President Trump has nominated to the Supreme Court a man who once co-wrote a report saying a president who lies, even if not under oath, could be impeached.
That's a vast oversimplification of Brett Kavanaugh's role in drafting the 1998 Starr Report, which laid out grounds for impeaching President Bill Clinton that included lying to his staff and the American people. But it's strictly accurate. And given that Trump has now nominated Kavanaugh, it presents Democrats with a chance to pepper him with questions about an uncomfortable topic for Trump.
Whether that actually gets them anywhere is a different question. Kavanaugh confronted some similar queries in his 2004 confirmation hearing for his appeals court seat, and he didn't budge. "It was not our place to say what the House should do with that or what the Senate should do with that evidence," he said when pressed by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Kavanaugh also stressed back then -- as his allies and some legal scholars emphasize now -- that we shouldn't assume that every ground for impeachment listed was tantamount to Kavanaugh or anybody else saying Clinton *should* have been impeached for those things. He said they were possible grounds "based on history and historical practice."
Given the questions that are probably headed his way, though, we thought it worth parsing and annotating exactly what the Starr Report says -- especially the areas that could be applicable to Trump's case. Below are relevant sections on grounds for impeachment, to which Kavanaugh said in 2004 that he contributed. (He said he did not write the "narrative" section, involving Clinton's actions. You can read the omitted portions and the Starr report in its entirety here.)
To see an annotation, click on the yellow, highlighted text. And a quick disclaimer for anyone who has forgotten the late 1990s: This includes some graphic sexual references.
Pursuant to Section 595(c) of Title 28, the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC) hereby submits substantial and credible information that President Clinton obstructed justice during the Jones v. Clinton sexual harassment lawsuit by lying under oath and concealing evidence of his relationship with a young White House intern and federal employee, Monica Lewinsky. After a federal criminal investigation of the President's actions began in January 1998, the President lied under oath to the grand jury and obstructed justice during the grand jury investigation. There also is substantial and credible information that the President's actions with respect to Monica Lewinsky constitute an abuse of authority inconsistent with the President's constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws.
There is substantial and credible information supporting the following eleven possible grounds for impeachment:
- President Clinton lied under oath in his civil case when he denied a sexual affair, a sexual relationship, or sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.
- President Clinton lied under oath to the grand jury about his sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.
- In his civil deposition, to support his false statement about the sexual relationship, President Clinton also lied under oath about being alone with Ms. Lewinsky and about the many gifts exchanged between Ms. Lewinsky and him.
- President Clinton lied under oath in his civil deposition about his discussions with Ms. Lewinsky concerning her involvement in the Jones case.
- During the Jones case, the President obstructed justice and had an understanding with Ms. Lewinsky to jointly conceal the truth about their relationship by concealing gifts subpoenaed by Ms. Jones's attorneys.
- During the Jones case, the President obstructed justice and had an understanding with Ms. Lewinsky to jointly conceal the truth of their relationship from the judicial process by a scheme that included the following means: (i) Both the President and Ms. Lewinsky understood that they would lie under oath in the Jones case about their sexual relationship; (ii) the President suggested to Ms. Lewinsky that she prepare an affidavit that, for the President's purposes, would memorialize her testimony under oath and could be used to prevent questioning of both of them about their relationship; (iii) Ms. Lewinsky signed and filed the false affidavit; (iv) the President used Ms. Lewinsky's false affidavit at his deposition in an attempt to head off questions about Ms. Lewinsky; and (v) when that failed, the President lied under oath at his civil deposition about the relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.
- President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice by helping Ms. Lewinsky obtain a job in New York at a time when she would have been a witness harmful to him were she to tell the truth in the Jones case.
- President Clinton lied under oath in his civil deposition about his discussions with Vernon Jordan concerning Ms. Lewinsky's involvement in the Jones case.
- The President improperly tampered with a potential witness by attempting to corruptly influence the testimony of his personal secretary, Betty Currie, in the days after his civil deposition.
- President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice during the grand jury investigation by refusing to testify for seven months and lying to senior White House aides with knowledge that they would relay the President's false statements to the grand jury -- and did thereby deceive, obstruct, and impede the grand jury.
- President Clinton abused his constitutional authority by (i) lying to the public and the Congress in January 1998 about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky; (ii) promising at that time to cooperate fully with the grand jury investigation; (iii) later refusing six invitations to testify voluntarily to the grand jury; (iv) invoking Executive Privilege; (v) lying to the grand jury in August 1998; and (vi) lying again to the public and Congress on August 17, 1998 -- all as part of an effort to hinder, impede, and deflect possible inquiry by the Congress of the United States.
The first two possible grounds for impeachment concern the President's lying under oath about the nature of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. The details associated with those grounds are, by their nature, explicit. The President's testimony unfortunately has rendered the details essential with respect to those two grounds, as will be explained in those grounds.
There is substantial and credible information that President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice by attempting to influence the testimony of Betty Currie.
In a meeting with Betty Currie on the day after his deposition and in a separate conversation a few days later, President Clinton made statements to her that he knew were false. The contents of the statements and the context in which they were made indicate that President Clinton was attempting to influence the testimony that Ms. Currie might have been required to give in the Jones case or in a grand jury investigation.(385)
1. Saturday, January 17, 1998, Deposition
President Clinton's deposition in Jones v. Clinton occurred on Saturday, January 17, 1998. In that deposition, the President testified that he could not recall being alone with Monica Lewinsky and that he had not had sexual relations, a sexual affair, or a sexual relationship with her. During his testimony, the President referred several times to Betty Currie and to her relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. He stated, for example, that the last time he had seen Ms. Lewinsky was when she had come to the White House to see Ms. Currie;(386) that Ms. Currie was present when the President had made a joking reference about the Jones case to Ms. Lewinsky;(387) that Ms. Currie was his source of information about Vernon Jordan's assistance to Ms. Lewinsky;(388) and that Ms. Currie had helped set up the meetings between Ms. Lewinsky and Mr. Jordan regarding her move to New York.(389)
At the deposition, Judge Wright imposed a protective order that prevented the parties from discussing their testimony with anyone else. "Before he leaves, I want to remind him, as the witness in this matter, . . . that this case is subject to a Protective Order regarding all discovery, . . . [A]ll parties present, including . . . the witness are not to say anything whatsoever about the questions they were asked, the substance of the deposition, . . ., any details . . . ."(390)
2. Sunday, January 18, 1998, Meeting with Ms. Currie
Because the President referred so often to Ms. Currie, it was foreseeable that she might become a witness in the Jones matter, particularly if specific allegations of the President's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky came to light.(391) Indeed, according to Ms. Currie, President Clinton at some point may have told her that she might be asked about Monica Lewinsky.(392)
Shortly after 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 17, 1998, two and a half hours after he returned from the deposition, President Clinton called Ms. Currie at home(393) and asked her to come to the White House the next day.(394) Ms. Currie testified that "[i]t's rare for [President Clinton] to ask me to come in on Sunday."(395)
At about 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 18, Ms. Currie went to meet with President Clinton at the White House. She told the grand jury:
He said that he had had his deposition yesterday, and they had asked several questions about Monica Lewinsky. And I was a little shocked by that or -- (shrugging). And he said -- I don't know if he said -- I think he may have said, "There are several things you may want to know," or "There are things -- " He asked me some questions.(396)
According to Ms. Currie, the President then said to her in succession:(397)
"You were always there when she was there, right? We were never really alone."(398)
"You could see and hear everything."(399)
"Monica came on to me, and I never touched her, right?"(400)
"She wanted to have sex with me, and I can't do that."(401)
Ms. Currie indicated that these remarks were "more like statements than questions."(402) Ms. Currie concluded that the President wanted her to agree with him.(403) She based that conclusion on the way he made most of the statements and on his demeanor.(404) Ms. Currie also said that she felt the President made these remarks to see her reaction.(405)
Ms. Currie said that she indicated her agreement with each of the President's statements,(406) although she knew that the President and Ms. Lewinsky had in fact been alone in the Oval Office and in the President's study.(407) Ms. Currie also knew that she could not or did not in fact hear or see the President and Ms. Lewinsky while they were alone.(408)
In the context of this conversation, President Clinton appeared to be "concerned," according to Ms. Currie.(409)
The President's concern over the questions asked at the civil deposition about Ms. Lewinsky also manifested itself in substantial efforts to contact Monica Lewinsky over the next two days. Shortly after her meeting with the President, Ms. Currie made several attempts to contact Ms. Lewinsky. Ms. Currie testified it was "possible" she did so at the President's suggestion, and said "he may have asked me to call [Ms. Lewinsky] to see what she knew or where she was or what was happening."(410) Later that same night, at 11:01 p.m., the President again called Ms. Currie at home.(411) Ms. Currie could not recall the substance but suggested that the President had called to ask whether she had spoken to Ms. Lewinsky.(412) The next day, January 19, 1998, which was a holiday, Ms. Currie made seven unsuccessful attempts to contact Monica Lewinsky, by pager, between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.(413) The President called Ms. Currie at home twice, and Ms. Currie called the President at the White House once that day.(414)
3. Conversation Between the President and Ms. Currie on Tuesday, January 20, 1998, or Wednesday, January 21, 1998.
On either Tuesday, January 20 or Wednesday, January 21 of that week, the President again met with Ms. Currie and discussed the Monica Lewinsky matter. Ms. Currie testified as follows:
BC: It was Tuesday or Wednesday. I don't remember which one this was, either. But the best I remember, when he called me in the Oval Office, it was sort of a recap[it]ulation of what we had talked about on Sunday -- you know, "I was never alone with her" -- that sort of thing.
Q: Did he pretty much list the same --
BC: To my recollection, sir, yes.
Q: And did he say it in sort of the same tone and demeanor that he used the first time he told you on Sunday?
BC: The best I remember, sir, yes.
* * * *
Q: And the President called you into the Oval Office specifically to list these things?
BC: I don't know if that's specifically what he called me in for, but once I got inside, that's what he --
Q: That's what he told you?
B. The President's Grand Jury Testimony
The President was asked why he might have said to Ms. Currie in their meeting on Sunday, January 18, 1998, "we were never alone together, right?" and "you could see and hear everything." The President testified:
[W]hat I was trying to determine was whether my recollection was right and that she was always in the office complex when Monica was there, and whether she thought she could hear any conversations we had, or did she hear any.
* * * *
I was trying to -- I knew . . . to a reasonable certainty that I was going to be asked more questions about this. I didn't really expect you to be in the Jones case at the time. I thought what would happen is that it would break in the press, and I was trying to get the facts down. I was trying to understand what the facts were.(416)
Later, the President stated that he was referring to a larger area than simply the room where he and Ms. Lewinsky were located. He also testified that his statements to Ms. Currie were intended to cover a limited range of dates:
WJC: . . . . [W]hen I said, we were never alone, right, I think I also asked her a number of other questions, because there were several times, as I'm sure she would acknowledge, when I either asked her to be around. I remember once in particular when I was talking with Ms. Lewinsky when I asked Betty to be in the, actually, in the next room in the dining room, and, as I testified earlier, once in her own office.
But I meant that she was always in the Oval Office complex, in that complex, while Monica was there. And I believe that this was part of a series of questions I asked her to try to quickly refresh my memory. So, I wasn't trying to get her to say something that wasn't so. And, in fact, I think she would recall that I told her to just relax, go in the grand jury and tell the truth when she had been called as a witness.
Q: So, when you said to Mrs. Currie that, I was never alone with her, right, you just meant that you and Ms. Lewinsky would be somewhere perhaps in the Oval Office or many times in your back study, is that correct?
WJC: That's right. We were in the back study.
Q: And then --
WJC: Keep in mind, sir, I just want to make it -- I was talking about 1997. I was never, ever trying to get Betty Currie to claim that on the occasions when Monica Lewinsky was there when she wasn't anywhere around, that she was. I would never have done that to her, and I don't think she thought about that. I don't think she thought I was referring to that.
Q: Did you put a date restriction? Did you make it clear to Mrs. Currie that you were only asking her whether you were never alone with her after 1997?
WJC: Well, I don't recall whether I did or not, but I assumed -- if I didn't, I assumed she knew what I was talking about, because it was the point at which Ms. Lewinsky was out of the White House and had to have someone WAVE her in, in order to get in the White House. And I do not believe to this day that I was -- in 1997, that she was ever there and that I ever saw her unless Betty Currie was there. I don't believe she was.(417)
With respect to the word "alone," the President also stated that "it depends on how you define alone" and "there were a lot of times when we were alone, but I never really thought we were."(418)
The President was also asked about his specific statement to Betty Currie that "you could see and hear everything." He testified that he was uncertain what he intended by that comment:
Q: When you said to Mrs. Currie, you could see and hear everything, that wasn't true either, was it, as far as you knew. You've already -- . . .
WJC: . . . My memory of that was that, that she had the ability to hear what was going on if she came in the Oval Office from her office. And a lot of times, you know, when I was in the Oval Office, she just had the door open to her office. Then there was -- the door was never completely closed to the hall. So I think there was -- I'm not entirely sure what I meant by that, but I could have meant that she generally would be able to hear conversations, even if she couldn't see them. And I think that's what I meant.(419)
The President then testified that when he made the comment to Ms. Currie about her being able to hear everything, he again was referring to only a limited period of time:
Q: . . . .you would not have engaged in those physically intimate acts if you knew that Mrs. Currie could see or hear that, is that correct?
WJC: That's correct. But keep in mind, sir, I was talking about 1997. That occurred, to the -- and I believe that occurred only once in February of 1997. I stopped it. I never should have started it, and I certainly shouldn't have started it back after I resolved not to in 1996. And I was referring to 1997.
And I -- what -- as I say, I do not know -- her memory and mine may be somewhat different. I do not know whether I was asking her about a particular time when Monica was upset and I asked her to stand, stay back in the dining area. Or whether I was, had reference to the fact that if she kept the door open to the Oval Office, because it was always -- the door to the hallway was always somewhat open, that she would always be able to hear something if anything went on that was, you know, too loud, or whatever.
I do not know what I meant. I'm just trying to reconcile the two statements as best I can, without being sure.(420)
The President was also asked about his comment to Ms. Currie that Ms. Lewinsky had "come on" to him, but that he had "never touched her":
Q: . . . . [I]f [Ms. Currie] testified that you told her, Monica came on to me and I never touched her, you did, in fact, of course, touch Ms. Lewinsky, isn't that right, in a physically intimate way?
WJC: Now, I've testified about that. And that's one of those questions that I believe is answered by the statement that I made.(421)
Q: What was your purpose in making these statements to Mrs. Currie, if it weren't for the purpose to try to suggest to her what she should say if ever asked?
WJC: Now, Mr. Bittman, I told you, the only thing I remember is when all this stuff blew up, I was trying to figure out what the facts were. I was trying to remember. I was trying to remember every time I had seen Ms. Lewinsky.
. . . I knew this was all going to come out. . . . I did not know [at the time] that the Office of Independent Counsel was involved. And I was trying to get the facts and try to think of the best defense we could construct in the face of what I thought was going to be a media onslaught.(422)
Finally, the President was asked why he would have called Ms. Currie into his office a few days after the Sunday meeting and repeated the statements about Ms. Lewinsky to her. The President testified that although he would not dispute Ms. Currie's testimony to the contrary, he did not remember having a second conversation with her along these lines.(423)
The President referred to Ms. Currie on multiple occasions in his civil deposition when describing his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. As he himself recognized, a large number of questions about Ms. Lewinsky were likely to be asked in the very near future. The President thus could foresee that Ms. Currie either might be deposed or questioned or might need to prepare an affidavit.
The President called her shortly after the deposition and met with Ms. Currie the next day. The President appeared "concerned," according to Ms. Currie. He then informed Ms. Currie that questions about Ms. Lewinsky had been asked at the deposition.
The statements the President made to her on January 18 and again on January 20 or 21 -- that he was never alone with Ms. Lewinsky, that Ms. Currie could always hear or see them, and that he never touched Ms. Lewinsky -- were false, but consistent with the testimony that the President provided under oath at his deposition. The President knew that the statements were false at the time he made them to Ms. Currie. The President's suggestion that he was simply trying to refresh his memory when talking to Ms. Currie conflicts with common sense: Ms. Currie's confirmation of false statements could not in any way remind the President of the facts. Thus, it is not plausible that he was trying to refresh his recollection.
The President's grand jury testimony reinforces that conclusion. He testified that in asking questions of Ms. Currie such as "We were never alone, right" and "Monica came on to me, and I never touched her, right," he intended a date restriction on the questions. But he did not articulate a date restriction in his conversations with Ms. Currie. Moreover, with respect to some aspects of this incident, the President was unable to devise any innocent explanation, testifying that he did not know why he had asked Ms. Currie some questions and admitting that he was "just trying to reconcile the two statements as best [he could]." On the other hand, if the most reasonable inference from the President's conduct is drawn -- that he was attempting to enlist a witness to back up his false testimony from the day before -- his behavior with Ms. Currie makes complete sense.
The content of the President's statements and the context in which those statements were made provide substantial and credible information that President Clinton sought improperly to influence Ms. Currie's testimony. Such actions constitute an obstruction of justice and improper influence on a witness.
There is substantial and credible information that President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice during the federal grand jury investigation. While refusing to testify for seven months, he simultaneously lied to potential grand jury witnesses knowing that they would relay the falsehoods to the grand jury.
The President's grand jury testimony followed seven months of investigation in which he had refused six invitations to testify before the grand jury. During this period, there was no indication that the President would admit any sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. To the contrary, the President vehemently denied the allegations.
Rather than lie to the grand jury himself, the President lied about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky to senior aides, and those aides then conveyed the President's false story to the grand jury.(424)
In this case, the President lied to, among others, three current senior aides -- John Podesta, Erskine Bowles, and Sidney Blumenthal -- and one former senior aide, Harold Ickes. The President denied any kind of sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky; said that Ms. Lewinsky had made a sexual demand on him; and denied multiple telephone conversations with Monica Lewinsky. The President, by his own later admission, was aware that his aides were likely to convey the President's version of events to the grand jury.
The President's aides took the President at his word when he made these statements. Each aide then testified to the nature of the relationship between Monica Lewinsky and the President based on those statements -- without knowing that they were calculated falsehoods by the President designed to perpetuate the false statements that the President made during his deposition in the Jones case.
The aides' testimony provided the grand jury a false account of the relationship between the President and Ms. Lewinsky. Their testimony thus had the potential to affect the investigation -- including decisions by the OIC and grand jury about how to conduct the investigation (for example, whether to subpoena Secret Service agents) and whether to indict particular individuals.
A. The Testimony of Current and Former Aides
1. John Podesta
John Podesta, Deputy Chief of Staff,(425) testified that on several occasions shortly after the media first began reporting the Lewinsky allegations, the President either denied having a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky or otherwise minimized his involvement with her.
Mr. Podesta described a meeting with the President, Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, and Deputy Chief of Staff Sylvia Matthews, in the morning of January 21, 1998.(426) During that meeting, the President stated: "Erskine, I want you to know that this story is not true."(427) Mr. Podesta further recalled that the President said "that he had not had a sexual relationship with her, and that he never asked anybody to lie."(428)
Several days later, on January 23, 1998, the President more adamantly told Mr. Podesta that he had not engaged in sex of any "kind, shape or manner" with Ms. Lewinsky. Mr. Podesta recalled:
JP: [H]e said to me that he had never had sex with her, and that -- and that he never asked -- you know, he repeated the denial, but he was extremely explicit in saying he never had sex with her.
Q: How do you mean?
JP: Just what I said.
Q: Okay. Not explicit, in the sense that he got more specific than sex, than the word "sex."
JP: Yes, he was more specific than that.
Q: Okay. Share that with us.
JP: Well, I think he said -- he said that -- there was some spate of, you know, what sex acts were counted, and he said that he had never had sex with her in any way whatsoever --
JP: --that they had not had oral sex.(429)
Later, possibly that same day,(430) the President made a further statement to Mr. Podesta regarding his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. Mr. Podesta testified that the President "said to me that after [Monica] left [her job at the White House], that when she had come by, she came by to see Betty, and that he -- when she was there, either Betty was with them -- either that she was with Betty when he saw her or that he saw her in the Oval Office with the door open and Betty was around -- and Betty was out at her desk."(431) The President relayed to Mr. Podesta one of the false "cover stories" that the President and Ms. Lewinsky had agreed to use.
Both the President and Mr. Podesta knew that Mr. Podesta was likely to be a witness in the ongoing grand jury criminal investigation.(432) Nonetheless, Mr. Podesta recalled that the President "volunteered" to provide information about Ms. Lewinsky to him(433) even though Mr. Podesta had not asked for these details.(434)
Mr. Podesta "believe[d]" the President, and testified that it was important to him that the President denied the affair.(435) Mr. Podesta repeated to the grand jury the false and misleading statements that the President told him.
2. Erskine Bowles
Mr. Bowles, the White House Chief of Staff,(436) confirmed Mr. Podesta's account of the President's January 21, 1998, statement in which the President denied having a sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. Mr. Bowles testified:
EB: And this was the day this huge story breaks. And the three of us walked in together -- Sylvia Matthews, John Podesta, and me -- into the Oval Office, and the President was standing behind his desk.
Q: About what time of day is this?
EB: This is approximately 9:00 in the morning, or something -- you know, in that area. And he looked up at us and he said the same thing he said to the American people. He said, "I want you to know I did not have sexual relationships [sic] with this woman Monica Lewinsky. I did not ask anybody to lie. And when the facts come out, you'll understand."(437)
Mr. Bowles testified that he took the President's statements seriously: "All I can tell you is: This guy who I've worked for looked me in the eye and said he did not have sexual relationships with her. And if I didn't believe him, I couldn't stay. So I believe him."(438) Mr. Bowles repeated the President's false and misleading statement to the grand jury.
3. Sidney Blumenthal
Sidney Blumenthal, an Assistant to the President,(439) similarly testified that the President made statements to him denying the Lewinsky allegations shortly after the first media report.
Mr. Blumenthal stated that he spoke to Mrs. Clinton on the afternoon of January 21, 1998, and to the President early that evening. During those conversations, both the President and Mrs. Clinton offered an explanation for the President's meetings with Ms. Lewinsky, and President Clinton offered an explanation for Ms. Lewinsky's allegations of a sexual relationship.(440)
Testifying before the grand jury, Mr. Blumenthal related his discussion with President Clinton:
I said to the President, "What have you done wrong?" And he said, "Nothing. I haven't done anything wrong."
. . . And it was at that point that he gave his account of what had happened to me and he said that Monica -- and it came very fast. 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 him. She said that she would tell people they'd had an affair, that she was known as the stalker among her peers, and that she hated it and if she had an affair or said she had an affair then she wouldn't be the stalker any more.(441)
Mr. Blumenthal testified that the President appeared "upset" during this conversation.(442)
Finally, Mr. Blumenthal asked the President to explain alleged answering machine messages (a detail mentioned in press reports).
He said that he remembered calling her when Betty Currie's brother died and that he left a message on her voice machine that Betty's brother had died and he said she was close to Betty and had been very kind to Betty. And that's what he recalled.(443)
According to Mr. Blumenthal, the President said that the call he made to Ms. Lewinsky relating to Betty's brother was the "only one he could remember."(444) That was false: The President and Ms. Lewinsky talked often on the phone, and the subject matter of the calls was memorable.
A grand juror asked Mr. Blumenthal whether the President had said that his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky included any kind of sexual activity. Mr. Blumenthal testified that the President's response was "the opposite. He told me that she came on to him and that he had told her he couldn't have sexual relations with her and that she threatened him. That is what he told me."(445)
Mr. Blumenthal testified that after the President relayed this information to him, he "certainly believed his story. It was a very heartfelt story, he was pouring out his heart, and I believed him."(446) Mr. Blumenthal repeated to the grand jury the false statements that the President made to him.
4. Harold Ickes
Mr. Ickes, a former Deputy Chief of Staff,(447) also related to the grand jury a conversation that he had with the President on the morning of January 26, 1998,(448) during which the President denied the Lewinsky allegations.
Regarding that conversation, Mr. Ickes testified: "The two things that I recall, the two things that he again repeated in public -- had already said publicly and repeated in public that same Monday morning was that he had not had -- he did not have a -- or he had not had a sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky and that he had done nothing -- now I'm paraphrasing -- had done nothing to ask anybody to change their story or suborn perjury or obstruct justice."(449)
Mr. Ickes recalled that the President probably volunteered this information.(450) Mr. Ickes repeated the President's false statements to the grand jury.
B. The President's Grand Jury Testimony
The President admitted to the grand jury that, after the allegations were publicly reported, he made "misleading" statements to particular aides whom he knew would likely be called to testify before the grand jury. The President testified as follows:
Q: Do you recall denying any sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky to the following people: Harry Thomasson, Erskine Bowles, Harold Ickes, Mr. Podesta, Mr. Blumenthal, Mr. Jordan, Ms. Betty Currie? Do you recall denying any sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky to those individuals?
WJC: I recall telling a number of those people that I didn't have, either I didn't have an affair with Monica Lewinsky or didn't have sex with her. And I believe, sir, that -- you'll have to ask them what they thought. But I was using those terms in the normal way people use them. You'll have to ask them what they thought I was saying.
Q: If they testified that you denied sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, or if they told us that you denied that, do you have any reason to doubt them, in the days after the story broke; do you have any reason to doubt them?
The President then was specifically asked whether he knew that his aides were likely to be called before the grand jury.
Q: It may have been misleading, sir, and you knew though, after January 21st when the Post article broke and said that Judge Starr was looking into this, you knew that they might be witnesses. You knew that they might be called into a grand jury, didn't you?
WJC: That's right. I think I was quite careful what I said after that. I may have said something to all these people to that effect, but I'll also -- whenever anybody asked me any details, I said, look, I don't want you to be a witness or I turn you into a witness or give you information that would get you in trouble. I just wouldn't talk. I, by and large, didn't talk to people about this.
Q: If all of these people -- let's leave out Mrs. Currie for a minute. Vernon Jordan, Sid Blumenthal, John Podesta, Harold Ickes, Erskine Bowles, Harry Thomasson, after the story broke, after Judge Starr's involvement was known on January 21st, have said that you denied a sexual relationship with them. Are you denying that?
Q: And you've told us that you --
WJC: I'm just telling you what I meant by it. I told you what I meant by it when they started this deposition.
Q: You've told us now that you were being careful, but that it might have been misleading. Is that correct?
WJC: It might have been. . . . So, what I was trying to do was to give them something they could -- that would be true, even if misleading in the context of this deposition, and keep them out of trouble, and let's deal -- and deal with what I thought was the almost ludicrous suggestion that I had urged someone to lie or tried to suborn perjury, in other words.(451)
The President made the following misleading statements to his aides:
The President told Mr. Podesta that he had not engaged in sex "in any way whatsoever" with Ms. Lewinsky, "including oral sex".
The President told Mr. Podesta, Mr. Bowles, and Mr. Ickes that he did not have a "sexual relationship" with Ms. Lewinsky.
The President told Mr. Podesta that "when [Ms. Lewinsky] came by, she came by to see Betty [Currie]."
The President told Mr. Blumenthal that Ms. Lewinsky "came on to him and that he had told her he couldn't have sexual relations with her and that she threatened him."
The President told Mr. Blumenthal that he couldn't remember making any calls to Ms. Lewinsky other than once when he left a message on her answering machine.
During the President's grand jury testimony, the President admitted that his statements to aides denying a sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky "may have been misleading."(452) The President also knew his aides likely would be called to testify regarding any communications with him about Ms. Lewinsky. And he presumably expected his aides to repeat his statements regarding Ms. Lewinsky to all questioners, including to the grand jury. Finally, he himself refused to testify for many months. The combination of the President's silence and his deception of his aides had the effect of presenting a false view of events to the grand jury.
The President says that at the time he spoke to his aides, he chose his words with great care so that, in his view, his statements would be literally true because he was referring only to intercourse. That explanation is undermined by the President's testimony before the grand jury that his denials "may have been misleading" and by the contradictory testimony by the aides themselves -- particularly John Podesta, who says that the President specifically denied oral sex with Ms. Lewinsky. Moreover, on January 24, 1998, the White House issued talking points for its staff, and those talking points refute the President's literal truth argument: The talking points state as the President's view the belief that a relationship that includes oral sex is "of course" a "sexual relationship."(453)
For all of these reasons, there is substantial and credible information that the President improperly tampered with witnesses during the grand jury investigation.
There is substantial and credible information that President Clinton's actions since January 17, 1998, regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky have been inconsistent with the President's constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws.
Before, during, and after his January 17, 1998, civil deposition, the President attempted to conceal the truth about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky from the judicial process in the Jones case. Furthermore, the President has since lied under oath to the grand jury and facilitated the provision of false information to the grand jury by others.
The President also misled the American people and the Congress in his public statement of January 26, 1998, in which he denied "sexual relations" with Ms. Lewinsky. The President misled his Cabinet and his senior aides by denying the relationship to them. The Cabinet and senior aides in turn misled the American people and the Congress by conveying the President's denials and professing their belief in the credibility of those denials.
The President promised in January 1998 to cooperate fully with the grand jury investigation and to provide "more rather than less, sooner rather than later." At that time, the OIC was conducting a criminal investigation and was obligated to report to Congress any substantial and credible information that may constitute grounds for an impeachment.
The President's conduct delayed the grand jury investigation (and thereby delayed any potential congressional proceedings). He asserted, appealed, withdrew, and reasserted Executive Privilege (and asserted other governmental privileges never before applied in federal criminal proceedings against the government). The President asserted these privileges concerning the investigation of factual questions about which the President already knew the answers. The President refused six invitations to testify voluntarily before the grand jury. At the same time, the President's aides and surrogates argued publicly that the entire matter was frivolous and that any investigation of it should cease.
After being subpoenaed in July, the President made false statements to the grand jury on August 17, 1998. That night, the President again made false statements to the American people and Congress, contending that his answers in his civil deposition had been "legally accurate." The President then made an implicit plea for Congress to take no action: "Our country has been distracted by this matter for too long."(454)
The President has pursued a strategy of (i) deceiving the American people and Congress in January 1998, (ii) delaying and impeding the criminal investigation for seven months, and (iii) deceiving the American people and Congress again in August 1998.
A. Beginning on January 21, 1998, the President misled the American people and Congress regarding the truth of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.
On January 21, 1998, the day the Washington Post first reported the Lewinsky matter, the President talked to his long-time advisor Dick Morris. With the President's approval, Mr. Morris commissioned a poll that evening. The results indicated that voters were willing to forgive the President for adultery but not for perjury or obstruction of justice.(455) When the President telephoned him that evening, Mr. Morris explained that the President thus should not go public with a confession or explanation.(456) According to Mr. Morris, the President replied, "Well, we just have to win, then."(457)
The next evening, the President dissuaded Mr. Morris from any plan to "blast Monica Lewinsky 'out of the water.'" The President indicated that "there's some slight chance that she may not be cooperating with Starr and we don't want to alienate her."(458)
The President himself spoke publicly about the matter several times in the initial days after the story broke. On January 26, the President was definitive: "I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time. Never. These allegations are false."(459)
The President's emphatic denial to the American people was false. And his statement was not an impromptu comment in the heat of a press conference. To the contrary, it was an intentional and calculated falsehood to deceive the Congress and the American people.(460)
B. The First Lady, the Cabinet, the President's staff, and the President's associates relied on and publicly emphasized the President's denial.
After the President lied to the American people, the President's associates argued that the allegations against the President were false and even scurrilous.
Mrs. Clinton forcefully denied the allegations on January 27, 1998, one day after the President's public denial. She admitted that the American people "should certainly be concerned" if a President had an affair and lied to cover it up. She acknowledged that it would be a "very serious offense." But she emphasized that the allegations were false -- a "pretty bad" smear. She noted that the President "has denied these allegations on all counts, unequivocally." And Mrs. Clinton shifted the focus away from the President, indicated that "this is a battle" and stated that "some folks are going to have a lot to answer for" when the facts come out.(461)
The most senior officials in the Executive Branch served as additional (albeit unwitting) agents of the President's deception. The Cabinet and White House aides stated emphatically that the allegations were false. For example, White House spokesperson Michael McCurry was asked whether the President's denial covered all forms of sexual contact, and Mr. McCurry stated that "I think every American that heard him knows exactly what he meant."(462) So, too, White House Communications Director Ann Lewis said on January 26, 1998: "I can say with absolute assurance the President of the United States did not have a sexual relationship because I have heard the President of the United States say so. He has said it, he could not be more clear. He could not have been more direct."(463) She added: "Sex is sex, even in Washington. I've been assured."(464)
After a Cabinet meeting on January 23, 1998, in which the President offered denials, several members of the Cabinet appeared outside the White House. Secretary of State Albright stated: "I believe that the allegations are completely untrue."(465) Coupled with the President's firm denial, the united front of the President's closest advisors helped shape perception of the issue.
C. The President repeatedly and unlawfully invoked the Executive Privilege to conceal evidence of his personal misconduct from the grand jury.
When the allegations about Ms. Lewinsky first arose, the President informed the American people that he would cooperate fully. He told Jim Lehrer that "we are doing our best to cooperate here."(466) He told National Public Radio that "I have told people that I would cooperate in the investigation, and I expect to cooperate with it. . . . I'm going to do my best to cooperate with the investigation."(467) He told Roll Call "I'm going to cooperate with this investigation. . . . And I'll cooperate."(468)
Such cooperation did not occur. The White House's approach to the constitutionally based principle of Executive Privilege most clearly exposed the non-cooperation. In 1994, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler issued an opinion that the Clinton Administration would not invoke Executive Privilege for cases involving personal wrongdoing by any government official.(469) By 1998, however, the President had blended the official and personal dimensions to the degree that the President's private counsel stated in a legal brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: "In a very real and significant way, the objectives of William J. Clinton, the person, and his Administration (the Clinton White House) are one and the same."(470)
After the Monica Lewinsky investigation began, the President invoked Executive Privilege for the testimony of five witnesses: Bruce Lindsey, Cheryl Mills, Nancy Hernreich, Sidney Blumenthal, and Lanny Breuer. These claims were patently groundless. Even for official communications within the scope of the privilege, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 1974 in United States v. Nixon(471) that the Executive Privilege gives way in the face of the compelling need for evidence in criminal proceedings.
The President's assertion of Executive Privilege for Ms. Hernreich, an assistant who manages the secretarial work for the Oval Office,(472) was frivolous. At the time that the President was asserting Executive Privilege for one assistant, the President's other assistant (Betty Currie) had already testified extensively.
Based on Nixon, the OIC filed a motion to compel the testimony of Hernreich, Lindsey, and Blumenthal. The United States District Court held a hearing on March 20. Just before the hearing, the White House -- without explanation -- dropped its Executive Privilege claim as to Ms. Hernreich.(473)
On May 4, 1998, Chief Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ruled against the President on the Executive Privilege issue.(474) After the White House filed a notice of appeal, the OIC filed an expedited petition for certiorari before judgment in the Supreme Court. The President thereupon dropped his claim of Executive Privilege.
The tactics employed by the White House have not been confined to the judicial process. On March 24, while the President was traveling in Africa, he was asked about the assertion of Executive Privilege. He responded, "You should ask someone who knows." He also stated "I haven't discussed that with the lawyers. I don't know."(475)
This was untrue. Unbeknownst to the public, in a declaration filed in District Court on March 17 (seven days before the President's public expression of ignorance), White House Counsel Charles F.C. Ruff informed Chief Judge Johnson that he "ha[d] discussed" the matter with the President, who had directed the assertion of Executive Privilege.(476)
The deception has continued. Because the President withdrew his Executive Privilege claim while the case was pending in the Supreme Court of the United States, it was assumed that the President would no longer assert Executive Privilege. But that assumption proved incorrect. White House attorney Lanny Breuer appeared before the grand jury on August 4, 1998, and invoked Executive Privilege. He would not answer, for example, whether the President had told him about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and whether they had discussed the gifts he had given to Monica Lewinsky.(477) On August 11, 1998, Chief Judge Johnson denied the Executive Privilege claim as a basis for refusing to testify, and ordered Mr. Breuer to testify.(478)
On August 11, 1998, Deputy White House Counsel Cheryl Mills testified and repeatedly asserted Executive Privilege at the President's direction.(479) The breadth of the claim was striking: The privilege was asserted not only for Ms. Mills's communications with the President, senior staff, and staff members of the White House Counsel's Office -- but also for Ms. Mills's communications with private lawyers for the President, private lawyers for grand jury witnesses, and Betty Currie.(480)
On August 17, the President testified before the grand jury. At the request of a grand juror, the OIC asked the President about his assertions of Executive Privilege and why he had withdrawn the claim before the Supreme Court. The President replied that "I didn't really want to advance an executive privilege claim in this case beyond having it litigated, so that we, we had not given up on principal [sic] this matter, without having some judge rule on it. . . . I strongly felt we should not appeal your victory on the executive privilege issue."(481)
Four days after this sworn statement, on August 21, 1998, the President filed a notice of appeal with respect to the Executive Privilege claim for Lanny Breuer that Chief Judge Johnson had denied ten days earlier (and six days before the President's testimony). In addition, Bruce Lindsey appeared again before the grand jury on August 28, 1998, and the President again asserted Executive Privilege with respect to his testimony -- even though the President had dropped the claim of Executive Privilege for Mr. Lindsey while the case was pending before the Supreme Court of the United States in June.(482)
The Executive Privilege was not the only claim of privilege interposed to prevent the grand jury from gathering relevant information. The President also acquiesced in the Secret Service's attempt to have the Judiciary craft a new protective function privilege (rejecting requests by this Office that the President order the Secret Service officers to testify). The District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the privilege claim. The litigation was disruptive to the Secret Service and to the grand jury. The frivolity of the claim is evidenced by the Chief Justice's decision to reject the Secret Service's request for a stay without even referring the matter to the full Court. All of that litigation would have been unnecessary had the President testified in February instead of August, or had he taken the position that relevant facts should be fully available to the grand jury.
D. The President refused six invitations to testify to the grand jury, thereby delaying expeditious resolution of this matter, and then refused to answer relevant questions before the grand jury when he testified in August 1998.
This Office extended six separate invitations to the President to testify before the grand jury. The first invitation was issued on January 28, 1998. The OIC repeated the invitations on behalf of the grand jury on February 4, February 9, February 21, March 2, and March 13. The President declined each invitation. His refusals substantially delayed this Office's investigation.
Finally, in the face of the President's actions, this Office asked the grand jury to consider issuing a subpoena to the President. The grand jury deliberated and approved the issuance of a subpoena. On July 17, 1998, the OIC served the subpoena, in accordance with the grand jury's action, on the President's private counsel. The subpoena required the President to appear on July 28.
The President sought to delay his testimony.(483) Shortly after a hearing before the District Court on the President's motion for a continuance, the President and the OIC reached an agreement by which the President would testify on August 17 via live video feed to the grand jury. In a Rose Garden ceremony on July 31, 1998, the President stated to the country: "I'm looking forward to the opportunity . . . of testifying. I will do so completely and truthfully."(484)
At the outset of his grand jury appearance, the President similarly stated: "I will answer each question as accurately and fully as I can."(485) The President then read a prepared statement in which he admitted "inappropriate intimate contact" with Ms. Lewinsky.(486) Despite his statement that he would answer each question, the President refused to answer specific questions about that contact (other than to indicate that it was not intercourse and did not involve the direct touching of Ms. Lewinsky's breasts or genitals).(487)
E. The President misled the American people and the Congress in his public statement on August 17, 1998, when he stated that his answers at his civil deposition in January had been "legally accurate."
The President addressed the Nation on the evening of August 17, 1998, after his grand jury appearance. The President did not tell the truth. He stated: "As you know, in a deposition in January, I was asked questions about my relationship with Monica Lewinsky. While my answers were legally accurate, I did not volunteer information."(488) As this Referral has demonstrated, the President's statements in his civil deposition were not "legally accurate," and he could not reasonably have thought they were. They were deliberate falsehoods designed to conceal the truth of the President's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
The President's claim that his testimony during the civil deposition was legally accurate -- which he made to the grand jury and to the American people on August 17 -- perpetuates the deception and concealment that has accompanied his relationship with Monica Lewinsky since his first sexual encounter with her on November 15, 1995.
In this case, the President made and caused to be made false statements to the American people about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. He also made false statements about whether he had lied under oath or otherwise obstructed justice in his civil case. By publicly and emphatically stating in January 1998 that "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" and these "allegations are false," the President also effectively delayed a possible congressional inquiry, and then he further delayed it by asserting Executive Privilege and refusing to testify for six months during the Independent Counsel investigation. This represents substantial and credible information that may constitute grounds for an impeachment.