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.
Use of a federal grand jury to compile evidence for possible impeachment proceedings in Congress raises numerous troubling questions regarding the credibility of that evidence. Indeed, given the limited role of a grand jury in our system and the total absence of procedural protections in the process, the Independent Counsel's insistence that his investigation has been a search for "truth" is deeply misleading. In fact, it has been a one-sided effort to present the worst possible version of a limited set of facts.
Section 595(c) requires the OIC to provide the House with "substantial and credible information . . . that may constitute grounds for impeachment." But a grand jury is a totally unsuitable vehicle for generating information that can, without more, be taken as credible beyond challenge. The grand jury's historic role is not to determine the truth but rather to act as an accusatory body. United States v. Williams, 504 U.S. 36, 51 (1992). The process excludes contrary views of the information gathered and fails to identify the kinds of exculpatory information that might have been elicited or presented had a targeted individual, and not just the OIC, had an opportunity to cross-examine and the ability to compel responses.
Because it is inherently so one-sided and untested by cross-examination, it normally is not permissible to use grand jury testimony as a basis for anything other than permitting a grand jury to indict or decline to indict. It may constitute nothing more than hearsay, Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359, 364 (1956), or even multiple hearsay evidence which would likely be excluded from a trial. Indeed, the information a grand jury gathers is not circumscribed by the Federal Rules of Evidence at all, see Fed. R. Evid. 1101(d)(2), nor delimited by the other safeguards of reliability which would be enforced at trial. The testimony a grand jury elicits is not subject to impeachment by interested parties, and such testimony may come from immunized witnesses, from witnesses who fear prosecution, from witnesses prepared by the prosecution, from witnesses with a history of untruthfulness or from disinterested witnesses. On the record of the grand jury there need be no distinction among these sources, despite the fact that their reliability varies greatly.
In its day-to-day operations, no judge presides over grand jury proceedings. United States v. Williams, 504 U.S. 36, 48 (1992). Grand jury witnesses do not have counsel present. Fed. R. Crim P. 6(d). The Double Jeopardy Clause does not prevent a grand jury from returning an indictment after a first grand jury has declined to do so. Ex Parte United States, 287 U.S. 241, 250-51 (1932). The exclusionary rule does not apply to grand jury proceedings. United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 349 (1974). Grand jury witnesses have no right to respond with information, however related, if it is not called for by the prosecution, and targets and subjects of its inquiry have no compulsory process to gather and present their side of the matter. Nor does the target of a grand jury inquiry have any right to offset potentially incriminating information with exculpatory information in his possession. Williams, 504 U.S. at 55. In short, the most basic techniques our adversary system of justice employs for testing and assuring the reliability of evidence are completely missing in the grand jury context.
As a consequence, "reliability" simply is not the touchstone of a grand-jury inquiry. The Supreme Court itself has said that "the mere fact that evidence is unreliable is not sufficient to require a dismissal of [an] indictment." Bank of Nova Scotia v. United States, 487 U.S. 250, 261 (1988). The same is true of "inadequate or incompetent" evidence. Its presence will not justify dismissal of an indictment. Calandra, 414 U.S. at 345; see also Holt v. United States, 218 U.S. 245 (1910) (same).
It must therefore be recognized that it is not the grand jury's function to provide information about anything that can be taken as true on its face. Its function is not to get at the ultimate truth. The grand jury's inquisitorial powers serve but one end: to empower a body of citizens to make a threshold decision whether to initiate the search for truth that is the purpose of adversarial proceedings or to decline to indict and thereby forego that search altogether. Only after the grand jury renders that threshold decision does the search for truth really commence because only then are the adversary system's credibility-assessing mechanisms available.
The grand jury secrecy rule, Rule 6(e), Fed. R. Crim. P., is justified indeed, mandated by this reality. Grand jury information is to be kept secret largely because it has been generated without the protections of the adversarial system. Unlike information presented in a trial setting, grand jury information presents an enormous risk that persons' reputations will be injured or destroyed on the basis of non-credible or insubstantial assertions. That harm may damage both witnesses and persons who are subjects of witness testimony. That is why, when a grand jury elects to indict, grand jury materials are sealed and withheld from the petit jury ultimately convened to find the truth and render a verdict.
Accordingly a fair report from the OIC would, inter alia, provide all exculpatory evidence, assess the credibility of witnesses in terms of bias, reason to falsify, prior inconsistent statements, etc., and draw reasonable inferences. A fair report would identify shortcomings in the investigation itself, including any excesses, mistakes, errors in judgment, or impermissible tactics. A fair report would demonstrate that every possible effort had been made to identify all possibly exculpatory evidence, and that all such evidence had been given appropriate weight. And a fair report would address honestly and answer truthfully the following questions:
1) What were Linda Tripp's motives in seeking out the OIC in January, 1998? Did she articulate a fear of being prosecuted in Maryland under that State's anti-taping laws? Why did she request immunity from prosecution? Why was she given immunity?
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