THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner Questions Starr
Thursday, November 19, 1998
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Let me say that the clock does not run slower on this side of the table as apparently it does over on the other side.
I was struck, Mr. Chairman, that for the first hour-plus Mr. Lowell's questions completely avoided and evaded the principal charges that have been in your referral, Judge Starr. And only after his second extension in the last five or six minutes did he get to the charges that specifically allege misconduct by the president of the United States.
I would hope that during these proceedings the rule of law is not on trial. That is something that has served our country well for over 200 years. The rule of law I think is paramount, and with the rule of law goes the notion that everybody stands before the law equally, whether they be president or pauper, whether they be powerful or poor.
So, having said that, let me ask you, Judge Starr, whether you believe that there is any difference in the law of perjury and the law of making false statements to a grand jury, just because they happen to relate to sexual matters.
MR. STARR: They do not, Mr. Sensenbrenner. As I have tried to indicate in the opening statement, as we have indicated in the referral, perjury is extraordinarily serious business. It is insidious. The courthouse cannot operate if perjury is allowed to either be excused or to be minimized. And why should we in fact go through the process of saying there is an oath. We want you to tell your -- we want your honesty -- that's what we ask in court. We want your honesty. And it does not matter whether the issue has to do with sexual harassment or bankruptcy or the criminal law. It is all dreadfully serious. And i my reading -- I know that there is scholarly commentary to the opposite effect -- perjury would in fact have been viewed as an impeachable offense at the time of the Republic. And courts from that time on have taken perjury as extraordinarily serious, regardless of the kind of case.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: Judge Starr, folks back home have come up to me and said, "Why don't you drop this whole impeachment thing, because everybody lies about sex and the president ought to have the opportunity to lie about sex just like everybody else."
I'm concerned about the impact of that attitude if it ends up being adopted around the country on a lot of essential protections that the law provides, particularly for women. For example, every sexual harassment suit is about sex. That's of its very nature. And much of our litigation, both civil and criminal, of domestic violence has at least some element of sex involved in it.
If people can perjure themselves in court about sex, don't you think that that makes our sexual harassment laws and our domestic violence laws less meaningful, and in many cases unenforceable?
MR. STARR: Yes. Well, it certainly makes them -- I agree fully that it would make them less meaningful. And it would certainly make it much more difficult to enforce if we did not take acts of perjury or obstruction seriously in this particular category of case.
REP. SENSENBRENNER: I have one further question which has been referred to before. There are some that have said that the testimony about Monica Lewinsky in the president's civil deposition in the Paula Jones case was not material as a result of an order which you obtained from Judge Wright right after the expansion of your jurisdiction into the Lewinsky matter. Could you please describe what that order did and why you sought it and what its effect was on those allegations of perjury and false statement that you made in your referral relative to the Jones civil deposition?
MR. STARR: Yes. Number one, we tried to put a stop quickly, immediately, to the Jones lawyers' efforts to notice depositions of witnesses in our grand jury matter. Mr. Chairman, may I just -- I'll make this very brief.
REP. HYDE: Surely. That's more a restriction on the questioner --
MR. STARR: Oh, I see.
REP. HYDE: -- than the questionee.
MR. STARR: You may regret that, because I -- (laughter) --
REP. HYDE: Please.
MR. STARR: Yes. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. But we went to the judge, and the judge -- and we asked for a stay of discovery. And the judge, in response to our request for a stay, then went on to determine, under an analysis that I was trying to describe, to Mr. Lowell's apparent irritation, Rule 403, but it was the issue that Judge Wright was wrestling with, which is a weighing or balancing process.
And she determined that this evidence, although possibly admissible, should be excluded because the dangers to the criminal justice process -- I mean, her order should speak for itself and I shouldn't be paraphrasing the judge's order. The point is, she responded to our concern when we were trying to vindicate the integrity of our criminal justice investigation.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman --
MR. STARR: But that has no -- I'm so sorry.
REP. HYDE: Go ahead.
MR. STARR: That was point one. Point two: That has no effect whatsoever on materiality, which was the second part of your question, because that is a legal concept that fortunately is very consistent with common sense. Materiality is measured at the time that the statement is made. It doesn't matter what eventually happens in the lawsuit.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Conyers.
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