By Ruth Marcus
Article III, charging President Clinton with obstruction of justice related to the Paula Jones case, was passed by the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 11 and by the full House on December 19. Following is a description of the article, the underlying evidence cited by Republicans and the arguments for and against.
Encouraging Lewinsky to file a false affidavit. Monica Lewinsky testified that Clinton raised the idea of filing an affidavit. Although Lewinsky testified that Clinton never told her to lie, the committee report says that Clinton knew any affidavit "would have to be false for Ms. Lewinsky to avoid testifying. If she filed a truthful affidavit, one acknowledging a sexual relationship with the president, she certainly would have been called as a deposition witness and her subsequent truthful testimony would have been damaging to the president both politically and legally." Democrats concede that Clinton and Lewinsky discussed submitting an affidavit to avoid testifying. But they say that does not prove Clinton wanted her to file a false affidavit and that, since the Jones case involved allegations of unwelcome sexual harassment, Lewinsky might have been able to avoid testifying with an affidavit saying she was not the subject of harassment or unwelcome advances.
Encouraging Lewinsky to give false testimony if called to appear. Republicans say that, before Lewinsky became a possible witness, she and the president discussed fabricated stories to use to cover up their relationship and that, according to Lewinsky's testimony, the president repeated those stories when he telephoned her on Dec. 17 to say she was on the Paula Jones witness list. As Lewinsky recalled that conversation, Clinton said, "You know, you can always say you were coming to see Betty or that you were bringing me letters." Clinton said he had "no specific memory" of any conversations with cover stories before Dec. 17 but that if any conversation took place, it was "in a nonlegal context."
Encouraging Lewinsky to hide gifts. Lewinsky testified that she told Clinton the gifts had been subpoenaed at a Dec. 28 meeting and suggested, "maybe I should put the gifts away outside my house somewhere or give them to someone, maybe Betty." She said Clinton replied, "I don't know" or "Let me think about that." Lewinsky testified that later that day Betty Currie called her and said, "I understand you have something to give me" or "The president says you have something for me." Currie then arrived at Lewinsky's apartment, retrieved a sealed box of presents, and put them under her bed.
Both Clinton and Currie have a different version of events. Clinton said that when Lewinsky raised the issue of the gifts, he told her, "If they asked her for gifts, she'd have to give them whatever she had." Currie said Lewinsky called her and asked her to pick up the package, not the other way around.
Republicans argue that Lewinsky's version is more credible and that it is clear that Clinton instructed Currie to retrieve the gifts. They point to a cell phone record showing that Currie called Lewinsky's house that afternoon. Democrats counter that Clinton was not particularly concerned about the gifts, something evidenced by the fact that he gave Lewinsky additional gifts at the Dec. 28 meeting -- something even GOP counsel Schippers acknowledged seems "odd." They say that Lewinsky provided conflicting accounts of her conversations with Clinton and that the telephone call from Currie occurred after the time that Lewinsky said Currie arrived at her apartment to pick up the gifts.
Getting Lewinsky a job to ensure her silence. Impeachment backers say the efforts by Clinton and his allies to help Lewinsky get a job in New York intensified in early December, just after Clinton learned that Lewinsky was on the Jones witness list. They point to the extensive efforts by Clinton confidant Vernon E. Jordan Jr. to help Lewinsky get a job and to keep the president informed of his efforts even as he was also helping Lewinsky obtain a lawyer in the Jones case. When -- after Jordan phoned the chief executive of the company -- Lewinsky finally got a job offer, Jordan telephoned Currie with the news: "Mission accomplished."
As the report puts it, "It is logical to infer from the chain of events that the efforts of the president and others at the president's direction to obtain a job in New York for Monica Lewinsky were motivated to influence the testimony of a potential witness in the case of Jones v. Clinton, if not to prevent her testimony outright."
Democrats point to Lewinsky's testimony: "No one ever asked me to lie and I was never promised a job for my silence." They say that efforts by White House officials to help Lewinsky get a job began long before her name surfaced on the Jones witness list and that Lewinsky raised the idea of enlisting Jordan's help after Linda Tripp suggested it.
Letting Bennett make false and misleading statements. (See discussion under Article I, above.)
Tampering with the testimony of Currie, a potential witness. A few hours after the Jones deposition, Clinton called Currie and asked her to come into the office the next day, a Sunday. Clinton said he asked Currie "certain questions, in an effort to get as much information as quickly as I could," seeking to "ascertain what the facts were, trying to ascertain what Betty's perception was."
Currie testified that Clinton made a series of remarks "more like statements than questions," saying, "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? She wanted to have sex with me and I couldn't do that." Currie said she had a similar conversation with Clinton a few days later.
Impeachment proponents note that Clinton repeatedly invoked Currie's name when questioned about Lewinsky during the deposition and that she was therefore a potential witness in the case. His explanation that he was trying to determine the facts "is simply not credible in light of the fact" that he knew some of the statements he made "were clearly false." Clinton's defenders argue that when Clinton spoke with Currie she was not among the potential witnesses listed by the Jones lawyers and that there were only a few weeks left for pretrial discovery. They say that Clinton's statements were not spurred by a desire to influence her testimony but that he was worried that the story of his relationship with Lewinsky was about to leak and, as the minority report put it, Clinton "was testing [Currie] to see how much she knew . . . because it would help dictate the media strategy he adopted."
Lying to aides about his relationship with Lewinsky when he knew they were potential grand jury witnesses who would repeat the falsehoods before the grand jury. After the Lewinsky story broke in the press, Clinton denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky to five aides who were later called before the grand jury. For example, he told John D. Podesta, now his chief of staff, that he did not have any kind of sexual encounter with Lewinsky. He told aide Sidney Blumenthal that he hadn't "done anything wrong," that Lewinsky had stalked and threatened him and likened himself to a character in Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon."
Republicans say Clinton acknowledged his aides were likely to be called as witnesses and would repeat his false accounts before the grand jury, and that his actions therefore amount to witness tampering.
Democrats say Clinton's false or misleading statements to his staff were motivated by a desire to hide an embarrassing relationship, not to obstruct the grand jury. "To put the point most simply: Does anyone really think the president would have admitted to this relationship even if no grand jury had been sitting?" the minority report asks.
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