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Initial White House Rebuttal to Starr Report

From Clinton lawyer David Kendall's response to independent counsel Kenneth Starr's report to the House. See table of contents.


PRELIMINARY MEMORANDUM CONCERNING
REFERRAL OF OFFICE OF INDEPENDENT COUNSEL

This document is intended to be a preliminary response to the Referral submitted by the Office of Independent Counsel to The Congress. Because we were denied the opportunity to review the content, nature or specifics of the allegations made against the President by the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC), we do not pretend to offer a point-by-point refutation of those allegations, or a comprehensive defense of the President.

We commend the House of Representatives for the extraordinary steps it has taken to safeguard the secrecy of the OIC's allegations. Unfortunately, its efforts were thwarted by unnamed sources familiar with the details of the OIC's allegations – sources that could only come from the OIC itself – who saw fit to leak elements of the allegations to the news media.

Based on these illegal leaks, as well as our knowledge of the President's testimony, we offer this document as a summary outline of his side of the case. We will provide you with a specific rebuttal as soon as we have had a chance to review the materials that the OIC has already transmitted to you.

The simple reality of this situation is that the House is being confronted with evidence of a man's efforts to keep an inappropriate relationship private. A personal failure that the President has acknowledged was wrong, for which he apologized, and for which he accepts complete responsibility. A personal failure for which the President has sought forgiveness from members of his family, members of the Cabinet, Members of Congress, and the American people. Such a personal failing does not, however, constitute "treason, bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors" that would justify the impeachment of the President of the United States.

The President himself has described his conduct as wrong. But no amount of gratuitous details about the President's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, no matter how salacious, can alter the fact that:

    1) The President did not commit perjury;
    2) The President did not obstruct justice;
    3) The President did not tamper with witnesses; and
    4) The President did not abuse the power of his office.

Impeachment is a matter of incomparable gravity. Even to discuss it is to discuss overturning the electoral will of the people. For this reason, the Framers made clear, and scholars have long agreed, that the power should be exercised only in the event of such grave harms to the state as "serious assaults on the integrity of the processes of government," or "such crimes as would so stain a president as to make his continuance in office dangerous to public order." Charles L. Black, Impeachment: A Handbook 38-39 (1974). We do not believe the OIC can identify any conduct remotely approaching this standard. Instead, from press reports, if true, it appears that the OIC has dangerously overreached to describe in the most dramatic of terms conduct that not only is not criminal but is actually proper and lawful.

The President has confessed to indiscretions with Ms. Lewinsky and accepted responsibility and blame. The allegations concerning obstruction, intimidation, perjury and subornation of perjury that we anticipate from the OIC are extravagant attempts to transform a case involving inappropriate personal behavior into one of public misconduct justifying reversal of the judgment of the electorate of this country.


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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