« PreviousContinue »
references to Ms. Currie made it inevitable that her deposition would be taken. The undeniable fact is that following the President's deposition, the Jones lawyers never sought to take Ms. Currie's testimony. Indeed, discovery in the Jones case was set to close just days after the President's deposition was taken, and it is unÎikely that her deposition could have been taken in the few days remaining
Nor did the President have any way of knowing that the OIC was conducting a grand jury investigation of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky when he spoke to Ms. Currie. That fact that a grand jury investigation had been commenced was not revealed until the Washington Post ran a front-page story on Wednesday, January 21, 1998, entitled "Clinton Accused of Urging Aide to Lie; Starr Probes Whether President Told Woman to Deny Alleged Affair to Jones's Lawyers.” 243 Thus, not even the Majority can claim that the President endeavored to obstruct Mr. Starr's criminal probe of his consensual sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.
Put in proper context, the facts reveal that the President's statements to Ms. Currie were not motivated by a desire to influence her testimony, but by the President's knowledge that his deposition testimony would be leaked to the media, 244 and that statements regarding Ms. Lewinsky would be contradicted by aggressive press coverage of the story. The President testified in the grand jury that he never expected the OIC to be involved in the Jones suit, and that his concern was that the story about Ms. Lewinsky “would break in the press.” 245 Questions during the course of the deposition led the President to believe that “obviously someone had given (Jones' lawyers] a lot of information, some of which struck me as accurate, some of which struck me as dead wrong." 246 Following his testimony, the President was worried that he had been asked such detailed questions about what, to that point, he viewed as a secret relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. The President's concerns were borne out when, shortly after the deposition, Internet gossip columnist Matt Drudge reported the President's involvement with Ms. Lewinsky. Drudge's story received wide exposure the next morning, January 18, when it surfaced on ABC's This Week program.
The President told the grand jury about his reasons for talking to Ms. Currie: “what I was trying to determine was whether my recollection was right and that she was always in the office complex when Monica was there * * * I was trying to get the facts down. I was trying to understand what the facts were trying to get information in a hurry. I was downloading what I remembered.” 247 The President plainly was hopeful that Ms. Currie
* * I was
243 Referral at 122.
244 Clinton 8/17/98 GJ at 99. The President explained his state of mind when he appeared at his deposition as follows: (mly goal in this deposition was to be truthful, but not particularly helpful. I did not wish to do the work of the Jones lawyers. I deplored what they were doing. I deplored the innocent people they were tormenting and traumatizing. I deplored their illegal leaking. I deplored the fact that they knew, once they knew our evidence, that this was a bogus lawsuit, and that because of the funding they had from my political enemies, they were putting ahead. Í deplored it. Clinton 8/17/98 GJ at 81. See also id. at 79 (“I wanted to be legal without being particularly helpful”).
245 Clinton 8/17/98 ĠJ at 55. See also id. at 131 (“I thought we were going to be deluged by press comments").
246 Clinton 8/17/98 GJ at 132.
was unaware of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, and was testing to see how much she knew. The state of her knowledge was important not because he expected her to give testimony in a judicial proceeding, but because it would help dictate the media strategy he adopted following a leak of his testimony about Ms. Lewinsky.2 To that end, the President testified that he "was not trying to get Betty Currie to say something that was untruthful. I was trying to get as much information as quickly as I could.” 249
With some variations in wording, Ms. Currie testified that the President made the following statements to her on January 18 regarding Ms. Lewinsky: (1) “LyJou were always there when she was there, right? We were never alone;" (2) "CyJou could see and hear everything;'
(3) Monica came on to me, and I never touched her, right?'; and (4) [s]he wanted to have sex with me, and I can't do that." 250 Ms. Currie also testified that a few days later (but before the fact of the
IC's investigation became public), she again talked to the resident, and that "it was sort of a recapitulation of what we had talked about Sunday.” 251 While the Majority asserts that these questions were an effort by the President to obtain Ms. Currie's acquiescence to those propositions, the totality of her grand jury testimony makes clear that she did not feel pressured by her conversations with the President to change her recollection of events; that she did not believe the President wanted her to say “right” in response to his statements; and that she agreed that the President and Lewinsky generally were not alone because she was near the Oval Office on most occasions when they met.252 Ms. Currie testified as follows in the grand jury:
Q. You testified with respect to the statements as the
A. That's a fair assessment.253
Q. Now, back again to the four statements that you testi-
Q. What did you think, or what was going through your
A. At that time I felt that he was—I want to use the word shocked or surprised that this was an issue, and he was just talking.
248 While the President's efforts to tailor his media strategy in that manner may not be admirable, it certainly is not impeachable, as the Majority plainly conceded when it dropped similar allegations from its article of impeachment charging that the President misused his office.
249 Clinton 8/17/98 GJ at 56.
Q. That was your impression that he wanted you to
A. I do not remember that he wanted me to say “Right.”
Q. But he would end each of those questions with a
A. None.254 Significantly, the President testified that when he learned that Ms. Currie had been called to testify before the grand jury, he said, "Betty, just don't worry about me. Just relax, go in there, and tell the truth.” 255 The President also testified that “I didn't want her to, to be untruthful to the grand jury. And if her memory was different than mine, it was fine, just go in there and tell them what she thought. So, that's all I remember." 256
Although the Independent Counsel interviewed the Paula Jones attorneys, they studiously avoided asking them about their intentions with respect to calling Betty Currie as a witness. Moreover, the fact that she was never contacted, never deposed, and never added to the witness list in any way, even after the President's deposition, destroys this obstruction charge.
În sum, the President had no reason to believe that Ms. Currie would be a witness in any proceeding at the time he spoke to her. In contrast, the President knew that once his deposition testimony leaked, the White House would be "deluged” by the media.257 It is far more likely that, when the President spoke to Ms. Currie, his goal was to keep the media and the public from finding out about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. Both the President and Betty Currie, the only people involved in this event, both agree that the conversation on January 18 was not about testimony, was not intended to pressure her, and was caused by the inquiries from the press, not for any litigation. The President's desire to keep that relationship secret was obvious and understandable, but not illegal, and certainly not grounds to justify impeachment. The Majority's evidence falls far short of establishing the existence of an obstruction of justice or other impeachable offense. 6. The President Did Not Obstruct Justice or Abuse his Power by
Denying to his Staff his Inappropriate Contacts with Ms. Lewinsky The Majority alleges that the President obstructed justice by lying to his staff or to the people around him about his inappropriate contacts with Ms. Lewinsky, knowing that they might repeat those statements in a grand jury. But the President's statements to his staff on January 21, 23, and 26, were made to protect his family from discovering his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. He could not have known then that his staff would be called before the
254 Currie 7/22/98 GJ at 23. 255 Clinton 8/17/98 GJ at 139. 256 Clinton 8/17/98 GJ at 141. 257 Clinton 8/17/98 GJ at 132.
OIC's grand jury. The President did not want to admit he had an inappropriate relationship. This understandable desire falls far short of establishing an impeachable offense.
The Referral lists the statements that the President allegedly made to various aides, and then how the aides testified to what the President said in their grand jury appearances.258 When asked leading questions in the grand jury, the President acknowledged that he assumed that various staff members might be called to the grand jury.259 Based only on that acknowledgment, the Majority alleges a ground for impeachment.
However, in its fervor to construct an impeachable offense, the Majority omits important details. First, what the President was denying to his aides was the fact of his private, sexual relationship. This was not comparable to enlisting aides in misrepresenting the progress and success of our troops during the Vietnam War, or misrepresenting the United States' efforts to divert financial assistance from Iran to help the Contras in Nicaragua, or misrepresenting involvement in the Watergate burglaries. This was a man denying to those with whom he worked that he was having an extra-marital relationship with a young woman. The fact that the man was President, and the co-workers were White House employees, should not elevate this everyday occurrence into a constitutional crisis.
Second, the article does not allege, because there are no facts from which to do so, that the President denied that he had an inappropriate relationship with Ms. Lewinsky for the corrupt purpose of influencing their grand jury testimony. But the President's admission after the fact that some people he talked with might be called to testify in the grand jury is not the same as an admission that he intended those people to lie. Indeed, the case cited by the Independent Counsel proves that very point.260 Criminal convictions require that the actor intend that a person lie. Not one of the individuals identified in the Referral states that the President discussed, or even suggested, that they should testify in any particular way. The point of the President's conversation with the staff had nothing whatsoever to do with the grand jury. It had to do with denying an intimate relationship for the more obvious reasons that these kinds of relationships are always denied. 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?
It is important to note that the President's statements to staff were all made at a time when the media began its firestorm coverage of the OIC's expansion of its jurisdiction. Having announced to the entire country that he was not having a relationship with Lewinsky, it is hardly remarkable that he did the same with his staff. The President was not singling out his staff—he denied the affair to everyone—so he was not motivated by a desire to influence their grand jury testimony. This denial comes nowhere close to meeting the threshold for an impeachable offense.
258 Referral at 123–25, 198–203. 259 Clinton 8/17/98 GJ at 107. 260 See United States v. Bordallo, 857 F.2d 519 (9th Cir. 1988).
D. ARTICLE IV ALLEGING ABUSE OF POWER FAILS TO ESTABLISH AN
On November 5, 1998, the Majority sent the President a list of 81 questions that it deemed relevant to its impeachment inquiry. The President responded to those questions on November 27, 1998. The Majority has identified the President's responses to ten of those questions 261 as being “perjurious, false and misleading,” and constituting grounds for impeachment.
The manner in which the Majority drafted Article IV causes the Minority considerable concern. Originally, the Majority publicly released a version of the article that contained four clauses.262 Relying on allegations first propounded by the Independent Counsel, the first clause alleged that the President made misleading statements to the public concerning his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. Clause two asserted that the President made false statements to aides concerning the relationship knowing that the aides would repeat the statements during appearances before the grand jury. Clause three contended that the President improperly asserted executive privilege to obstruct the OIC's investigation of him, while clause four relied on the President's allegedly perjurious responses to the 81 questions.
During the Committee's debate on Article IV, Rep. Gekas, a member of the Majority, moved to amend the language of that provision by removing the first three clauses and making conforming changes to the preamble. The Gekas Amendment was approved by a vote of 29 “aye,” 5 “no,” and 3 "present.” The Minority was hardpressed to understand the reasons for the Majority's sweeping changes to the article that it had proposed just days earlier, and Rep. Schumer requested that the Chairman explain the process by which the article was drafted.263 The Chairman declined to do so.264 In an interview with the Washington Post, however, Rep. Hutchinson, a member of the Majority, "emphasized that [the Article) had been written by staff attorneys and that “[i]t had never been debated [by the Majority Members). The [Majority] [M]embers never voted on Article IV.” 265 Thus, the Majority offered Article IV even though no Member of the Majority actually voted for it.
The allegation that the President's responses to some of the 81 questions constitute a “misuse and abuse” of his office is curious. In its other articles of impeachment, the Majority elected to charge perjury in the grand jury and perjury during the Jones deposition without tying those allegations to any supposed abuse of the Office of the President. Even if one were to assume, for the sake of argument, that the President's responses to some of the 81 questions were false, the Minority fails to understand how those responses could constitute an abuse of power. The text of the revised article reveals a desperate, and ultimately unsuccessful, effort by the Ma
261 The ten responses that form the basis for Article IV are Numbers 19, 20, 24, 26, 27, 34, 42, 43, 52, 53.
262 Indicative of the highly partisan nature of the process is the fact that the Majority released its proposed articles of impeachment to the public even as Counsel to the President, Charles F.C. Ruff, was testifying before the Committee.
263 12/12/98 Tr. at 15. 264 12/12/98 Tr. at 15. 265 Peter Baker and Juliet Eilperin, GOP Blocks Democrats' Bid to Debate Censure in House, Wash. Post, Dec. 13, 1998, at Al.