Schippers Exposes Impeachment Debacle, David Schippers interview by Insight Magazine December 8, 2000, Democrat Schippers book Sellout
Schippers Exposes Impeachment Debacle, David Schippers interview by Insight Magazine December 8, 2000, Democrat Schippers book Sellout
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From INSIGHT Magazine December 8, 2000.
Published: December 8, 2000 Author: by J. Michael Waller
Schippers Exposes Impeachment Debacle
The head of the House’s investigation of President Clinton, David Schippers, reveals in SellOut how Bill Clinton survived impeachment with Republican help. When House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde built a team in 1998 to run the impeachment investigation of President Clinton, the Illinois Republican turned to a veteran gangbuster for help. Setting aside the hundreds of résumés from inside-the-Washington-Beltway Republican lawyers, Hyde picked David P. Schippers, a member of attorney general Bobby Kennedy’s special organized-crime unit in the early 1960s, to head the probe of presidential wrongdoing.
Schippers is an old-fashioned, lifelong Democrat whose values represent those of his party in a bygone age — an age when men drew indelible lines between right and wrong and when parties stood for principle and not as shields for corrupt power in high places. Though as loyal to his party as they come, he never blinked at helping GOP congressmen of principle in the fight against graft and political crime. He thought he’d seen it all in his native Chicago.
But when Schippers moved to the nation’s capital to head the 1998 impeachment investigation, he says he found himself completely unprepared for the moral decay, corruption and abdication of responsibility he found among Democrats and Republicans alike. In SellOut: The Inside Story of President Clinton’s Impeachment, written with Alan P. Henry, Schippers describes in sickening detail how Hyde’s committed band of House managers and professional investigators was betrayed not just by Clinton partisans but by Republican leaders as well.
And Schippers says the impeachment investigation of Clinton hardly was about the president’s glandularly overexcited conduct. It was about corruption of power: the Citizenship USA initiative, which put hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens on the voter rolls, and Filegate, in which nearly 1,000 raw, secret FBI personnel files on Republican former officials wound up in first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s hands and may have been used to blackmail congressmen and senators. Worst of all, in Schippers’ view was a national-security lapse: Chinagate, in which the president of the United States deliberately may have compromised U.S. national security in exchange for illegal secret payments from Chinese military intelligence. These, and not the Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones sideshows, are the reasons the House voted to impeach Clinton. But it was an uphill fight even in the House. Then the Senate — which didn’t want to know the facts, in Schippers’ account — would not go along. And so a corrupt elite was able to keep its hold on power. Insight interviewed Schippers shortly after the Nov. 7 elections. While he remains as tight-lipped as ever about the classified evidence against Clinton, he is decidedly blunt about the impeachment experience, where he sees the country headed and who he believes sold out.
Insight: How did a lifelong Republican such as Henry Hyde come to place such trust in you, a lifelong Democrat, to lead the impeachment investigation of President Clinton?
David Schippers: In the 1960s the governor appointed me as a member of the Illinois Organized Crime Investigative Committee. Henry Hyde was a member of the state Legislature. We got to know each other then and became friends over the year or so that I was on the committee. We kind of lost touch, but when he ran for Congress I offered to help him any way I could.
Insight: Did you seek the job to head the impeachment investigation?
DS: No. In January 1998 Chairman Hyde called me out of the clear blue sky. Initially, he asked me for help on oversight of a Justice Department matter. Then the Lewinsky issue broke. Hyde asked me if potentially, God forbid, it led to impeachment, would I be willing.
Insight: The White House wanted to make it look like your investigation was a prurient intrusion into Clinton’s private life. Is that so, or were there serious breaches of national security?
DS: After we saw the material assembled in the secure committee room, and after the House voted for the inquiry on Oct. 8, 1998, I went to Henry Hyde and said: “We are going to start a heavy investigation. We’re not going to touch Lewinsky; we’re going to look at Chinagate, Filegate and all the other -gates. I estimated that we wouldn’t be ready to file our findings until July or August 1999.
Insight: What did you think you were getting into with Chinagate?
DS: Prior to the inquiry, I had read the book Year of the Rat by Edward Timperlake and William Triplett, and I realized that there was something there that had to be looked into. So the very first call I made after the House voted for the inquiry was to Timperlake and Triplett. And I asked if they’d cooperate and do the advance investigation because they had so much knowledge from the Senate investigation under Senator Fred Thompson [R-Tenn.]. They said, “We’ll not only help, we’ll work 24 hours a day.” China, to me, was the most dangerous part of the whole thing.
Insight: Why did the Thompson committee drop the ball on Chinagate?
DS: Timperlake and Triplett both had the same question. Nobody seemed to know. We were reaching out for more information, and we were told, “Stop, it’s over.” Little did I realize the frustration we would be facing within a month.
Insight: What kind of job did the House commission led by Rep. Christopher Cox of California do in investigating the Chinagate issues?
DS: Oh, Cox and his colleagues did a good job, but it’s all still classified and nobody can get at it. Cox made clear that he was aware U.S. security had been seriously compromised but he couldn’t go into the specifics because of the security issue.
Insight: How did the House Democratic leadership treat you?
DS: The Democrats always were friendly; they always were affable.
Insight: And the Republicans?
DS: Majority Leader Dick Armey was on our side 100 percent. But others in the Republican leadership, House Speaker Newt Gingrich in particular, were a problem for us. We would have meetings with Gingrich and reach an agreement, “We’re going to do it this way,” but by the time we’d get back to our offices he would be with Minority Leader Richard Gephardt doing exactly the opposite.
Insight: Gingrich and Gephardt acting together?
DS: Our original plan was not to make anything public, to keep it under the tightest security, until we made our reports. But it was Gephardt and Gingrich who decided they were going to let out all the crap. Unfortunately most of it was that sex stuff the media immediately fastened on to send up the battle cry that “It’s only about sex.”
Insight: What kind of damage did their leaks do?
DS: Had it not gone to the media, and had I been able to list 15 felonies, you’d have seen almost no sex in it. It was the felonies on which we focused.
Insight: What about the impeachment committee? Did they release information improperly?
DS: Not Henry Hyde, not the members of the committee. And they fought like tigers. Hyde constantly was pressing the leadership, trying to get them to do things the right way. We originally arranged it so only the members of the committee could get into the room and view the evidence; Gingrich could not get in there until much later. We had an ultrasecure room with ultrasecure evidence, no leaks coming out. Then, in that two weeks [after the House leadership authorized the release of the sex-scandal material], everybody was having a feeding frenzy on all that garbage.
Insight: Gingrich and Gephardt discredited the impeachment investigation?
DS: Oh, yes. They were the ones who against our wishes put out [President Clinton’s] grand-jury testimony. Never mind that the deposition [to Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch] was more useful. First, it was shorter; second, it contained many more lies, more provable lies.
Insight: But the sex issue obscured the damage to U.S. national security.
DS: The whole national-security dimension was lost. The entire matter of the fact that he [Clinton] was committing perjury, obstructions and all that — that was lost. The Filegate thing was lost, everything we intended to get into.
We were going into the committee vote on the impeachment articles. I had thought the strongest article was abuse of the Office of the President. Another of the abuses was that Citizenship USA matter, where the administration had politicized everything and used everything at its disposal. An amendment passed that completely emasculated that article, which meant that we would lose it, and we did lose it.
Insight: Did you have any idea the Senate would respond the way it did to the impeachment articles?
DS: No way. When we finished in the House — the managers, the staff and myself — we honestly believed that once the actual evidence was presented in a trial atmosphere where the American people could see and hear what happened without the use of the word “sex” they would see the witnesses, the victims, the documents, the films.
We had four to five weeks’ worth of evidence. We thought that once this was presented and the American people saw the truth the Democrats would be required to vote their conscience. We thought we would convict and remove him.
That’s why we were so shocked when [Senate Majority Leader] Trent Lott told Henry Hyde, “You’re not going to dump that garbage on us.” Suddenly we realized that our own people were going to sell us down the river in the Senate. We were terribly upset.
Insight: Why did you get that response?
DS: I was shocked because I thought things were on the square. I thought that when a senator took the oath to give equal and impartial justice that he would do that. But it was completely partisan. The Democrats were adamant that the evidence not be produced, and the Republicans did not have the courage to fight them.
The ultimate failure of Republican courage in the Senate was absolutely sickening. They just let the Democrats run roughshod.
Insight: Why didn’t a single Democrat break?
DS: They had a stand-up crew. The discipline in the Democratic Party was absolutely remarkable. I don’t know if it was because of Filegate or what. On the committee in the House, once members saw all the evidence, we expected to pick up four or five of the committee Democrats and vote to impeach. But even in the Senate the only one who broke was Senator [Russell] Feingold [of Wisconsin] who voted against the motion to dismiss. He broke with the party and voted his conscience on that.
Insight: Why did the senators ignore the facts?
DS: I think they wanted to be in the position to say, like Senator [Tom] Harkin [of Iowa] said, “Oh, gee, if I’d known that, I would have changed my vote.” They didn’t want to know anything.
Insight: What do you mean when you say that it may have been Filegate that kept the senators from convicting Clinton?
DS: I don’t think that anybody in the White House or the president’s entourage picked up the phone and called senators and said, “Look, we’ve got something on you and if you do this we’re going to out you,” but after the [Bob] Livingston matter broke and he resigned [even though he was scheduled to be speaker of the House], everybody got the message. And a lot of people may have had something in their background that they didn’t want made public. Who knows?
But everybody knew that if the president had it he would use it. There was always that sword of Damocles over their heads. Maybe that affected the way the senators voted.
Insight: Have we heard the end of Filegate?
DS: Filegate never was resolved. Never. And it probably never will be unless Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch breaks it. He had a lot of information that he was willing to furnish to us in connection with the impeachment had we been able to get into Filegate, and he was extremely unhappy when we were not allowed to get to it. I think Larry eventually may be the one to get to the bottom of it.
Insight: How else has the administration’s impunity undermined our national-security system? What about the 1997 case of Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly, the Navy intelligence officer whose eyes were burned when a Russian spy ship fired a laser at him, and the Clinton administration covered it up?
DS: They’ll say his injuries are not
Insight: That’s exactly what the Navy has been saying.
DS: The dirty bastards, and they know better! They don’t dare admit it, because then they’ll be admitting that the Russians committed a crime against humanity and an act of war.
Insight: Is there anything not in your book that you think should have been?
DS: Oh, yeah, some of the things I learned in the [Charles] Labella report [on campaign finance from the FBI], some of the things in the room that now are in the archives. I can’t go into specifics, but there’s a lot of material there that corroborated the theory that there was a massive obstruction of justice. There are an awful lot of leads that, had I had more concrete evidence of the kind we intended to get, would have led a hell of a lot more into Chinagate.
Also, I would have gone more into Filegate. And I would have gone into the matter of [late commerce secretary] Ron Brown and [Clinton/Gore fund-raiser and suspected Chinese spy] John Huang and those trips that were being sold on Commerce planes. There’s a lot more I would have gone into had we had more direct proof, but we were given no chance to get it.
Insight: What were the biggest obstacles?
DS: Time. And the leadership in the House. Right after the  election, Henry Hyde was told, “You will finish this by the first of December and, if this goes on into the next Congress, you won’t get authorization; you won’t get more money for the investigation. We don’t want you to do any further investigation. You go with what you’ve got.” Which essentially was the Paula Jones case.
It was the leadership, though I don’t know who specifically talked to Hyde. He never told us. It had to be Gingrich, and after Gingrich resigned the shot was going to be called by whoever would succeed him. Then they got Livingston.
Insight: So the Republicans helped cover up for Clinton?
DS: Originally we were told that it wouldn’t come out of committee and that if it did come out of the committee they’d make sure that 40 Republicans came out against impeachment in the House. We asked that all the Republicans come over and look at what we had, hear the witnesses, see the evidence. We had 65 Republicans over, including a number who said they weren’t going to impeach. And, of those 65, all but one voted to impeach.
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