easiest duty for you. It certainly has not been the simplest duty for us either.
MR. RUFF: I understand.
REP. GALLEGLY: Yesterday Mr. Craig appeared before us and was asked about the president's candor before the federal grand jury. He said, while the president was "evasive, incomplete, misleading, even maddening," that he did not believe the president had lied under oath. With all due respect to Mr. Craig -- and I have great respect for his legal ability; I think he's a fine lawyer -- that might sell to a Georgetown Law grad, but to the average citizen across this country it's a pretty tough sell.
MR. RUFF: Can I just comment on one thing, Congressman? I won't be long.
REP. GALLEGLY: Well --
MR. RUFF: I think Mr. Craig, when he described the president's testimony as "evasive, misleading, maddening" was not talking about the grand jury, he was talking about the civil deposition.
REP. GALLEGLY: Okay. In other words, it was testimony under oath, though?
MR. RUFF: That's true.
REP. GALLEGLY: Very well. In the panel following Mr. Craig's panel, Mr. Wayne Owens, former member of this House, in an unsolicited comment stated that the president clearly did lie under oath.
Who do you most associate your position with -- either Mr. Craig or Mr. Owens?
MR. RUFF: Well, I suppose I could say that former Congressman Owens' statement to you reflects our efforts to put together a panel with no preconceptions about the issues before you, but -- without being flippant about it, and it's too important to be flippant about -- I associate myself, not surprisingly, with my colleague, Mr. Craig, not just because he's my colleague, because indeed, as I have indicated earlier, as misleading and evasive as the president's testimony in his deposition was, in my view, it represented, albeit perhaps an aborted effort to stay within some very narrow strange boundaries, and yet not to help; to be evasive, there's no question about that.
REP. GALLEGLY: Thank you, Mr. Ruff. Mr. Ruff, you stated earlier that the president did not help Ms. Lewinsky get a job.
I think you further stated that Vernon Jordan did help Monica Lewinsky to get a job, and that he helps many people in Washington get a job. Is that correct?
MR. RUFF: I did not say that the president did not help, I said he provided very little assistance.
REP. GALLEGLY: Okay. But you said that Vernon Jordan did help Ms. Lewinsky get a job and had helped others get a job.
MR. RUFF: Yes.
REP. GALLEGLY: Do you know if it's common practice for Mr. Jordan to call the president's secretary and report "Mission accomplished" or report that "Business has been taken care of" every time he helps someone get a job?
MR. RUFF: Well, I don't know on how many occasions he's helped someone get a job who was a friend and acquaintance of Betty Currie. But there is nothing evil in any connotation about that help --
REP. GALLEGLY: Thank you, Mr. Ruff. Ms. Lewinsky testified that she spoke to the president three times about her testimony in the Jones case. All three conversations were within a one-month period prior to the president's deposition. Vernon Jordan also told the president Ms. Lewinsky had been subpoenaed. President Clinton was asked at his deposition if anyone told him that Ms. Lewinsky had been served with a subpoena, he answered "I don't think so." Mr. Sullivan on the previous panel stated that "This is not perjury only if the president genuinely forgot these conversations." Do you think it's really reasonable for us to believe that the president completely forgot about those three conversations with Ms. Lewinsky about her testimony?
MR. RUFF: I have to quarrel with your premise, congressman, because if you read the president's testimony, I think you will see that he acknowledges knowing that Ms. Lewinsky had been subpoenaed. He questions whether it was Mr. Lindsey who first told him. The very fact that he frames it in terms of wondering who the first person who told him was suggests, it seems to me, that he was acknowledging knowledge of the subpoena.
REP. GALLEGLY: He just didn't remember whether Mr. Jordan or -- .
MR. RUFF: I don't think you'll find a question put to him -- I'll look at the record with you, if you'd like -- asking whether Mr. Jordan had advised him that Ms. Lewinsky had been subpoenaed.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.
REP. GALLEGLY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from New York, Mr. Nadler.
MR. RUFF: Mr. Chairman, can I take you up on your earlier offer?
REP. HYDE: You surely may.
MR. RUFF: Ten minutes?
REP. HYDE: Ten-minute recess. Committee will stand in recess for ten minutes. (Sounds gavel.)
REP. HYDE: Having finished with Mr. Nadler -- (laughter) -- I thought I could get away with that.
REP. NADLER: I don't think so.
MR. RUFF: I'll chat with him later, Mr. --
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from New York, Mr. Nadler.
REP. NADLER: Thank you. Nice try, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ruff, I want to join my colleagues in thanking you for your presentation. And I hope this lays to rest any further declarations that the president and his supporters have avoided addressing the factual allegations in the Starr report. I am, however, disturbed by the suggestion that the president's accusers have no obligation to prove their case with direct evidence but that the president must prove his innocence.
Now, I think you've done an outstanding job of showing that the Starr referral, especially in view of the facts that he omitted and including contradictory statements by some witnesses and omitting exculpatory statements by those witnesses, I think you've done a good job of demonstrating the referral is incomplete and misleading.
Now, some of the members of this committee and various newspaper editorials and other people have denounced the president's and the president's defenders' use of legalisms and hair-splitting when you and others have pointed out that what the president said did not meet the legal definition of perjury because his answers were either not -- his statements were either not material or because they were literally true even if perhaps somewhat misleading.
I would point out that nearly every member of this committee is a lawyer, so their disdain for the law is a bit disconcerting. But more importantly, my question to you is why are these legalisms important? Why not just forget about the legalisms and the hair-splitting and just admit to perjury or to lying under oath if that is necessary to make some editorial writers less hostile or to get a few more votes against impeachment? Why not just say it, even if it's not really perjury or lying under oath? Why is enforcing a precise legal definition of perjury important for all of our liberties?
MR. RUFF: Thank you for the question, Congressman Nadler. As I indicated in my opening statement, we didn't just dream up the elements of perjury. They didn't spring full-blown from the forehead of some legislator, judge or lawyer. They come to us from a history in our jurisprudence that is very carefully designed to ensure that when there is a charge that a human being committed perjury -- that is, knowingly lied -- it can be distinguished from testimony that may be actually truthful, evasive, misleading, but nonetheless the product of human frailty. We don't put people in jail for that, and we certainly don't impeach them.
So I think the legalisms that we are legitimately accused of using -- we use them, no question about it, because that's what we believe best reflects the seriousness and the gravity of the offense that the independent counsel has charged the president with committing. No one is defending the morality of the underlying conduct. The president himself has said he was evasive and misleading. He didn't want to help the Jones lawyers. But to get from there to a charge of perjury, even though I believe, at the end of the day, perjury itself in this setting would not warrant impeachment, requires a leap through hundreds of years of law and protection that's grown up around that particular charge.
REP. NADLER: So, in other words, when we hear people saying, "Forget about these legalisms, forget about this hair-splitting," implying that even if the president didn't commit perjury under oath or meet the legal definition of lying under oath, forget about that; just say you did and it'll make some people happier about voting against impeachment. For the president to do that would be -- that would be a betrayal of his oath, would it not?
MR. RUFF: Indeed.
REP. NADLER: Thank you. Let me ask you -- and let me also point out that it's interesting for members of this committee to advocate that since it's this committee that recommends to the House the legal definitions of things like perjury and other elements of the criminal code, and if they're too strict, it should be the committee that should change them.
I would also ask that some people have said that the president is incapable of fulfilling his duties.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from Florida, Mr. Canady.
REP. CANADY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ruff, I want to thank you for your presentation here today. The president chose well when he chose you as his White House counsel. And let me say also that I agree with some of the arguments that you've made, both in your presentation here today and in the written submission to the committee. I agree with your conclusion that this committee should have clear and convincing evidence before we proceed with an article or articles of impeachment.
And I agree with you that this committee should not rely on the referral's account of the evidence. I believe that we have an independent duty to look at the evidence. And I would quarrel with your contention that we have decided to rely on the referral. I don't think that's accurate. I think we all understand that we have to go behind the referral to look at the independent evidence that is before us. And your presentation has helped point us to the portions of that record before us that you believe are relevant to your client's defense, and that has been helpful to us.
But let me say that I am still frustrated by what I consider to be legal arguments that don't really meet the test of common sense and human experience. And we've heard about legalisms, and I understand. I'm a lawyer; I understand making legal arguments and legalisms. But there's a point beyond which things just don't make sense.
And the contention that has been made that when the president testified in his deposition that he had no specific recollection of ever being alone with Ms. Lewinsky, that that was truthful, I just don't think meets the test of common sense and experience. I understand that's your contention, but I have to respectfully submit, and using that as an example, that it just does not stand up to analysis. I believe that when the president gave those answers, he was lying. And I come to that conclusion reluctantly, but I think that viewing the evidence in context, one can only reach that conclusion.
And I would say that to talk about legalisms and hair-splitting isn't just coming from this side of the aisle. I quote Mr. Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader, who said he agreed with the people -- this is in September -- who have grown impatient with hair-splitting over legal technicalities. That's the Democratic leader in the Senate. Mr. Gephardt himself said that he believed that this matter was going to rise or fall not on the fine distinctions of a legal argument but on straight talk and the truth. And I'm concerned that we're still not getting straight talk and the truth.
Let me also, as a legal matter, refer you to the Desarnes (sp) case, which was decided just a few weeks ago by the sixth circuit. This is a very interesting case dealing with perjury, and it has some comments which I think are directly pertinent to what we're considering here and which I candidly believe directly undermine some of your contentions. In that case, the court said --
MR. RUFF: Can you give me the name again? I'm sorry.
REP. CANADY: It's the Desarnes case, United States versus Desarnes, decided by the sixth circuit, an opinion filed October 14th, 1998. There the court said, "A perjury inquiry which focuses only on the precision of the question," which you seem to be doing quite a bit, "and ignores what the defendant knew about the subject matter of the question at the time it was asked misses the very point of perjury; that is, the defendant's intent to testify falsely and thereby mislead his interrogators.
"Such a (limited?) inquiry would not only undermine the perjury laws, it would undermine the rule of law as a whole, as truth-seeking is the critical component which allows us to determine if the laws are being followed. And it is only through the requirement that a witness testify truthfully that determination may be made as to whether the laws are followed. Indeed, that is the entire purpose of the sworn oath, to impress upon the testifier the need, under penalty of punishment, to testify truthfully."
And I have to candidly submit that when the president was asked, "So I understand your testimony is that it was possible then that you were alone with her, but you have no specific recollection of that ever happening," and he answered, "Yes, that's correct, it's possible that she, in while working there, brought something to me and that at the time she brought it to me she was the only person there, that's possible," the president was lying.
MR. RUFF: Congressman, let me -- may I have just a moment to respond?
REP. CANADY: Surely.
MR. RUFF: Obviously I'm not familiar with the case, and I will make myself familiar with it. And I don't know what setting it arose in. I don't think there's any difference of opinion, though, on the critical point that you seem to have been making. It's not that anybody gets to choose any little loophole in a question and slide through it and avoid prosecution. You have to look at the question, make a reasonable assessment of it, ask in a criminal case whether a jury would find it sufficiently precise or not, and then ask whether, in fact, the response to the question was such as would permit a perjury charge.
Now, I don't know what the questions were in Desarnes. I'd be glad to address those with you independently. But I don't think there's an underlying concern. My position is that any reasonable reading of what happened in the Jones deposition would suggest that it, not to use a legal term of art, was a mess.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Scott.
REP. SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ruff, were you given a list of the allegations that we're actually pursuing? You are aware of the fact that Mr. Starr started off with 11 allegations (with some parts?)? Two days ago ABC News said that the Republicans were thinking of adding some new ones. Yesterday Mr. Hutchinson added another statement of the grand jury that he thought might be added to the list. Mr. Graham this morning added another allegation.
The scope of the inquiry has gone -- has expanded and contracted to include the Willey matter and campaign finance committee matters and (not Finance Committee?). Have you been given a definitive list with specificity of the allegations that we're actually pursuing?
MR. RUFF: No, I haven't, Congressman. The last list I saw was Mr. Schippers' list of 15 points. It is an unusual experience for me to be making a closing argument without quite knowing what I'm closing about. But I'll do my best.
REP. SCOTT: You're doing well. (Laughs.) So I guess we have to guess what the allegations are. And skipping through, I think you ignored some of the allegations. On count 11, "There's substantial and credible information that President Clinton's actions since January 17th, 1998 regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky have been inconsistent with the president's constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws." And he concludes number 17 by saying, "This represents substantial and credible information that may constitute grounds for impeachment."
I did not hear you comment on part B of that, which cites that Mrs. Clinton forcefully denied the allegations on January 17th, 1998, one day after the president's public denial, and cites her appearance on the Today Show. Did you ignore that because you can't believe that we would actually pursue that particular allegation?
MR. RUFF: Well, with limited time, Congressman, I wanted to touch on those points that I thought had the most weight. And whatever one might think about the allegation that the president himself misled the country, the notion that the first lady misled the country and that that would lead to bringing a president down and putting him out of office did strike me as not worth devoting the narrow amount of time I had this afternoon.
REP. SCOTT: Do you have a comment on the presumption of guilt that has been pronounced, that if you don't -- whether the evidence is there or not, if you don't prove your innocence, that in fact you will be presumed guilty if nobody produces a witness; if it's zero to zero at the end, that you will be presumed guilty?
MR. RUFF: Congressman, I truly do operate on the assumption in this body, made up as it is almost of all lawyers, that basic principles are going to be in force, which is the burden is on those who favor impeachment to show by clear and convincing evidence that there are grounds for that. And I operate on that assumption.
REP. SCOTT: Can you get to a clear and convincing standard with uncross-examined, contradictory statements?
MR. RUFF: I can't, as my opening statement reflects, conceive that without some basis for assessing the credibility of particular testimony, you could achieve that result.
REP. SCOTT: Okay. So without knowing what the allegations are, let's try to get to one of the allegations. How do you conclude that the allegations involving Betty Currie -- why she wasn't going to be a witness?
MR. RUFF: Well, I think you need to understand that as you came to the president's deposition in the Jones case on January 17th, you were essentially at the end of the pre-trial process, or almost at the end of the pre-trial process in that case. Ms. Currie, whose name was certainly not a secret to the Jones lawyers, given the amount of information they clearly had about these matters, had never put her on the list. She was very close to the president -- that was no secret. They never subpoenaed her.
Let me just give you a small anecdote. The president sometimes has a way about him. And I was the victim of one of those. He'll look at the grand jury transcript, he'll find a moment in which -- I forget which question he's asked -- and he sort of looks at me across the room and says, "I wish Mr. Ruff could answer that question." I was taken aback. We smiled at each other, and went on about the president's testimony. I trust that that didn't make me a participant in the independent counsel's investigation, any more than his reference to Betty Currie did make her a part of the Jones case.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Inglis.
REP. BOB INGLIS (R-SC): Mr. Ruff, if there were a trial involving the president for perjury, would anything that you said here today be a fact in such a trial?
MR. RUFF: I believe that many of the facts to which I referred, and which I included in my presentation, would be essential elements. REP. INGLIS: Right. But would anything that you've said be a fact?
MR. RUFF: No more than, with all due respect, Congressman, anything said by any member of this committee.
REP. INGLIS: Right. The point is that you have not met the standard that Mr. Craig pointed out. And by the way, earlier, I was listening intently in the committee room to what you were saying. But as Mr. Craig said earlier, in the course of our presentation today and tomorrow, we will address the factual and evidentiary issues directly. The score is now zero to five.
Five groups have come before us, no one yet has addressed evidentiary matters. Mr. Ruff --
MR. RUFF: I absolutely disagree with --
REP. INGLIS: Well, I understand you do, but you've just agreed that there are no facts that you've testified to.
MR. RUFF: No, that's not at all what I said.
REP. INGLIS: Let me ask you this. Are there any witnesses that you would have like to have called, but have failed to have called?
MR. RUFF: Congressman, I think that question, with all due respect, betrays a -- to me -- an inappropriate view of the process.
REP. INGLIS: There's limited time. I understand what you're going to say. You're going to say that the burden of proof is not on you, and I think you're correct in that. The point I'm interested in making here, is the normal White House spin operation is coming unglued under the light of accountability here, because here, Mr. Craig raised a very high bar. And you're not meeting it. You're failing to meet what the White House spin put out at the beginning of this proceeding. And now that you've failed, you want to sort of split hairs again about what it is that you're doing here.
Let me ask you this. I understand your response. Let me ask you something very different. When the president said on January 26th, 1998, with the famous finger-wagging experience, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky," was he lying?
MR. RUFF: I responded to this question earlier, I forgot who put it to me, Congressman, and I'll respond again. The president has said, flat-out, no question about it, he intended to mislead the American people, and he did mislead them. Because he spoke on that occasion, on the assumption in his own mind, that sexual relations meant sexual intercourse.
What are we doing here, talking about?
REP. INGLIS: But just the same --
MR. RUFF: Just a moment, Congressman. And he knew that most of the people listening to him out there, didn't understand the definition he was suing, and thus would be misled into believing that --
REP. INGLIS: But let me ask you. You see, I think that if you were consistent with your argument, on page 72 of the 184-page submittal, I think your answer here today to the question I just put to you, should be no, he did not lie.
MR. RUFF: In the Roosevelt Room. That's what I said. I said he misled, intentionally.
REP. INGLIS: Oh. So what's the difference between "misleading" and "lying"?
MR. RUFF: Because he believed, rightly so in his own mind, that he was telling the truth. That he used the word sexual relations to mean sexual intercourse, and that he had not had sexual intercourse with Monica Lewinsky.
REP. INGLIS: Oh, see, this is the hub of it, then. That's not what he was saying. What he said subsequently, was that he lied when he said that with the finger-wagging. But you see, the finger-wagging is the same as what he said earlier, that he didn't have sexual relations.
MR. RUFF: I fear that your recollection of the facts on the record is incorrect.
REP. INGLIS: Well, please straighten me out. What's wrong here? He said --
MR. RUFF: You said the present admitted he lied. He didn't.
REP. INGLIS: I'll leave aside the lying. You like the word "misleading" better than lying, and I understand that for some reason you like that better.
But if it's not the truth, I don't think, under consistent theory with your submittal here, he was telling the truth when he said that he didn't have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky. But he subsequently to lying when he said that I lied to you, the American people, when I said I did not have sexual relations with that woman.
MR. RUFF: What he said was that he misled the American people, and that is what he did. He did it wrongfully, he's apologized for it, and whatever your, Congressman -- and look, I absolutely respect your right, however misguided I believe it to be, to have your own view of the record. But the fact is the president said that he misled the American people, and he did it with malice aforethought, because he wanted to hide this improper relationship.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt.
REP. MEL WATT (D-NC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ruff, I followed Mr. Inglis in asking questions this morning, and this is the question that I asked immediately after he asked his question this morning. (Holds up folded piece of paper.)
MR. RUFF: Is that an airplane?
REP. WATT: (Laughter.) So I'm going to open it up, and ask you the exact same question that I asked following him this morning. (Unfolds piece of paper.) Is there anything in the referral, or in any of the information that was submitted by the independent counsel to this committee, that could be admitted in that form in a criminal proceeding?
MR. RUFF: I suppose I might find a document or two in there, but the essential question is could you simply dump that record in the laps of the Senate and say "Go ahead and try the case," no.
REP. WATT: Okay, so I can ball that one up now.
MR. RUFF: Oh, I'd put it in your pocket.
REP. WATT: Wait on the next round of questions, then. I am struck by how my colleagues on the Republican side keep saying that this is not about sex, yet we've heard two hours' worth of testimony from Mr. Starr, and all of your testimony, and none of the basic underlying charges that we started out with in this investigation, were even mentioned, or hardly mentioned. And so I'd like to go through a series of questions which you I think can answer very quickly, just yes or no.
MR. RUFF: I'll do my best.
REP. WATT: Is it true that the independent counsel back in 1994, was appointed to investigate matters related to Whitewater?
MR. RUFF: That's correct.
REP. WATT: And have we ever gotten a referral from the independent counsel on the Whitewater matter?
MR. RUFF: No, sir.
REP. WATT: And during his appearance before the committee on November 19, was that the first time that we were told that we would not be getting a referral on any Whitewater matter?
MR. RUFF: The first I learned of any of those matters, and their status, was on that date.
REP. WATT: And Mr. Starr after that investigated the alleged misuse of FBI files by the White House personnel. Is that correct?
MR. RUFF: And we found out last month that Mr. Starr -- that was also a dry hole.
MR. RUFF: Yes, sir.
REP. WATT: And next Mr. Starr investigated firings of personnel from the White House travel office. Is that right?
MR. RUFF: Yes.
REP. WATT: And we found out last month that that was a dry hole.
MR. RUFF: Yes.
REP. WATT: Do you recall the talk over the summer that the key to this whole case was the so-called talking points that were given by Ms. Lewinsky to Ms. Tripp?
MR. RUFF: Yes.
REP. WATT: Those are no longer an issue. We haven't heard a thing about those, have we?
MR. RUFF: I think we now learned where they came from, yeah.
REP. WATT: Would you agree that only part of Mr. Starr's five- year investigation that hasn't been a bust is his investigation of the president's sex life?
MR. RUFF: Well, I'm not sure I'd buy into your description. It's the only one that's reached this House.
REP. WATT: It's the only one that's still going on, that we're still talking about. And we got it over here, and then we started talking about investigating campaign finance matters. Do you remember that a week or so ago or a couple of weeks ago?
MR. RUFF: I do.
REP. WATT: Then we dropped that one, didn't we?
MR. RUFF: You did.
REP. WATT: And then the Republicans decided to expand the investigation into Kathleen Willey. Do you remember that?
MR. RUFF: I do.
REP. WATT: We dropped that one, too, right?
MR. RUFF: I believe so.
REP. WATT: And then the Republicans subpoenaed documents from Mr. Starr relating to John Huang. Do you remember that happening?
MR. RUFF: I read about it.
REP. WATT: And we withdrew that subpoena after a little while in a couple of days, right?
MR. RUFF: So I understand.
REP. WATT: And then there was a point at which the Secret Service was going to get information about the president's dealings with other Arkansas women. Do you remember some discussion about that?
MR. RUFF: Mmm-hmm. (Affirmative response.)
REP. WATT: They dropped that one, too.
MR. RUFF: As far as I know.
REP. WATT: So we're back to allegations about the president's sex life. That's basically what this is about, notwithstanding all the protestations to the contrary.
MR. RUFF: Yes, sir.
REP. WATT: Thank you, Mr. Ruff. I appreciate that. I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: Thank you, Mr. Watt. The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte. By the way, just parenthetically, a lot of things you just dropped ain't dropped. I just thought I'd mention that. We'll --
REP. WATT: Nice to know. When are we going to --
REP. HYDE: Oh, you'll know in good time.
REP. WATT: I'm sure it'll be next year, in the next Congress.
REP. HYDE: That's right. You got that right.
REP. WATT: After the election.
REP. HYDE: After the election? It's all after the election. The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte.
REP. GOODLATTE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ruff, I'd like to follow up on a line of questions that the gentleman from Florida, Mr. McCollum, pursued with you earlier. You said to us in your statement that with regard to the grand jury testimony of the president that two of the instances cited by the independent counsel you explained with what I would call and I think we've been calling today legalisms or legal hair-splitting. But the third one, your answer --
MR. RUFF: (I hope not?).
REP. GOODLATTE: -- was interesting to me, and that was this issue of the nature of the relationship between the president and Ms. Lewinsky. In that case you said to us, "Take the evidence in the light most favorable to Ms. Lewinsky. Take the evidence as Ms. Lewinsky said it. Would that rise to being an impeachable offense?" And I took that to mean an acknowledgement that if we do take the evidence as provided by Ms. Lewinsky, which I think is very strong and which is corroborated by her previous statements to other people long before anybody knew anything about the significance of this that she said to friends, the computer printout on her computer of an apparently half-written letter that makes reference to her description of the relationship, all of that corroborating her testimony, I do take it as correct.
And I would like you to explain to me why, if the committee does take that testimony as being the accurate testimony -- and I believe that the vast majority of the American people, on the issue of whether or not the president had any contact with her while this was going on, would agree with her statement as well, as detailed as it is -- why that does not constitute perjury.
MR. RUFF: If, in fact, you were to believe Ms. Lewinsky's description of those particular events and conclude, in this setting, by clear and convincing evidence, or since we're talking about perjury in a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt, that she was right and the president was wrong, then you could legitimately conclude that there was a basis for believing that a jury would find the president guilty of perjury.
What I suggested was two things. First -- and I think you heard exactly this from the panel this morning, and I base this partly as well on my own prosecutorial experience -- I can't conceive of a case going forward to a petty jury on that basis. But even putting that aside, what you have in essence is Ms. Lewinsky saying 'x' and the president saying not 'x.' And a corroboration that you look to and that, with all respect, Congressman McCollum looked to, I think, is not a legitimate basis of support for your finding.
REP. GOODLATTE: Let me respectfully disagree. And then let me go to another point, because you have -- and I have very limited time here, but you have also made the contention that this is simply about lying to cover up a personal embarrassment. But isn't it true, Mr. Ruff, that moments after the president completed that testimony before the grand jury, he went before the American people and admitted an embarrassment, which was what he acknowledges his side of what took place there?
And isn't it really the reason why he committed what I think is that perjurious statement, not to avoid embarrassment, because he had already embarrassed and disgraced himself, but for the purpose of covering up a previous lie in the testimony before the deposition in the civil case, because of the fact that if he acknowledged what Ms. Lewinsky says took place, he would be acknowledging that what he said earlier were falsehoods and that he knew they were falsehoods in that case?
So his intent here was not to cover up an embarrassment, but to avoid prosecution for a crime, that crime being perjury and obstruction of justice in the earlier case, and he compounded it seven months later by continuing his perjurious activity by lying before the grand jury. And I think that you have accurately stated that if we believe what Ms. Lewinsky stated, not only in her deposition but what she stated to other people over a long period of time, before it was ever even known that this was an issue, if we believe that, then the president of the United States has indeed committed perjury before the grand jury.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The time of the gentleman has expired.
MR. RUFF: May I have one moment?
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Of course you may.
MR. RUFF: Thank you. Two points. One, the kind of "corroboration," quote/unquote, that you referred to, statements to other people, for the reasons already addressed, and addressed by Mr. Davis at length this morning, simply would not fit into any prosecutor's calculus in deciding whether or not perjury had occurred.
Second -- and this was the point I made in my opening statement -- I believe, I am convinced, and I think the weight of scholarly evidence would lead to the conclusion that even if you reach that conclusion -- that is your conclusion, not mine -- about whether the president lied or not in that grand jury testimony, it still doesn't warrant removing him from office.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentlewoman from California, Ms. Lofgren.
REP. LOFGREN: Mr. Ruff, thank you for being here today and for conducting yourself with such intelligence and clarity and dignity. I think that you've helped not just all of us but the American people to understand what some of these issues are.
I was interested in your earlier exchange with Mr. Gekas about the issue of treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. And thinking back to all of the reading that I have done in the notes of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers and the like, it seems to me clear that what the founding fathers had in mind in treason and bribery was to protect the integrity of the chief executive's loyalty towards the United States.
All the discussion I can recall in those original documents had to do with a fear that a chief executive would be the recipient of bribes, and therefore have his loyalty diverted from the new country, the new America. They were also very concerned about titles and other emoluments and their new elected person might become nobility that they were trying to escape.
The other high crimes and misdemeanors had to do with the other attempts that would subvert the Constitution, that were not in the first two categories. And as we've discussed throughout these proceedings, there are really two ways to look at that. One is conduct that is so egregious that it prevents the discharge of the constitutional duties of the president.
And it occurs to me that that is not just a matter of opinion. And I'm interested in your comment on this. In a sense, that is the one area that is really subject to the judgment of the American people, whether or not -- and also two other factors -- the duties can be discharged. Thinking ahead, if we were to have a trial in the Senate on charges for the next six months to a year, wouldn't we have to go and prove how many Mideast peace settlements have been established, how many Northern Ireland peace settlements, what's the economy like as part of that whole system? Wouldn't that be part of the evidence that would need to be put on?
MR. RUFF: Thank God I've never had the opportunity to try an impeachment. There is no -- and first let me say that your analysis of the issue that Congressman Gekas and I were discussing was framed much more articulately than I did and I think is exactly correct.
The issue of the president's capacity to govern, whether it be Mideast, economy, Ireland, what-have-you, is what has to underlie every senator's vote and, indeed, the vote of every member of this committee and the House. I'm not sure whether we would introduce evidence or whether it would simply be taken as a matter of public knowledge to what the president is doing and how he is doing it and whether overturning the verdict of the election is going to damage our country.
REP. LOFGREN: That's really the question that we need to face, but I think there are other issues that obviously we are dealing with, which is what Professor Van Alsteen (sp), Mr. Starr's former law professor, termed "minor crimes, petty crimes". And you know, I wonder if you could just do this. As I was listening to both Mr. Inglis and Mr. Gallegly ask how could something be misleading and not a lie, I was thinking about a cross-examination and sort of the issue of, you know, Did you spend $10 today? And you answer, Ham sandwiches cost four bucks. It's the obligation of the questioner, then, to go back to the expenditure question. Do you feel that was done in this case vis-a-vis the president's testimony? Is that part of the problem why this misleading confusion has occurred?
MR. RUFF: That's certainly a large part of it, Congresswoman Lofgren. And I think any among the many trial lawyers here who go back and look at that deposition will realize that for whatever reason there was never a follow-up. And the example you give is a good one. But, you know, I might just note that at the very beginning of the deposition Mr. Bennett, the president's lawyer, urged Ms. Jones' lawyer to ask the most specific, detailed questions, and they declined to do so. And I think maybe that set a process in motion that we're living with today.
REP. HYDE: The gentlewoman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Buyer.
REP. STEVE BUYER (R-IN): I reserve my time.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Bryant.
REP. ED BRYANT (R-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, counsel. I want to just tell you -- make a quick comment and then ask you two or three questions.
We're still having a problem in my district with some of your wording -- and I say "you" collectively, meaning the White House -- in terms of squaring with the oath to tell the whole truth, your concept that he can tell incomplete testimony, give incomplete -- that seems in opposite when you talk about giving incomplete testimony and telling the entire truth. And also, the other part of the oath about nothing but the truth with evasion, we just don't -- they seem at opposite how you can evade a question and say nothing but the truth and how you can give incomplete answers and say the whole truth. Because we understand that both misleading answers and evasive answers are all -- all tend to thwart the judicial system in its efforts to get at the truth. Now, let me ask you a couple of questions if I could.
I want you to -- if you could just put yourself in the president's mind some today, and I want you to put yourself in the -- this is a hypothetical -- put yourself in the president's mind, his thinking, thought process, and using the Jones definition of sexual relations, could he agree that Monica Lewinsky had a sexual relationship with the president?
MR. RUFF: If I understand your question, it is using the Jones deposition definition, is the conduct that he engaged in with Ms. Lewinsky --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: No. No.
MR. RUFF: I'm sorry.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Did she -- did she -- have a sexual relationship with him, the conduct she engaged in?
MR. RUFF: Well, I guess I'd have to have the definition in front of me in the sense that she was the moving actor in whatever --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: You haven't thought about this?
MR. RUFF: You know, I really have not.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The reason I ask that is because she would. She would have had sexual relations with him.
MR. RUFF: Don't -- please don't hold me or my client to this, but I think that's probably correct.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Okay. And under his definition he would have had a sexual relationship with her.
MR. RUFF: That's correct.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: So he has -- he has brought forth the idea that one party can have a sexual relationship with another party, but that other party not have a sexual relationship with the first party.
MR. RUFF: He didn't bring -- with all due respect, congressman --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: That's -- that's outstanding.
MR. RUFF: Congressman -- no, no, it isn't. (Laughter.) Because it's not as though you and I were having this conversation in a vacuum.
What he had in front of him is, I have to tell you, one of the strangest definitions I've ever seen --
REP. BRYANT: He had the definition we've talked about.
MR. RUFF: -- and in fact it was a one-sided definition and not a --
REP. BRYANT: Well, you answered my question. She did and he didn't. So -- Let me ask you also -- you mentioned that the president -- and you've made something of an apology today -- the president has had two opportunities to give this committee, the House, a testimony in these proceedings; the grand jury testimony, through -- to the independent counsel and his answers to the 81 questions. And you've indicated that -- in your wording, that his answers were evasive and misleading and even maddening. You left out "incomplete," as Mr. Craig said yesterday.
MR. RUFF: He'll remind me of that answer.
REP. BRYANT: But now, with all due respect, that apology seems somewhat hollow in that in fact you helped the president over the Thanksgiving holidays construct the answers to those 81 questions, did you not?
MR. RUFF: I did, yes, indeed.
REP. BRYANT: And surely in preparation for his deposition, Mr. Kendall and probably others and you helped him prepare on how to answer those questions.
MR. RUFF: No, only Mr. Kendall. I have --
REP. BRYANT: Okay.
MR. RUFF: -- I take no responsibility for that. (Laughter.)
REP. BRYANT: But your apology that -- boy, he's just a terrible client to work with, he's just -- he's maddening -- you folks are the ones helping to do that, and for you to come in today -- it just rings sort of hollow to apologize for that. You're responsible for this, too.
MR. RUFF: No, I will take whatever responsibility falls on me.
But let me make this point, because I'm glad you've raised the 81 questions. I know that there's been a lot of discussion here in the committee and in the press about somehow those 81 questions were stiff-arming the committee or otherwise not being -- I have to tell you I disagree with that, and not only because of the introductions to them in which the president reflects his continuing contrition, but because, I mean, very honestly, those questions were framed, for example, "on -- at 1:02 a.m., on February 18th, did you have a talk" -- well, the fact is that neither you nor I -- I suspect the president -- could really be expected to do anything other than say, "I don't remember specifically, but I will tell you that in fact my records reflect I did have a conversation on that day."
REP. BRYANT: But you did say that --
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman's time has expired.
REP. BRYANT: Thank you.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentlewoman from Texas, Ms. Jackson Lee.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And let me say to Mr. Huff (sic) that your testimony has been both compelling, convincing, and understandable. And I just would like to take judicial note of the fact that you had already indicated to this committee if you thought that you were being asked to do something other than what an officer of the court should do, you would not be here or be still in the White House. And that's an understanding that you have made on the record.
But I do want to start from your premise, did the president do something so wrong, deserving of impeachment? Frankly, I have in my hand here a letter that I wrote to the president extending to him my concerns about issues in my district, particularly the energy industry, with the enormous number of mergers and loss of jobs and frankly, have called upon his good services for us to begin to look at how to solve this portending crisis. I'd much rather be dealing with the needs of my constituents, but I'm obligated to be here, and frankly, we have to do the very best job that we possibly can.
And so I want to just put in the record, because there seems to be, again, a lack of clarity about perjury, the words of Jim Cole (sp), a public integrity lawyer here and I think he says it in a way that laymen can understand: "Perjury, it seems, comes down to what the person said, what they understood themselves to be saying, and what they understood this question to be." And we've gone over and over this, and I think we can't be any clearer, so let me say this. Let me change the score. Let me come into the game and change it; five for the defense and zero for those who don't understand what we've been doing here these past two days.
But I would like to go straight to the question of this number 11 in the referral by the OIC that says there is substantial and credible information that President Clinton's actions since January 17th, 1998 regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky has been inconsistent with the president's constitutional duty to faithfully execute the law. Included in that are subsets (b) and (c) and he says, "The First Lady" -- can I say it again? "The First Lady, the Cabinet, the president's staff and the president's associates relied on and publicly emphasized the president's denial." I am speechless. The First Lady? Constituting abuse?
Can I ask you a question? Abuse of power requires use of power. Did President Clinton in any way ask any of the members of his Cabinet to use the powers of their office to help cover up his affair with Monica Lewinsky?
MR. RUFF: No, Congresswoman. I think, though, the point that's been made there in our submission that I think really goes to the heart of it is the president had already -- and he's admitted it and we all have -- misled the American people in public statements. It's a little difficult to contemplate a setting in which persons who listened to him make those public statements go out and say, "I believe the president," and then he finds himself accused of misusing his power.
REP. JACKSON LEE: So he did not actively engage in meetings and conversations to devise strategy for them to go out and perform what has now been alleged to be abuse of power by their statements?
MR. RUFF: Obviously, I can't speak to all the discussions he had with Cabinet members and others. But the point that the referral makes, which is that they listened to the president say, "I didn't do it," and then went out and said, "I believe the president" -- struck me when I read it, particularly against the backdrop of the events of 1974, as an odd proposition to have constituted an abuse of power.
REP. JACKSON LEE: Let me go immediately to this other more chilling example --
MR. RUFF: Sure.
REP. JACKSON LEE: -- and that is the question of executive privilege and the use of the Africa statement.
I cannot believe in the referral that -- the distortion of what was actually said. Can you just comment on that? The question was about the first lady's being covered by executive privilege, and this is now being cited as an answer to the question of executive privilege for everyone.
How did you find this? And did you find it stunning to have this left out, the entire transcript of the actual words of the president that would have said to us that he did not, in fact, lie by saying, "I know nothing about it; I didn't talk to the lawyer"? Could you just give me that again. It is chilling, it is pernicious, I cannot believe it!
MR. RUFF: Well, I am going to surprise everybody by being kind to the independent counsel.
What I believe happened is -- forgive me, Washington Post, if you are here -- they read the Washington Post story for that day, which carried only part of the dialogue, and have relied on the very limited line they used, as though the president was referring to executive privilege.
So I don't attribute evil motive, but I do attribute error. And that's what I wanted to bring to the attention of the committee.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentlewoman's time has expired.
REP. JACKSON LEE: It's dangerous.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Chabot.
REP. CHABOT: I thank the chairman.
Mr. Ruff, you were asked earlier whether you believe that the president lied under oath. And you replied that you'd like to associate yourself with Mr. Craig, another lawyer of the president, who believes that the president did not lie under oath, rather than with one of the witnesses the other day, another witness presented by your side, Mr. Owens, who believed that the president did lie under oath.
MR. RUFF: Mmm-hmm. (In agreement.)
REP. CHABOT: And that's correct, right?
Well, let me associate myself with Mr. Berman and with Mr. Schumer, both Democrats on this committee, who, after looking at all the evidence in this case, have concluded that the president did indeed lie under oath. Now, we may disagree as to what the consequences of that lie under oath might be. But, nonetheless, we have reached a conclusion that this president did lie under oath.
Let me turn to something else. You also said in your statement, and I quote, "It's clear that many in the majority have already reached their conclusion." Have you heard anything from the minority which leads you to believe that they haven't reached a conclusion or reached one quite some time ago?
MR. RUFF: Congressman, I -- you know, I am here, with no pretense, to represent the president of the United States in this proceeding. Obviously, I would hope that we have convinced members of the minority and members of the majority that we are in the right here. My goal is, as an advocate -- which is what I am today -- is to reach the people whose minds I want to change, and that's what I was trying to do today.
REP. CHABOT: Thank you. Also in your statement you said that you were not going to, and I quote, "drag us through the salacious muck that fills the referral." And I thank you for not doing that. But let's not forget that it was the president's own conduct which caused the subject matter of this hearing to be what it is. Now, if he had lied about bribery, it would have been about that. If he had lied about a bank robbery, it would have been about that. In this case, he apparently lied under oath about a sexual harassment lawsuit, so that's what it's about, whether we like it or not.
Let me ask you this. Why do you think the president called Ms. Lewinsky -- somebody he obviously knew quite well -- "that woman"?
MR. RUFF: You know, I don't know, Congressman. I think at that moment, as he was standing there in the Roosevelt Room trying to be as forceful in his denial as he could be, those words came out. But I wouldn't begin to try to explain to you what caused that to happen.
REP. CHABOT: He obviously knew her quite a bit better than referring to her as "that woman."
MR. RUFF: Absolutely, and there's no question about it.
REP. CHABOT: Thank you. You stated in the preface to your written submission that you made to this committee that nothing the president has done justifies criminal conduct; correct?
MR. RUFF: That's correct.
REP. CHABOT: In that case, I assume that there is no reason for the president to grant himself a pardon, before he would leave office, for any criminal acts that he might have committed. Can you assure us that President Clinton will not pardon himself or that he will not accept a pardon from any presidential successor?
MR. RUFF: Absolutely.
REP. CHABOT: Thank you. Let me conclude by asking you this; in this written defense that you submitted to us, you again went into this legalese thing, which I really think is a mistake that you all do, and you talk about "alone" and you told this committee that the term "alone" is vague unless a particular geographic space is identified.
I would strongly encourage you to drop that line of defense. I think if this president and his advocates would come forward and tell the truth, if they had done that a long time ago, I don't think the president would be in the jeopardy he is right now. And I would just strongly suggest that he come forward, come clean, tell the American people the truth and let the chips fall where they may.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentlewoman from California, Ms. Waters.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): Thank you very much.
Mr. Ruff, I, too, must join my colleagues in complimenting you on the job that you've done here this afternoon. I think you did a fantastic job of further taking apart, really, the allegations that we have been presented with, and you just -- you were able to build on what was said by the witnesses who were here this morning discussing prosecutorial standards for obstruction of justice and perjury. They, too, did a fine job. I don't know what else can be done with these issues. You've made it clear what the legal definitions of perjury are. We have discussed in detail obstruction of justice and bribery. The other side of the aisle, my colleagues, cannot overcome the factual information that's been presented to us. As a matter of fact, the more we get into these allegations, the flimsier they are. I mean, in essence, they're rather lightweight.
They would have some believe that we on this side of the aisle are simply some kind of liberals, and that we're not paying attention, and they don't know why this turns out to be a rather partisan effort. Well, let me just say this. We have members on this side of the aisle that I disagree with all the time. (Laughter.) This turns out to be a partisan effort simply because the allegations are lightweight, they're flimsy, they can't prove the point, and the tactics that have been used by Ken Starr are tactics that many of us, and I, in particular, have real problems with.
It is central to the civil rights movement of which I am a part of, which my life's history is all about, that we pay special attention to the justice system and we are absolutely focused on abusive tactics by prosecutors around this country.
We are not happy about what happened to Monica Lewinsky. We're not happy about what happened to Julie Steele. We're not happy about what happened to Rob Hill's son in the subpoena that was issued at the school. We're not happy about intimidation. So we cannot trust an investigation where these kind of tactics have been used. And I want to just add to this, that we believe that Mr. Starr came with a bias.
When Mr. Lowell, our attorney, questioned him here in this committee and asked him about connections of his law firm, about Mr. Richard Porter, about his contacts with Paula Jones' lawyer, he answered by saying things like, "Well, to my best recollection", and "I'm not so sure I had those conversations with them." And then he said "I'm not sure" so many times until he's finally saying -- ended up saying, "Well, you can fault my judgment if you will, but just frankly it did not occur to me, as I think it happens to a lot of us in life." At the same time, we have colleagues from the other side of the aisle who claim any representations by the president that he did not recall is somehow lying.
I want to just get away from the flimsy allegations. They don't mean anything. I don't want to talk about the abusive tactics any more. But I do want to talk about this bias that Mr. Ken Starr comes with.
Do you have information about contacts with Paula Jones' lawyers and/or information about the connection of his law firm with that case at all?
MR. RUFF: I think what we know has been set out in our submission. It emerged during Mr. Kendall's cross-examination of Mr. Starr. And it certainly suggests that there were contacts and involvement with the independent counsel's law firm and the Jones lawyers that in our view should have given serious pause to anyone who was undertaking this particular prosecutorial task.
REP. WATERS: Did he tell Attorney General Reno about those contacts when he sought to expand his jurisdiction?
MR. RUFF: Not to my knowledge, congresswoman.
REP. WATERS: Thank you very much.
REP. HYDE: The gentlelady's time has expired.
Mr. Barr of Georgia.
REP. BOB BARR (R-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, let me just state for the record a couple of, I think, important items for those who believe that perjury may not be a serious offense, whether it is looked at in the context of a constitutional issue involving impeachment or in the context of criminal prosecutions. And I know our learned witness is very, very familiar with the federal sentencing guidelines which provide that perjury is even a more serious offense than offering, giving, soliciting or receiving a bribe.
I know also that he is very familiar, as the other attorneys are in this panel, that there are enhancements for sentencing under federal criminal procedures for those in a position of trust, which I would presume all of us would believe includes the president of the United States of America.
And I know that the witness is also intimately familiar with the U.S. attorneys manual that provides, quote, "Because false declarations affect the integrity of the judicial fact-finding process, all offenders should be vigorously prosecuted." Close quote.
So for any who believe that these are not serious offenses that we are looking at here, the procedures under the Department of Justice for United States Attorneys, as well as for federal judges, in sentencing those convicted of the offenses of obstruction, bribery or perjury, understand that they are indeed very serious.
With regard, Professor Ruff, to the procedures -
MR. RUFF: You're taking me back too many years, Congressman.
REP. BARR: Well, more than we'd like to think. But, Professor, with regard to some of the provisions of Title 18, I understand your reticence to go into great depth about perjury; I believe that the elements of perjury are here. But let's put aside that for a moment and focus on some other provisions of Title 18 that I really believe are much more problematic for the president, and that is Section 1505, Obstruction; Section 1512, Tampering With Witnesses -- and of course, for both of those you have to look at the definitions, which I'll come back to in a moment -- as well as Section 1623, False Declarations Before A Grand Jury, which as you know, does not contain the additional element of willful, just that a person makes false declarations knowing that they contain false material.
The problem is that when you look at these provisions of Title 18, as you know, one doesn't look at them just in a vacuum, one has to look at the definitions. And when one looks at the definition for "misleading conduct" it means "knowingly making a false statement." So, for example, if somebody walks into a room and makes a statement to somebody that either is or reasonably may be presume to be a witness in an existing proceeding and makes a false statement to them, they have engaged in misleading conduct, which falls within -- is the definition that applies to tampering with a witness. So I think the president has a very serious problem when one looks at the statements he made to Betty Currie the day after he gave his deposition, in which he referred to her many times. So certainly he could presume -- we've already established this morning that he was not acting as her attorney and she was not contemplating hiring him as her attorney, in which case it might make sense for him to talk with her about certain testimony that she might be giving, so I think one is left with the very clear, inescapable conclusion that this was "misleading conduct" within the definition applicable to Section 1512, Tampering With Witnesses.
One also, I think, has to conclude that the president has other serious problems with regard to these provisions of Title 18, with regard to the definition of sexual relations. The definition of sexual relations, while you have correctly pointed out, does not include a specific reference to oral sex, it does include a very, very wide and expansive variety of activity that clearly falls within the activity unrebutted by the president as late as today, that Monica Lewinsky testified to under oath.
So, when you look at the fact that there were false statements, when you look even at the fact that even if we presume they were not technically perjurious, I think clearly they fall within the ambit of these other provisions of Title 18, and notwithstanding that we all agree that you do not need to establish a criminal offense to impeach, I think clearly they do.
So, I respect your arguments. They are indeed arguments, eloquent as they are. But I think the president has a very serious problem in violating these provisions of Title 18.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Meehan.
REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ruff, in looking over page 207 and 208 of the referral relative to the president's statements while he was in Africa, while you may view your comments as defending the independent counsel, I don't know. Where I come from, if you make a submission to any court of law and you're a prosecutor, and you say to the judge, "Well, sorry, we got that wrong, Your Honor, but we relied on the Washington Post" or any other newspaper, that generally would be the basis of admonishment from the judge -- and I'm being kind -- prosecutorial misconduct, potentially.
But I think that that bit of misinformation the report is consistent with a lot of information that is in this report. And again, where I come from, a failure to provide exculpatory evidence, or all of the evidence, is the basis upon which, in Massachusetts, that's what prosecutorial misconduct is all about: the failure to provide evidence which tends to show the innocence of the target of an investigation. But let me got to the record.
Mr. Ruff, in arguing that the president lied in his civil deposition about whether he had talked to Vernon Jordan about Ms. Lewinsky's involvement in the Jones case, the referral cites the following exchange. Question: "Did anyone other than your attorneys ever tell you that Monica Lewinsky had been served with a subpoena in this case?" President Clinton: "I don't think so."
Well, that might be a false statement by the president, except there's one problem. The referral failed to cite the entire exchange on this subject. The entire exchange was as followed. Question: "Did anyone other than your attorneys ever tell you that Monica Lewinsky had been served with a subpoena in this case?" President Clinton: "I don't think so." Question: "Did you ever talk with Monica Lewinsky about the possibility that she might be asked to testify in this case?" President Clinton: "Bruce Lindsey. I think Bruce Lindsey told me that she was -- I think maybe that's the person who told me she was."
Now, the president's answer, "Bruce Lindsey," clearly is in answer to the first question, about whether anyone asked the other attorneys, any of his attorneys told him that Ms. Lewinsky had been served with a subpoena. Indeed, it doesn't make any sense as an answer to the second question. The referral fails to mention the "Bruce Lindsey" answer. Fails to mention it.
Mr. Ruff, in light of this omission, is the referral's presentation on this subject fair or balanced?
MR. RUFF: Your -- both your analysis and imitations are exactly on the mark.
REP. MEEHAN: Let me -- I don't mean to cut you off, but let me go to the obstruction of justice, the gifts. Mr. Ruff, the referral chose to accept Monica Lewinsky's claim that Betty Currie suggested the idea of picking up the gifts from Ms. Lewinsky's apartment, rather than Ms. Currie's conflicting claim that Ms. Lewinsky initiated the transfer of the gifts.
Now, in explaining why it believed Ms. Lewinsky's testimony, quote "made more sense" than Ms. Currie's testimony, the referral noted that Ms. Currie drove to Ms. Lewinsky's house to pick up the gifts, and then claimed, quote, "The person making the extra effort" -- in this case Ms. Currie -- "is ordinarily the person requesting the favor," -- (laughter) -- end quote.
Now, that's incredible. Let me repeat the rationale used by the referral, to resolve the differences in the testimony between two key witnesses on a critical point. Quote, "The person making the extra effort is ordinarily the person requesting the favor." Mr. Ruff, do you think that that sort of speculation -- and I guess you could call it psycho-psychology -- would ever be a legitimate or rational basis to draw this kind of a conclusion?
MR. RUFF: I surely do not.
REP. MEEHAN: Mr. Ruff, the referral claims that the president encourage Monica Lewinsky to file an affidavit which he allegedly knew would be false. This claim is based on the fact that during a December 17th, 1998 conversation with Ms. Lewinsky about her filing an affidavit in the Jones case, the president allegedly repeated a cover story that he and Ms. Lewinsky had formulated early on in their relationship.
Now the president testified before the grand jury that he did not recall repeating that cover story on that date. So we have a case where the president's account conflicts with Ms. Lewinsky. And of course, the referral believed Ms. Lewinsky.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's --
REP. MEEHAN: But later on, a grand juror asked Ms. Lewinsky, on August 20th, 1998, whether she had any discussions about cover stories with the president, after she learned she was a witness in the Paula Jones case, Ms. Lewinsky responded, "No, I don't believe so. No." That's not in the referral.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.
REP. MEEHAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Jenkins.
REP. JENKINS: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to reserve my time.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman reserves his time. The gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Hutchinson.
REP. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ruff, I want to make sure I characterize this appropriately. The president has apologized for his personal conduct, or misconduct, but he has denied any legal wrongdoing.
MR. RUFF: That's correct.
REP. HUTCHINSON: That's a correct statement. And so, if there is any violation of the law, it is fair to say that he has not accepted responsibility for that.
MR. RUFF: He's accepted responsibility for his conduct. If someone determines -- you described it, Congressman, so let me just try to be responsive. I want to be as responsive as I can.
He has taken responsibility for his conduct. We believe, and I believe the better answer to the question is: It was not criminal.
REP. HUTCHINSON: Well, all right. I think that could have called for a simple yes or no, but I'll accept what you said.
MR. RUFF: I apologize.
REP. HUTCHINSON: Now, in your presentation of the defense, and I think you had as much time today as you wanted, and I appreciate what you -- you did an excellent job, by the way, Mr. Ruff.
MR. RUFF: Thank you.
REP. HUTCHINSON: But I was listening, and you covered the allegations of perjury before the grand jury, you covered the abuse of office, and you covered the obstruction of justice charges. I did not hear any discussion from you on the allegations of perjury from the deposition testimony.
MR. RUFF: I did cover it in this fashion. I said I believe in my opening statement, that I think if you looked back at the colloquys that occurred during that deposition, you'll be struck by the president's admitted evasive misleading questions, which I do not believe were lies. But you will also be struck by the absolute mess that the deposition was, in terms of the questions that were put.
REP. HUTCHINSON: I did spend some time last night looking over the president's response, prepared by his lawyers, to the charges. And if you have that, if you'd refer to pages 79 and 80, particularly page 80, I just wanted to ask you some questions about that, because this pertains to the civil deposition.
And it deals with the charge that the president was not truthful whenever he was asked about his conversations with Monica Lewinsky, and particularly in regard to whether did she did tell you that she had been served with a subpoena in this case?
And I would underline the "did she tell you that" and the answer was no. And the essence of the question is the conversation with Monica Lewinsky and did the president learn from her that she had been served with a subpoena in the case.
Now, earlier, you -- or the attorneys say, "Once again the charge of false testimony" -- I'm at the top of the page on the right -- "is based on a wholly inaccurate reading of the president's deposition. The president acknowledged that he knew that Miss Lewinsky had been subpoenaed." Now, to me, that's not the issue addressed by the question, whenever you say the president acknowledged that he knew Miss Lewinsky had been subpoenaed. The question was, did she -- did Miss Lewinsky tell you that she had been subpoenaed?
MR. RUFF: Right. And if you actually will go back and look at the context in which -- I'm now looking at page 80 -- you look at the context in which the Q and the A that are cited here and that you referred to occurred, it was a long series of questions about when was the last time that you saw Ms. Lewinsky, and it was in that setting that this question arose. In the broader setting of all the questions that were going back and forth with the president on this subject, the point we're making is -- because this is the point that the Jones people were getting at -- was, "did you know that she had been subpoenaed and if so at what time?"
The critical issue, I think you'll find, in that context, Congressman, was not "was it she who told you," it was, "in the setting of those meetings and conversations, did you know that she'd been subpoenaed."
REP. HUTCHINSON: Let me say -- because I'm going to run out of time --
MR. RUFF: I'm sorry.
REP. HUTCHINSON: -- that I'd like to develop this factually for a long time with you but it appears to me from reading this that in your defense you set up a false charge and then you respond to the false charge and you're not responding to the charge of the perjury on "did she tell you that she had been served a subpoena in this case," in which he said no. And in the next page, on page 81, there's a lengthy question and answer, and you're critical of Mr. Starr, but here -- that is not a complete recitation of the Q and A in the deposition. There's a lot more that transpires in the deposition.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has --
MR. RUFF: Indeed, I grant you that and that is indeed my --
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. The distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Delahunt.
REP. BILL DELAHUNT (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I'll be very brief. Mr. Ruff, would you care to further elaborate on your answer to Mr. Hutchinson?
MR. RUFF: I think the point I was trying to make and in no sense would we ever want to do what we indeed have accused the independent counsel of doing, and that is to skew the record here, but the point that I think needs to be made in response to Congressman Hutchinson's concerns is that the context in which this dialogue occurred was a dialogue over at what point did the president know that Ms. Lewinsky had been subpoenaed.
The issue, I think it's fair to say, and my colleagues behind me will elbow me if I don't have it right, was, when the president last talked to Ms. Lewinsky, did he at that time know that she had been subpoenaed. And in that setting, what is being done here, I think, in the independent counsel's analysis is to focus in on that one Q&A without grasping the full universe of questions and answers that bore on that subject.
REP. DELAHUNT: Thank you, Mr. Ruff.
Let me just say I genuinely want to extend my appreciation because you definitely have provided context and texture to the referral from the Office of Independent Counsel. And I hope the American people are listening.
You know, the president and the administration have been accused of hair-splitting, semantic gymnastics, and we're talking -- a lot of the conversation, part of the dialogue today has been about the definition of sexual relations. And I really want to be clear, but it was not the president that suggested a definition of sexual relations in terms of the Paula Jones deposition; is that a correct statement?
MR. RUFF: That couldn't be more true, Congressman.
REP. DELAHUNT: So it wasn't the president that insisted on a definition. In fact, it was counsel for Paula Jones.
MR. RUFF: That's correct.
REP. DELAHUNT: Do you remember -- I remember seeing, I think it was on Fox TV, Mr. Cammarata, who, when asked by a reporter or a journalist, acknowledged that the definition was very confusing and convoluted. Do you have any memory of that?
MR. RUFF: I don't remember seeing that, but I'll accept the --
REP. DELAHUNT: You will accept that, though. Thank you.
In fact, my memory of the transcript is that in a conversation with Linda Tripp, Monica Lewinsky herself said words to the effect that, "Well, you're not really having sex unless you have sexual intercourse." Is my memory correct on that?
MR. RUFF: Your memory is correct.
REP. DELAHUNT: So again I am going to repeat it because I think it's important to repeat; it was not the president that insisted on that particular convoluted, confusing definition of what constitutes "sexual relations"?
MR. RUFF: That's correct.
REP. DELAHUNT: And I am correct when I state that it was counsel -- or it was the judge that ruled that oral sex would not be considered within the concept of that definition?
MR. RUFF: What she did was to strike those portions of the definition that would encompass that form of activity.
REP. DELAHUNT: So it was the court that struck that particular aspect of the definition?
MR. RUFF: That's correct.
REP. DELAHUNT: Thank you.
I yield back.
REP. HYDE: The distinguished gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease.
REP. ED PEASE (R-IN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ruff, I, too, want to thank you for your time and for your presentation and for your demeanor before this committee.
MR. RUFF: Thank you, Congressman.
REP. PEASE: And you are a very effective advocate.
I want to address -- I would like for you to address what appears to me to be an inconsistency between your strong assertion that the committee should not consider -- when we review perjury, we must look at the underlying behavior; but when we look at executive privilege, we cannot look at the underlying behavior; in both cases, it being the personal behavior of the president.
MR. RUFF: No. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify that because I don't believe there is any inconsistency at all. Let me describe for you what happened in the executive-privilege setting so that -- I think that will make it clear.
Initially, the independent counsel took the position that no conversation that had anything to do with Monica Lewinsky could be covered by executive privilege because it all arose out of the president's personal conduct. It was that issue that we litigated before Judge Johnson.
And the position we took was not that we were entitled to assert executive privilege over matters involving the president's personal responsibility, his personal liability, whatever it may have been -- but that only to the extent that we were advising the president in the conduct of his official business.
For example, what to do about the State of the Union address, which, as you know, came up six days after all of this broke, or how to deal with press questions in the setting in which he was meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu or Chairman Arafat, and similar -- and his meeting thereafter with Prime Minister Blair? It was in those official areas of conduct that we were saying, "You may not inquire." And it's that -- that's the distinction that I think is the difference between those two situations.
REP. PEASE: Thank you. I don't want to misstate what I think I concluded from your presentations about the difference between misleading and lying, that you admit in many ways that the president misled the public, but he did not lie, because in his mind he technically was telling the truth on whatever the point might be at the time. Is that a fair assessment?
MR. RUFF: That's fair, yes.
REP. PEASE: Do I understand that to mean, then, an assertion that there is no objective standard for truth, that it is merely the subjective analysis of what one believes to be true at a moment in time?
MR. RUFF: No, absolutely not. In the case law -- if I were in a courtroom now instead of in this hearing room, we'd be talking about what the case law establishes. And it is case law, I think, that we can all accept, which is you have to make an assessment; is the person who tells you that's what's in his mind telling you the truth? You make that assessment by whether you believe the person who's telling you that, whether there's corroboration for it, whether under the circumstances that is in fact a plausible, believable explanation of what was in his mind, and, most importantly -- and this is really the crux of it -- is what he is telling you was in his mind a reasonable interpretation of the facts? That's the test.
REP. PEASE: Fair -- fair enough. Thank you very much. And I yield the balance of my time to Mr. Canady.
REP. CHARLES CANADY (R-FL): Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to place in the record a letter from Donald Alexander, the former commissioner of the IRS, and other materials relating to some of the argument that's been made concerning the action of the 1974 inquiry on the tax fraud article of impeachment against President Nixon.
REP. HYDE: Without objection, so ordered.
REP. CANADY: And having put that in the record, I just want to say, Mr. Ruff, that you've quarreled with the independent counsel's presentation of facts, and I have to quarrel with your presentation of the facts relating to the committee's dealing with the tax fraud article against President Nixon. In your submission to the committee, I believe you really misrepresent the facts there. You quote four members who -- one of whom you quote totally out of context, but for the proposition that the committee decided that tax fraud was not an impeachable offense, when the fact of the matter is and the record shows that 12 members of the committee, the vast majority of those who expressed an opinion on this subject in the debate, based their decision on the conclusion that there was simply insufficient evidence that tax fraud had been proven.
And I think that's a significant omission in your report.
MR. RUFF: Can I just respond briefly, Mr. Chairman?
REP. HYDE: Yes. Yes.
MR. RUFF: If, in fact, our description of those events is in any fashion misleading I will see to it that it is corrected and resubmitted to the committee. And I will go back and look at it, and I will respond directly to you. But I believe -- and I don't -- I haven't flipped through it, but I believe what you'll find in essence is that we acknowledge that there were many different opinions as to why no tax count ought to be returned --
REP. CANADY: I suggest you read it --
MR. RUFF: -- but that there were three or four, including Congressman Railsback, Congressman Hogan, and I forget who the others were, who said specifically, I don't think, that tax evasion rises to the level of an impeachable offense.
REP. CANADY: That's not what it said.
REP. HYDE: Mr. Wexler.
MR. RUFF: I will see to it that it's corrected, congressman, if it doesn't --
REP. HYDE: I'm sorry, what?
REP. BILL MCCOLLUM (R-FL): I'd like to ask unanimous consent, Mr. Chairman --
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from Florida is recognized for a unanimous consent request.
REP. MCCOLLUM: I'd like to ask unanimous consent to put in the record at this point in time the Congressional Research Service report to you on the compilation of presidential claims of executive privilege from the Kennedy through the Clinton administrations.
REP. HYDE: Without objection, so ordered.
REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D-FL): Mr. Ruff, I think the American people owe you a debt of gratitude for today, I hope finally, putting to rest the argument that the president's lawyers, that the president's side, has not responded to the factual allegations against the president by presenting facts. It is undeniable that in your 180-page submission, yours, Mr. Kendall's, Mr. Craig's, that it is replete with dozens and dozens of pages of factual rebuttals to the claims against the president. And certainly your talk here today enunciates many of those factual rebuttals.
I would like to talk to the issue of executive privilege, because Mr. Starr has some pretty strong condemnations of what I guess is your legal wit, or your legal advice.
On page 207 of the report, Mr. Starr claims that some of the executive privilege claims were "patently groundless." Later on, on page 207, he refers to other assertions of executive privilege as "frivolous." If we turn his page to page 208, right after Mr. Starr either negligently misrepresented the quote of the president or just downright took it out of context -- we don't know -- he then cites the deception of, I guess, your legal advice and how it continued.
On page 209, he then seems to, I guess, get himself into your head, because he asserts to this committee that the executive privilege was not -- and I quote -- "The executive privilege was not the only claim of privilege interposed to prevent the grand jury from gathering relevant information."
Mr. Ruff, please take the remainder of my time. Tell us why you recommended to the president to assert executive privilege. Tell us, was your advice to assert a frivolous claim, a patently groundless claim?
MR. RUFF: Thank you for the opportunity, Congressman. I like to think that I don't give advice to advance frivolous claims in any setting, much less with the president of the United States exercising a constitutional privilege.
The law in the District of Columbia Circuit, most recently embodied in a case called "In Re Sealed Case" which dealt with assertions of executive privilege in the Espy investigation, makes it absolutely clear exactly what the rules are and how broadly the presidential communications privilege extends and what the legitimate boundaries are for that privilege. And it was within the rules set down by that case that we advanced our claims here; indeed, we advanced them substantially more narrowly than we might otherwise had done if we were in a different setting, because we certainly realized the importance and the gravity of the investigation that was being conducted.
Executive privilege was advanced, other than for the lawyers for whom it was wrapped into the attorney/client privilege, for only two individuals who, by the middle of March, had either had the claim withdrawn without a court ruling, because we believed there was no need for it, or the court had ruled against us and we did not pursue it.
So that whatever the independent counsel sees as the purpose -- and I certainly would deny any intention improperly to withhold information from the grand jury -- there can be no claim that it had even a measurable impact on the conduct of his investigation.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from Utah, Mr. Cannon.
REP. CANNON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ruff, I am going to hand you or have handed to you a couple of documents -- if I could have the staff do that -- and then while that's happening, I thought I'd ask you first questions.
REP./MR. : Thank you.
REP. CANNON: Yesterday, I asked Mr. Craig if he thought Judge Wright should deal with any wrongdoing by the president in the Jones suit, and he said yes.
Mr. Ruff, if Judge Wright does take action against the president for his conduct in the Jones suit -- and her options range from a mere admonishment to jail time -- are you willing to commit on behalf of the president and the White House, that the president will be subject to Judge Wright's discipline, if any, and pledge not to invoke the defense that the president is not subject to her jurisdiction because the impeachment proceedings under the Constitution is the only method of disciplining a sitting president?
MR. RUFF: I will say this, Congressman, and you pose a question to me I had not really had time to think about. I will say this, that the president has stated through me -- and I was very specific this morning -- that he, like any other citizen, is subject to the law. And that would certainly include -- because he has already been subjected to the civil proceeding -- subjected to the orders of the court.
The question of whether while he is still in office, a court could impose a sanction on --
REP. CANNON: Well, let me just shorten it and say that -- that you may argue that during his tenure in office --
MR. RUFF: Yeah.
REP. CANNON: -- but after he leaves office?
MR. RUFF: After he leaves office, just as I said --
REP. CANNON: Thank you. The reason I am asking that is that it would seem terribly inconsistent to use such a defense when the White House is now seeking the extraconstitutional measure of a censure.
Now, you said earlier that the first lady was found to be covered by the executive privilege.
MR. RUFF: Mmm-hmm. (In agreement.)
REP. CANNON: Does that mean that Judge Johnson agreed with the assertion that information could be withheld, or only that in the proper context, the president could assert privilege as to the first lady's discussions?
MR. RUFF: The latter.
REP. CANNON: Because in fact, the document or the information that was being sought was given to the independent counsel.
MR. RUFF: As was true of all claims of executive privilege in this matter, the judge ruled that the showing finally made by the independent counsel overcame our interest in confidentiality.
REP. CANNON: Incidentally, I had wanted to see how you were coming across on television when you invoked my name earlier --
MR. RUFF: Oh, I'm sorry --
REP. CANNON: -- and so I was in the room watching out there. I was riveted by your description --
MR. RUFF: I am sorry.
REP. CANNON: -- and let me just say that you are coming across quite well and I think that the way the information is coming forward I think will be helpful to people like Mr. Berman, who has made up his mind that he disagrees with you, but that's not because of your demeanor, I will say.
On the other hand, you were quite rough with the independent counsel. You said "misstated" and "misquoted" the issues that I had dealt with earlier. Looking at the documents, let me have you look at the document labeled number one, and there's a yellow tab there that will show you the part that's relevant. That's a declaration filed by you, which you referred to this morning, under the seal with the D.C. District Court on March 17th, 1998, in which you were attempting to assert executive privilege for Mr. Lindsey and Mr. Blumenthal.
MR. RUFF: Correct.
REP. CANNON: On the very last page, under penalty of perjury, you assert, quote, "I have discussed with the president these areas." Of course, you have many areas in there, but "these areas of inquiry, and the privileged nature of the information sought. The president has directed me to invoke formally the privileges applicable to these communications," unquote.
MR. RUFF: Yes, Congressman.
REP. CANNON: Now, a week later, while the first document was still under seal, the president was asked by the Washington Post in Africa about rumors that executive privilege was being asserted, and let me direct you to the document number two, which is that article. Now, this was at a time when there was a great deal of public interest in the issue of executive privilege and the president did not want to deal with that, so let me read you the characterization by the Post in that case, which is, "Clinton, who has not yet acknowledged publicly even that he is asserting executive privilege, was pressed by reporters to explain why he is trying to block testimony. His voice curt and his expression cold" -- that's the Post reporter saying that, not me -- "the president responded as though he were a bystander in a controversy, rather than its central character. 'All I know is I saw an article about it in the paper today,' said Clinton, referring to the packet of news clippings faxed each morning to him on the road. 'I haven't discussed that with my lawyers. I don't know. You should ask someone who knows.'"
Now my question is, did you discuss with President Clinton asserting executive privilege on behalf of the first lady in that document? In the document which you averred to. Look -- before you answer, let me just point out that --
REP. HYDE: Well, let me point out your time has elapsed, and I don't want to foreclose Mr. Ruff --
MR. RUFF: I'm happy to respond, Mr. Chairman, and I'll just be very brief.
REP. CANNON: Would you do that in the context of paragraph 44 in which you specifically referred to the first lady?
MR. RUFF: Yes. The situation -- and this is fully set out in pleadings subsequent to this, Congressman, which we'd be happy to point you to so that you have the full record. But this issue was litigated. The independent counsel made the argument that somehow the claim as to the conversations between Mr. Blumenthal and the first lady wasn't covered because it hadn't been adequately focused on by the president.
Now, in fact what I said in that subsequent litigation was, quite consistently with my declaration and with normal process, we had to -- because the independent counsel refused to provide any accommodation and tell us what he wanted, areas he wanted to talk in -- we had to go to the president and say, "They're inquiring about communications between Mr. Blumenthal, among others, and senior advisers to you, among whom is the first lady. We don't know what they're going to ask. We need your authorization, where an appropriate protected communication among senior advisers is sought, to be able to seek appropriate protection for it." The president authorized that.
Obviously, we could not, and I don't think anybody would have expected us to, go back to the president when a witness was in the grand jury and say, "Mr. President, they just asked Mr. Blumenthal about a conversation he had with Rahm Emanuel, the first lady, whoever it might be; would you specifically authorize us to assert the privilege?" And the court accepted that position.
REP. HYDE: I want to say to the gentleman from Utah that, as your time is expiring, asking a complicated question prolongs -- and I want to be fair to the witness.
MR. RUFF: My fault. I'm sorry.
REP. HYDE: No, it isn't fair to you.
REP. CANNON: Mr. Chairman, my question was very simple. It was only, had he talked to the president --
REP. : Regular order.
REP. CANNON: -- about asserting the privilege as to the first lady. I didn't hear the answer to that question.
REP. HYDE: Well, okay, but he -- well, we'll just move on.
Mr. Rothman from New Jersey.
REP. STEVEN ROTHMAN (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Mr. Ruff.
I would like to make some observations. In my opinion, those at this point in our inquiry who are advocating the impeachment of President Clinton based on the charges raised by Judge Starr are going to do two very dangerous things. One is to expand the Constitution's definition or standard for impeachment without getting a vote of the people or the states; and second, to turn traditional notions of fairness and American due process on their heads. And let me explain.
We were told by experts over the past several weeks that the original standard was treason, bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors against the state, and that the words "against the state" meant against the three branches of government, the president's ability to carry on his affairs of state. It was stated the words "against the state" -- "high crimes and misdemeanors against the state" -- that phrase "against the state" was taken out by the committee on style, without the intention of changing the meaning.
Those on the other side of the aisle and those who wish to have the president impeached at this stage of the proceedings say, well, forget about the words "against the state," it's not there, so let's talk about personal conduct; it's got to be -- if it's high crimes and misdemeanors, that's enough."
Well, we heard from the panel today of Republican and Democratic prosecutors that no responsible prosecutor would call the charges -- would raise the charges by Mr. Starr "crimes" and wouldn't indict on them. So then the folks on the other side of the aisle say, "Well, okay, it doesn't have to be a crime. It can just be a violation of the civil rule of law; and lying in a civil deposition is something that's bad, and we have to tell our children that it's bad."
And when we tell them that there's penalties by a civil court judge against lying under oath in a civil deposition, and that, as a matter of fact, maybe that was one of the reasons the president settled that civil case for $850,000, they say, "Well, maybe that's not enough."
What they want to do is add a new standard to the Constitution, "treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors, and wrongful non- criminal behavior." Well, I dare say that we can discuss the merits of that, but it's not presently in the Constitution.
Then they want to say that Judge Starr presents evidence in -- which he hasn't; he presents a referral, which everyone agrees would be not admissible. Then yourself, Mr. Ruff, and Mr. Kendall present your rebuttal to his referral, which is also not admissible. So we have not one single fact witness.
And they say, "Okay, but it's the president's obligation to prove his innocence" -- standing the long-standing notion in American justice that the accused doesn't have to raise a defense; it's up to the prosecution first to bear the burden of proof, here a clear and convincing standard of proof. They say it can be accomplished without one single fact witness.
I dare say that as I read history, the framers of the Constitution would have recoiled in horror and shock at the notion that we, as a Congress, must accept the word of a government official -- here, the prosecutor, the independent counsel -- without a single corroborating fact witness, not only to convict someone of a crime, but to impeach the president of the United States. They would say it's preposterous. Only if, as of today -- maybe they'll present some fact witnesses -- if you accept their notion that the -- what's occurred requires impeachment of the president, then you must say that the constitutional definition of impeachable offenses has been expanded and amended without the people's say-so and without the states' voting on it, and that we're going to turn the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof on the prosecution on its head, and make it a presumption of guilt and put the burden of proving one's innocence on the accused.
MR. : Thank you.
REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from Utah has a unanimous consent request.
REP. CANNON: Mr. Chairman, I request that the two documents I referred to earlier be inserted into the record.
REP. HYDE: Without objection, so ordered --
MR. : Do you need them back, Congressman or -- (off mike).
REP. : No, thank you. I have copies.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from California, Mr. Rogan.
REP. JAMES ROGAN (R-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ruff, good afternoon.
MR. RUFF: Good afternoon.
REP. ROGAN: I thank you for your very cogent and able presentation today.
I'm also going to say something that might surprise you. I think you're right when you say or essentially express the idea that words are everything; when it comes to looking at perjury and lying under oath, definitions may be misleading. They may even be maddening. But that's what we lawyers do. We're supposed to parse these statements and look at the hypertechnical definitions and whether reasonable inferences can be drawn.
I do want to make sure I understand your position. From the beginning, the president takes the position that he never lied to the American people or while giving testimony under oath; essentially, he simply misled them with a different definition, and he was sending the same message both to the American people and the court. Is that a fair --
MR. RUFF: I think that's fair, Congressman, yes.
REP. ROGAN: And he did that intentionally, because, in his own mind, he drew a distinction between the technical definition of "sexual relations" and the definition of "improper relationship" or something along those lines, which is how he now characterizes his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
MR. RUFF: Yes, I think that's correct.
REP. ROGAN: You suggested earlier in your testimony this is a distinction he has drawn since the Jones deposition. My notes indicate you said the definitions are one that he held in his mind in January and in August, and he has so testified.
MR. RUFF: Yes.
REP. ROGAN: And in determining whether the president either perjured himself or lied under oath in this matter, you're asking the committee to look to his state of mind from the beginning of this whole episode and make that determination?
MR. RUFF: Yes.
REP. ROGAN: That's, I think, a very fair analysis on a technical legal point. And I will say to you that I agree with you; that if the record supports this technical parsing, then I don't think this would be an appropriate avenue for us to go down by way of an impeachment resolution. Would you agree with me, however, if the record did not support that, and demonstrated the president was lying, that would be fair game for our committee to review?
MR. RUFF: If any member of this committee in good conscience, weighing the evidence, concludes that my assessment is wrong, of course you must take it up and determine what action is appropriate.
REP. ROGAN: Well let me share with you what troubles me in this area and see if it rises to that level. In the January 17th deposition -- the Paula Jones case -- the president was asked if he ever had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky and his answer was definitive. He said, "I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, I've never had an affair with her." And I take it that was the definition that he adopted that would protect him from being charged with lying.
MR. RUFF: I think there are two pieces to that; the sexual relations definition, which is encompassed in the actual document put before him, and what he has already testified, that a sexual affair or other sexual relationship encompasses for him sexual intercourse.
REP. ROGAN: That part I understand. Now let's move on to four days later. He was being interviewed by Jim Lehrer and he said -- actually, what he didn't say is interesting. He did not use that carefully crafted phrase to deny his conduct, he used a much broader phrase. And I'm quoting now from the interview of January 21st. He said, "There is no improper relationship." And Mr. Lehrer asked, "No improper relationship. Define what you mean by that." The president responded, "Well, I think you know what it means. "It means there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship."
On that very same day, the president sent his press secretary Michael McCurry out to deny -- that he had no "improper relationship," not a sexual relationship. And when the press asked Mr. McCurry to define what an "improper relationship" meant, Mr. McCurry gave the famous phrase, "I don't want to parse the words."
And finally, the president gave an interview to Roll Call. When he was asked about his relationship, the president said: "Let me say the relationship was not an improper one. But let me answer; it is not an 'improper relationship,' and I know what the word means."
(Representative Rogan continues reading from Roll Call transcript.)
Question: Was it in any way sexual?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: The relationship was not sexual. And I know what you mean, and the answer is no.
(End of Roll Call excerpt.)
(Representative Rogan continues.) And then we had the finger- wagging speech, a few days after that, where he said: "Everybody listen to me. I did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky."
Mr. Ruff, he used those phrases interchangeably.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.
The distinguished gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Barrett.
REP. THOMAS M. BARRETT (D-WI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ruff, I think you have done an excellent job this afternoon.
MR. RUFF: Thank you, Congressman.
REP. BARRETT: I think you have presented yourself very well. I think you have presented the president's case very well, and you can be proud of that.
I think that for the first time today in these proceedings, that those who are watching these proceedings and the members here are engaged because this is the first opportunity, I think, that really you have been able to take advantage of to present the president's side of the case.
This proceeding has been marked by claims, by the Democratic side, that this has not been a fair proceeding. You have said several times that you feel somewhat hampered because you don't know what you are responding to.
I have here the Articles of Impeachment, the four Articles of Impeachment, that have just been released to us. So apparently, out of the feeling of fairness, you have about four minutes to respond to the four Articles of Impeachment, which you have not seen.
The first article deals with --
REP. CONYERS: Would the gentleman yield just briefly? because we had agreed not to give them the articles until after they had finished so that it wouldn't disrupt the proceedings. They just came off the press, and it was given to the members. And it wasn't meant to disrespect Counsel for the President. So I was hoping that we didn't try to get into that at this point.
REP. BARRETT: Mmm-hmm. (In agreement.) Then I will withhold that.
But I will ask you, Mr. Ruff, because --
REP. : But I think that he should be able to --
REP. BARRETT: -- this is your last opportunity with a Democratic questioner in these proceedings.
From here we'll move to the stage where we have to make decisions. So I am the last questioner from this side of the aisle, and clearly the grand jury charge is the most serious charge. And I want you to make your argument again to this committee as to why the president should not be impeached for his statements before the grand jury.
MR. RUFF: Congressman, I think -- let me go right to what has been the heart of the debate here on this subject today, and is very real and it needs to be addressed in two respects. One is the pure, factual, what- would-trial-lawyers-do issue in a setting in which the president says he did not touch certain parts of Ms. Lewinsky's body and she says he did.
I think it's fair to say, amongst all those here who are former prosecutors, that that kind of conflict between two witnesses simply would never be pursued in a court of law. Should it be pursued in this committee? I think for the same reasons that you cannot reach the level of clear and convincing evidence, you ought not even to consider whether -- or you -- if you consider it, you cannot arrive at the conclusion that the president committed an act which would take you to the next level of the discussion; that is, a determination as to whether or not he ought to be impeached and removed from office.
But I want to pass over all of that and go to the heart of the issue, which is even if you take -- as some of the members on the majority side have suggested they do -- Ms. Lewinsky's testimony as the truthful version, I still am convinced, and I believe that it is the most consistent -- position most consistent with our Constitution and our history and our form of government, that you may criticize the president -- he has criticized himself. If you believe he acted in this fashion, you ought to censure him in whatever fashion seems most appropriate, but you cannot overturn the will of the people, even if you find that there is clear and convincing evidence -- which I do not think you can -- that the president was wrong and Monica Lewinsky was right on that point.
REP. BARRETT: Okay. Thank you.
And I would yield back the balance of my time, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: Thank the gentleman.
The distinguished gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Graham.
REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Thank you. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ruff, I agree with you; if it comes down to who touched who, we're not going to overturn the will of the people.
My quarrel is not with you, Mr. Ruff; I think you're a fine lawyer and have done a good job. My quarrel is with your client. My quarrel goes sort of like this:
We're bastardizing the English language. I can only believe your defense if I check my common sense at the door, and I forget the way the world really works. I'm singularly unimpressed with this defense. This defense is a rehashing of facts already in our presence, except the quote about in Africa. I do appreciate you reinterpreting the facts.
The term "alone" is a "get out of jail free" card, according to your client, because when you ask him, "Were you ever alone with a woman," he says, "Well, no, I wasn't," and he meant there were other people in the building. When you try to prosecute him for perjury based on a different version of how they related to each other, the defense says, "Well, you can't corroborate it, because there were only two people there; there was nobody else there." The term "alone" seems to be used in many ways, in an inconsistent way, and in an offensive way, to me. And if people in America follow Bill Clinton- speak, we're going to ruin the rule of law, and he's not worth that. No one person in America is worth trashing out the rule of law and creating a situation where you can't rely on your common sense.
I'm not through yet. The biggest problem I got with your client is not about a consensual affair gone awry; grand jury perjury -- no excuse anytime, anywhere. It's not about how they touched. I believe your client lied when he said he wasn't paying attention to the discussion that Mr. Bennett had with the judge. I've seen the videotaped deposition. He's following it very closely, nodding his head. He knew it was a false affidavit because he colluded, in my opinion, with Miss Lewinsky to defraud Paula Jones from getting to a relevant material fact. I believe that. Nothing has changed in my opinion there.
But the most disturbing thing about your client to me goes like this. Do you know Sidney Blumenthal?
MR. RUFF: I do.
REP. GRAHAM: Right after January the 18th, your client, for the first time, in my opinion, got wind of the fact that there may have been something known about Miss Lewinsky that his little collusion with her would not protect. They knew something he didn't know. This is a statement he makes to Mr. Blumenthal after Dick Morris -- who's a real character, but a pretty smart guy -- tells the president that if he'd just come clean, it may save him, because it might have saved Richard Nixon. And here's Blumenthal's discussion, according to Blumenthal's testimony -- are they close friends, by the way?
MR. RUFF: Who is close friends?
REP. GRAHAM: Blumenthal and the president.
MR. RUFF: I truly do not know the answer to that.
REP. GRAHAM: Okay. Well, let's -- we'll find out about that later.
"And I said to the president, 'What have you done wrong?' And he said, 'Nothing. I haven't done anything wrong.'
"I said, 'Well, then, that's one of the stupidest ideas I've ever heard' -- the idea being confessing. 'Why would you do that if you've done nothing wrong?'
"And it was at this point that he gave his account of what happened to me. And he said that Monica -- and it came very fast" -- listen, female members of this committee" -- he said, `Monica Lewinsky came at me and made a sexual demand on me.' He rebuffed her. He said, `I've gone down that road before, I've caused pain for a lot of people and I'm not going to do that again. She threatened me.' She said that she would tell people they had an affair and that she was known as `the stalker' among her peers and that she hated it, and that if she had an affair or said she had an affair then she wouldn't be `the stalker' anymore.
"And I repeated to the president that he really needed never to be near people who were troubled like this, that it was just -- he needed not to be near troubled people like this. And I said, `You need to find some sure footing here, some solid ground.' And he said, `I feel like a character in a novel. I feel like somebody who's surrounded by an oppressive force that's creating a lie about me and I can't get the truth out. I feel like the character in the novel, The Darkness at Noon.'"
Do you agree with me that the president of the United States is telling an operative -- for lack of a better word -- that Monica Lewinsky was a sexual predator coming on to him?
MR. RUFF: I take it that the implication in your use of the word "operative," Congressman, is that --
REP. GRAHAM: Ever who he -- ever what relationship Blumenthal had with him, he was passing on a story about Monica Lewinsky, giving this individual an impression that he was having to fight Monica Lewinsky off. Is that true or not?
MR. RUFF: You read the language, and I take it we can all understand it.
REP. GRAHAM: Thank you.
MR. RUFF: But the one thing I want to be absolutely certain of, because I think your implication is that this was somehow a directive to go out and trash Ms. Lewinsky or otherwise to denigrate her, and if that's true, let me tell you from someone who was involved I think from day one through today in what the White House was doing and not doing, didn't happen; never was thought of.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentlelady from California, Ms. Bono.
REP. BONO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll be happy to yield to Congressman Graham for the amount of time that he needs.
REP. GRAHAM: Let's continue that thought. Is it your testimony that no one in the White House has ever planted a story in the press that Monica Lewinsky is a stalker, unreliable, a troubled young lady, shouldn't be believed? Is that your testimony?
MR. RUFF: Congressman, obviously I wouldn't know whether there was ever anybody in the White House, but I will tell you this, that --
REP. GRAHAM: There was no organized effort.
MR. RUFF: There was no authorized effort --
REP. GRAHAM: Authorized effort.
MR. RUFF: -- because we thought long and hard about how to defend this president and how to deal with the very proceedings going on today and --
REP. GRAHAM: I want to re-thank you.
Thank you very much, you've answered my question.
MR. RUFF: And let me -- no, I have not, Mr. Congressman.
REP. GRAHAM: Please! Please let me continue. You're saying there's no organized effort. I have got a mountain of press stories -- January the 31st, 1998 -- "Should they paint her as a friendly fantacist (sic) or a malicious stalker? 'That poor child has serious emotional problems,' Representative Charlie Rangel said Tuesday night before the State of the Union. 'She's fantasizing and I haven't heard that she played with a full deck in other experiences.' One the most respected members of this House who was passing along something told to him by somebody. Charlie Rangel is a good man, but he was of the belief that this is a disturbed young lady.
I will read to you other press accounts shortly after -- "One White House aide called reporters to offer information about Monica Lewinsky's past, her weight problems and what they said was her nickname, the Stalker. Junior staff members speaking on the condition that they not be identified said she was known as a flirt who wore skirts too short and was a little bit weird." I can go on and on. "The troubled girl defense, the one White House aides have been quietly testing out on reporters is the troubled girl defense, the great feeler of all pain who also bears the scars of a turbulent upbringing was just being kind to Lewinsky because she was the child of a difficult divorce, because Bernard Lewinsky's parents were German Jews who escaped to El Salvador. The White House even speculated about family Holocaust scars."
I have tons of press reports linked back to the White House saying this girl is unreliable, that she is basically crazy and weird and I'm telling you, I believe your client left that deposition, planted a story in Blumenthal's mind and tried to get Betty Currie to believe, "she wanted to have sex with me and I couldn't do that --"
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman -- Mr. Chairman, a point of order.
REP. CANNON: He was trying to tell Betty Currie that she was coming on to him and that the president of the United States --
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman --
REP. CANNON: -- his state of mind is established based on what he told two people close to him and shortly after that -- and shortly after that --
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman, a point of order!
REP. CANNON: -- the press operation in the White House turns on this young lady. They were calling her unbelievably vile names, questioning her sanity, and if it had not been for that blue dress, they would have tore her to pieces.
MR. RUFF: Congressman, may I now --
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman -- Mr. Chairman, a point of order. Charlie Rangel's name has been mentioned as if he was working in connection with the White House --
REP. CANNON: No, sir -- I -- I ---
REP. FRANK: (Inaudible due to cross talk) -- order, the gentleman --
REP. : Regular order.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from Michigan.
REP. CONYERS: I really think the -- (inaudible due to cross talk) -- were more careful about the use of members -- of integrity in the House and what their connection is with the narrative that my distinguished colleague --
REP. HYDE: Well, the chair will say he heard Mr. Graham read from a newspaper account.
REP. GRAHAM: Yes, can I please make this correct. I have no higher opinion of anybody than Charlie Rangel. He's a Marine Corps veteran who served in Korea. Charlie Rangel was repeating something somebody told him.
REP. CONYERS: How do you know?
REP. GRAHAM: He had no reason to believe -- I believe that's what the newspaper account shows, that Mr. Rangel was passing on a thought planted in his mind, and he's a very innocent victim of the spin machine, like maybe all of us are around here.
REP. WATERS: Mr. Rangel is -- (inaudible due to cross talk) -- speak his own words. He don't need to have anybody plant -- (cross talk) --
REP. HYDE: The gentlelady is not recognized. The gentleman's time has almost expired, and --
REP. GRAHAM: I yield back the balance of my time, and I really will introduce --
REP. FRANK: Mr. Chairman, point of order -- the witness was on the point of answering when --
REP. GRAHAM: Oh, all right --
REP. HYDE: Point of order --
REP. FRANK: -- when -- couldn't the witness have a chance to answer?
REP. HYDE: He surely should. The gentleman may answer if he wishes.
MR. RUFF: I would only make two points, with all due respect, Congressman. Other than your speculation, you have no basis to suggest that the president of the United States ever directed any such sort of --
REP. GRAHAM: Mr. Ruff?
MR. RUFF: Let me --
REP. GRAHAM: How do you establish state of mind of a witness?
MR. RUFF: Let me -- all right, I think out of all due courtesy, I'm entitled to 30 seconds to respond to a ten-minute question.
REP. GRAHAM: Okay.
MR. RUFF: You have no basis for making that allegation, and I will tell you that to the extent I have any personal knowledge, I will represent to you that to the contrary, a very careful and well- considered decision was made to do our damnedest to ensure that in fact no such personal attack was ever made.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman. Everybody is -- Mr. Nadler?
REP. NADLER: I don't know if this is a point of order or what, but I just ask that the chair would suggest to the witness he speak more closely to the microphone.
REP. HYDE: (Chuckles.) Thank you.
MR. RUFF: I apologize. It's been a long afternoon, but I'll try to stay close.
REP. JENKINS: Mr. Chairman?
REP. HYDE: Yes, Mr. Jenkins?
REP. JENKINS: Mr. Chairman, I have time remaining, and I yield it to the gentleman from South Carolina.
REP. GRAHAM: Mr. Ruff, I'll --
REP. FRANK: Parliamentary inquiry!
REP. WATERS (?): Time? What time?
REP. HYDE: The gentleman may state a -- just a moment, I'm about to entertain a parliamentary inquiry. What is your inquiry?
REP. FRANK: I've just a question -- Mr. Jenkins hasn't been called on at all before?
REP. HYDE: He reserved his time.
Mr. Graham has been yielded Mr. Jenkins' time.
REP. GRAHAM: I suggest this solution to this problem -- that I will get the press reports that I am referring to, and I will introduce them into the record, and every committee member will have a chance to look and see what was going on toward Ms. Lewinsky, what was coming out of the White House, and they can make their own decisions about how this started.
I also would like to point both -- the committee members to the fact that we have statements from the president shortly after the deposition, where he is planting in the mind of Mr. Blumenthal a story that is patently false, a story that -- if you believe -- he was having to defend himself from Monica Lewinsky, the stalker, a term he used. Shortly after the president used the term "stalker," we see press accounts where White House sources are calling her a stalker. He goes to his secretary the day after the deposition and runs a passage by her basically saying, "She wanted to have sex with me, and I couldn't do that." I've always wondered what that was about. Now I believe it's not so much trying to influence her testimony as to plant into Ms. Currie's mind or thought pattern that Monica Lewinsky was coming on to him.
Every member needs to look at this. This is something that is more than consensual sex; this is something, in my opinion, ladies and gentleman, where a high public official is using the trappings of his office, the White House, to go after a potential witness who, if that witness is called and gives testimony down the road in a sworn fashion, not just tapes, that what he is trying to do is set up a defense to make her not believable. That this witness possesses information that would hurt his political and legal interests, and the president of the United States, I believe, planted stories that were false.
And shortly after those stories were planted, the White House operation went into effect notifying the press that if you ever hear anything about this witness, you need to know she's unreliable, she's a stalker, she's basically not a responsible person. That Bill Clinton did, in fact, like so many women in the past, so many women in the past -- that Monica Lewinsky was going to go through hell. And that the only thing that stopped this was it was just maybe one too many women to trash out, or it became the blue dress. You can think what you want to about Linda Tripp, but I can tell you right now, I believe in the bottom of my heart, ladies and gentlemen, that if she didn't have that blue dress proving a relationship, they would have cut her up.
And I've got evidence in the press reports coming out from the White House sources after the president plants in the minds of two people close to him that she was coming on to him. That was a false story, and I do believe for a moment in time the president of the United Stats used the full power and force of the White house to go after a young lady so that he (sic) couldn't hurt him politically and legally.
And that is far more like Watergate than Peyton Place. And I'm going to believe that probably till I die. And I don't ask you to accept my rendition of the facts. I do ask every member, especially the female members here -- if you've ever done a rape trial, you know what comes women's way sometimes; they wear their skirts too tight and they're flirtatious, and you gotta watch out for these type ladies; they even called her Elvira at one time in one of the press reports -- that this is serious. And I do wish the president would reconcile him with the law, Mr. Ruff -- himself with the law.
REP. WATERS: Mr. Chairman.
REP. GRAHAM: I do with he would quit saying "alone" means one thing one time and means something else. I do believe that the president of the United States was willing to use the weight of his office, take a consensual sex partner, a 22-year-old lady, and he was going to turn on her, and they were going to unleash stuff on her that she would never have been able to handle.
And that to me is far worse or as bad as anything that anybody has brought to my attention in this case, and I need to reconcile this in my mind, and I'll try keep an open heart so we can bring this country together. But I will give the members of the committee the press reports, and you can read for yourself what they were about to do and what they were calling this young lady. And it was not going to be pretty.
And I will yield back the balance of my time.
REP. WATERS: Mr. Chairman.
REP. FRANK: Mr. Chairman, a unanimous consent request.
REP. GRAHAM: And I will apologize -- I will apologize to this committee.
REP. FRANK: Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous consent request.
REP. GRAHAM: I was (being ?) upset because this --
REP. HYDE: If -- if -- if --
REP. WATERS: Mr. Chairman, personal privilege. Personal privilege. Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: If you will just please be quiet. Mr. Buyer has time that he wants to use now.
REP. FRANK: Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous consent request.
REP. HYDE: But I will be happy to entertain motions. Mr. Frank has a motion.
REP. FRANK: I would ask unanimous --
REP. WATERS: Point of personal privilege.
REP. HYDE: I'll get to you next. Just a minute.
REP. FRANK: I would ask unanimous consent, after that loaded, filibustered question, that the gentleman be given a chance to respond. To put a question such as that, to use up the full five minutes deliberately so that there can be no chance to respond is inappropriate, and I would ask unanimous consent that the witness be given a couple of minutes to respond.
REP. HYDE: I would join in that unanimous consent to give Mr. Ruff time. But before we get to that, we have Ms. Watters to deal with.
Ms. Waters. (Laughter.)
REP. WATERS: Point of personal privilege. I resent Mr. Lindsey's (sic) reference --
REP. GOODLATTE (?): Mr. Chairman, regular order.
REP. : Regular order.
REP. HYDE: Ms. Waters, have you a point of order?
REP. WATERS: Yes, my point of personal privilege is the reference that he made to every woman on this committee.
REP. GRAHAM: Ma'am, I didn't mean to --
REP. HYDE: Well, that certainly includes you. (Laughter.)
REP. GRAHAM: I didn't mean to -- I certainly didn't mean to do anything disparaging. All I'm saying is I've been a prosecutor in these cases.
REP. WATERS: I know what you did not mean to do, but have a point of personal privilege --
REP. GRAHAM: Yes, ma'am.
REP. HYDE: Please state your point.
REP. WATERS: -- which I'm (appealing ?) to -- my point is that he made a reference to what every woman on this committee should do and how we should feel about the spin that he just put on wild allegations about the president of the United States.
I think, as one of the women of this committee, and every other woman should have an opportunity to respond since he is talking for us and about us.
REP. : Regular order, Mr. Chairman.
REP. : Order.
REP. : Regular order.
REP. HYDE: I think your point is you've taken offense, and you've expressed your resentment and --
REP. WATERS: No, I have not. I'm asking for permission to do such, Mr. Chairman.
REP. GRAHAM: I apologize if I've offended her.
REP. : Regular order, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: Well, it really isn't a point of order. It is -- I want you to express yourself, I think you have. Could you do it another minute maybe?
REP. WATERS: Yes. I would like to say that every member of this committee should be offended by the spin that was just -- the wild spin that was just put on by Mr. Lindsey (referring to Rep. Graham) in attempting to somehow send a message to Monica Lewinsky that she's been undermined by the president of the United States, and thus set her up to be angry at the president in case she's called as a witness. We're no fools.
REP. HYDE: Thank you very much.
Now Mr. Buyer is recognized --
REP. FRANK: Mr. Chairman, our unanimous consent request.
REP. HYDE: Who -- I'm sorry. Mr. Ruff is recognized for three minutes.
MR. RUFF: I'll try not to use all of that time, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your letting me respond.
Congressman Graham, I have the greatest respect for you. I have to make two fundamental points. One, I absolutely reject the notion that the president of the United States, either explicitly or implicitly, authorized, directed, hinted at or caused any such attack of the sort you describe.
But second, I must say, even out of the greatest respect for members of this committee, that to be greeted at the end of a long day by the next-to-the-last speaker with a litany of charges never heard before, not even, I believe, included in whatever document it was that I was handed a few minutes ago, does not give us any reasonable opportunity for fair response. And I would ask the chair's permission that if this is to be in any respect a factor in the consideration of this committee's grave duties over the next few days, that we be given an opportunity first to have clear and explicit statements by the Congressman with whatever supporting information he believes he has; and second, a reasonable opportunity to respond.
REP. HYDE: Well, we have a schedule we are trying to adhere to.
Mr. Graham can put together a package of his documentation and get it to you immediately for your review and response. We are not going to be through with our business, I don't think, until Saturday at the earliest. And anything you want to add by way of rebuttal or amplification or commentary would be received by the committee.
I guess this is kind of a wild-card situation, unanticipated. But --
REP. GRAHAM: Mr. Chairman, since I was -- (referred to ?) -- I'll be glad to do that. And in terms of the timing, as I have said, this became clear to me after trying to figure out what he was saying to Betty Currie. And we'll all have a chance to evaluate --
REP. WATERS: Regular order.
REP. GRAHAM: -- if it makes any sense. And I will gladly give you the press releases --
REP. WATERS: Regular order, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: Well, I think we are trying to wind this up. And I am trying to get Mr. Graham -- and he seems to be agreeing -- to present his information to Mr. Ruff, whereupon Mr. Ruff can analyze it and respond in some appropriate way.
You just let me know how you want to do it, if you want to come back. But --
MR. RUFF: I will be glad to do that. I appreciate it, Mr. Chairman. We will work within your timelines.
REP. HYDE: Very good.
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman, I was hoping that there would be a way to work out for his return; that Mr. Ruff would need to be back, if he so desired.
REP. FRANK: He thought you were his friend, John.
REP. HYDE: If Mr. Ruff so desires -- but I would hope this could be handled through the U.S. mails --
REP. WATERS: No.
MR. RUFF: If I could leave this --
REP. HYDE: Yes, yes.
MR. RUFF: -- if I could leave this open, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Conyers, thank you for the opportunity. If I could get back to you and let you know --
REP. CONYERS: Yes.
MR. RUFF: -- how best we would like to be able to respond.
REP. CONYERS (?): That's fair.
REP. HYDE: Sure. We will give you an opportunity to respond. But we are on a schedule that -- you see, we have to file our report next week. It has to lay over two days. Christmas is coming, and all of this enters into our calculus. But you are entitled to respond because those were serious charges, and they --
MR. RUFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: All right.
Now Mr. Buyer is recognized for five minutes.
REP. STEVE BUYER (R-IN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I was struck by Ms. Waters' comments that somehow Mr. Graham's statements here was an effort to anger Monica Lewinsky against the president. You know, my reading of a lot of the evidence here, Mr. Ruff, when I read Monica Lewinsky's deposition, after the president's statement to the American people on August 17th, there wasn't anybody that could have angered Monica Lewinsky more than that statement. So I don't think anything anybody here can do, the president pretty well angered Monica Lewinsky and it really came out in that deposition she gave to Ken Starr. I just wanted to share that with you.
One thing that is bothering me is that part of your defense here today, and Mr. Craig's of yesterday, is to come before the committee and to make an admission that the president's intent was to be evasive and incomplete, mislead, yet he was legally and technically accurate in anything and everything he did. And not only all of yesterday but today you were also very accurate never, ever to say the president lied. So you've done a good job. You never fell for that. So you stuck with the game plan.
Now, I agree with you, to prove perjury -- earlier you made the comment you must make -- the trier here must make an assessment, it must be plausible and believable explanation with regard to the state of mind. Okay? Now, if in fact you have a witness who has perhaps a motive to lie, if in fact they are not helpful, they have an attitude to be misleading, to be evasive, to be incomplete, that all of that is relevant evidence to the trier of fact; is it not?
MR. RUFF: Absolutely, it is.
REP. BUYER: It is. Okay.
Now, one thing that I'm trying to reconcile, and Mr. Graham brought up the comment about, you know, if I have to believe some of the defense, you're saying to leave our common sense out the door. So here's one thing that does bother me. I hate to go back to the gifts, but I'm going to go back to the gifts for the moment because this question about feigned forgetfulness.
Now, you work with the president more than anyone else in this room, perhaps, and Bruce Lindsey knows him much, much better. The president's memory is very good, is it not?
MR. RUFF: It is.
REP. BUYER: Now, I guess what is troubling to me is when I read the referral -- out of the referral here, and it's in reference to -- it says a day or two after Christmas. Now, I remember that, because I was with the president on Air Force One and we went to Bosnia and when we came back from Bosnia, a few days later, what happens? Miss Currie lets Monica Lewinsky into the White House on a Sunday morning, December 28th. Now, she lets her in there so she can give gifts to the president. But now what's interesting is, is that what happened later. The two of them, according to the referral, which cites then the grand jury testimony, is that she wants to know how she ended up on the witness list. The president is not sure how she ended up on the witness list and said, well, it must have been Linda Tripp, or maybe it was the Secret Service. See, he didn't know at the time.
But then she says, she mentioned with anxiety that she received a subpoena with regard to the hatpin. And he asked a specific question about the hatpin. Then three weeks later -- three weeks later -- the president, in asked a specific question at the civil deposition with regard to what gifts did you give, he said, "I don't remember, do you know what gifts?"
MR. RUFF: It's the last part that's --
REP. BUYER: Pardon?
MR. RUFF: It's the last part that's important, Congressman, that's --
REP. BUYER: Yeah, but this feigned memory about "I don't recall." There are a -- I don't have time, I see that my yellow light is on, but I have a series of case law and I know you have seen it also, where individuals have been prosecuted for "I don't recall," "I don't know," "I don't remember," when, in fact, they know. And so what I have difficulty reconciling, and I want you to give your explanation is, is in fact the president -- and I agree with you, has a great memory -- even asked the witness about the hatpin, then testifies and says, "I don't know," "I don't recall."
Can you -- can you please -- I'd ask unanimous consent that Mr. Ruff be permitted to answer that question to reconcile --
MR. RUFF: I'll do it very briefly, because you yourself pointed at the critical issue, there, and I commend you not only to the transcripts of his testimony, but when we all get to see it, to the video as well. It's clear that what he's saying is, "I don't recall, please remind me." It's a -- virtually one sentence -- and what he's -- look, I don't know how many presents the president gets, but lots. What he said was not, "I don't recall any," "I don't recall -- not ever getting gifts." What he said was, "I don't recall, tell me which ones, remind me which ones they are." And that, it seems to me, is the natural human response under the circumstances --
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.
REP. : Mr. Chairman?
REP. HYDE: Who's speaking? Yes?
REP. GOODLATTE: I have a unanimous consent request?
REP. HYDE: Yes, please state it.
REP. GOODLATTE: I would ask that -- unanimous consent that a letter signed by about 80 scholars and former elected officials and Cabinet members and so on calling for the impeachment of the president rebutting some of the information earlier submitted by other scholars be made a part of the record.
REP. HYDE: Without objection, so ordered.
The gentlelady from California.
REP. WATERS: Unanimous consent request, Mr. Chairman. I have a letter here that was sent by one of our colleagues, Mr. Alcee Hastings, talking about the way that information was received in his case, and asking that that information be provided in ways that other members of Congress would have easy access.
REP. HYDE: Without objection, it may be made a part of the record.
We have reached the end of a stimulating day. And I want to thank Mr. Ruff for his patience and for his superb presentation.
We will convene at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. And so these hearings pursuant to House Resolution 581 are concluded, and the committee stands adjourned until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.
Copyright © 1998 by Federal News Service, Inc. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's original duties. Transcripts of other events may be found at the Federal News Service Web site, located at www.fnsg.com.