Starr says Clinton ‘chose deception’, Clinton lied under oath obstructed justice and attempted to thwart not just Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit but Starr’s grand jury probe as well, House Judiciary Committee, CNN November 18, 1998

Starr says Clinton ‘chose deception’, Clinton lied under oath obstructed justice and attempted to thwart not just Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit but Starr’s grand jury probe as well, House Judiciary Committee, CNN November 18, 1998


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From CNN November 18, 1998.

“Starr says Clinton ‘chose deception’

President’s lawyer grills the independent counsel

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, November 19) — In a marathon session, Independent Counsel Ken Starr laid out his case against President Bill Clinton on Thursday, then clashed with Clinton lawyer David Kendall over Starr’s allegations of presidential misconduct in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Starr told the House Judiciary Committee the evidence suggests Clinton lied under oath, obstructed justice and attempted to thwart not just Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit but Starr’s grand jury probe as well.

“On at least six different occasions — from December 17, 1997, through August 17, 1998 — the president had to make a decision,” Starr told lawmakers. “He could choose truth or he could choose deception. On all six occasions, the president chose deception.”

Starr’s testimony came on the first day of historic impeachment hearings by the Judiciary Committee. After he finished a 58-page statement, Starr answered questions from committee lawyers David Schippers and Abbe Lowell, House members and Kendall.

Kendall ripped Starr’s investigation as fatally flawed.

“Nothing in this overkill of an investigation amounts to a justification for the impeachment of the president of the United States,” Kendall declared.

Clinton’s lawyer pressed Starr on leaks of secret grand jury investigation, saying there has never been a case with so many prosecutorial leaks.

“I totally disagree with that,” an angry Starr replied. “That’s an accusation…”

Kendall and Starr also argued over investigators’ treatment of Lewinsky in the early stages of the probe; Starr disputed Kendall when he said Lewinsky was “held” at a suburban Washington, D.C., hotel after FBI agents approached her.

“That is false and you know it to be false,” Starr told Kendall.

In their questions, committee Republicans focused on Clinton’s conduct, while Democrats tried to put Starr on the defensive by attacking his methods — in particular, how Starr’s investigators first approached Lewinsky at the suburban Washington, D.C. hotel to persuade her to cooperate with their probe.

Asked why his staff approached Lewinsky there and encouraged the ex-intern not to contact her lawyer, Starr said, “She was, as the information came to us, a felon in the middle of committing another felony.”

Rep. Charles Canady (R-Florida) accused Democrats of trying to shift attention from Clinton’s conduct by focusing on Starr’s methods.

Canady said their attacks on Starr reminded him of the adage, “If you don’t have an argument, abuse the other side.”

Lowell, the Democrats’ chief counsel, asked Starr about Lewinsky’s grand jury testimony that no one asked her to lie or promised her a job for her silence about her sexual relationship with Clinton. Wasn’t that unequivocal? he was asked.

“I would say it is utterly incomplete and grossly misleading,” Starr replied.

Lowell also pressed Starr about why he included firm conclusions about Clinton’s alleged misconduct in his report to Congress, rather than merely presenting the facts that he and his staff uncovered.

Starr said his office tried to organize what they learned into a coherent referral for Congress and defended his report. “I stand behind it because it is mine. I stand behind each word of it,” Starr said.

Starr also jousted with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), who chided him for not making it known before the election that he did not have evidence of impeachable offenses by Clinton in the Whitewater, FBI files and White House travel office cases.

“You’re the expert on unfair questions,” Frank told the prosecutor when Starr objected to one of Frank’s questions.

Some Republicans were effusive in their praise for Starr, though. “I commend you for standing up to the nonsense … that you have had to put up with today,” said Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, a longtime Clinton critic.

Starr alleged that Clinton systematically lied about his relationship with Lewinsky during legal proceedings in the Jones case and Starr’s grand jury probe.

He accused Clinton of “a pattern of obstruction that is fundamentally inconsistent with the president’s duty to faithfully execute the law.” | Full text of Starr’s statement

Starr alleged that Clinton “misused his authority and power” to impede civil and criminal cases against him.

‘Checks and balances’

Committee Chairman Henry Hyde said the inquiry was part of “the series of checks and balances that exemplify the genius of our founding fathers.”

“Today the search for the truth continues,” Hyde said in his opening statement. Hyde praised Starr for offering a “clear, documented, compelling case against the president.”

“There are many voices telling us to halt this debate, that the people are weary of it all,” Hyde said. “There are other voices suggesting we have a duty to debate the many questions raised by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, questions of high consequence for constitutional government…. What is the significance of a false statement under oath? Is it essentially different from a garden variety lie? A mental reservation? A fib? An evasion? A little white lie? Hyperbole?”

To no one’s surprise, the hearing got off to a partisan start, with the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, ridiculing Starr as “a federally paid sex policeman” who was obsessed with driving Clinton from office because of his sexual affair with Lewinsky.

Conyers said Starr’s investigative methods have been suspect, also accusing his staffers of trapping Lewinsky in a hotel room early in the investigation, ridiculing her when she wanted to call her mother and threatening witnesses.

“It is not acceptable to force mothers to testify against their daughters, to make lawyers testify against their clients, to require Secret Service agents to testify against the people they protect, or to make bookstores tell what books people read,” Conyers said.

Democrats unsuccessfully demanded more time for their counsel and Clinton’s lawyer, Kendall, to cross-examine Starr.

Rep. William Delahunt (D-Massachusetts) moved to give Kendall two hours instead of 30 minutes. Delahunt said Starr had been preparing for his appearance for weeks, while Kendall has had only 16 hours to read Starr’s statement and prepare.

But Hyde said the time limits were “eminently fair” and the motion for more time died on a party-line 21-16 vote.

When Hyde said Democrats were being disruptive, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-North Carolina) said, “We’re disrupting a railroad, it seems like.”

The special prosecutor, who listened impassively to Conyers’ fierce attack, said the Clinton probe and his referral to Congress was not about sex, but “about obstruction of justice, lying under oath, tampering with witnesses and misuse of power.”

Starr emphasized that his referral “never suggests that the relationship between the president and Ms. Lewinsky in and of itself could be a high crime or misdemeanor…The propriety of a relationship is not the concern of our office.”

Starr moved through his 58-page statement in a calm, deliberate fashion, seemingly unaffected by Conyers’ criticism. He mentioned Conyers’ comments at one point, when he defended what he called traditional law-enforcement methods the Office of the Independent Counsel used to seek information from witnesses.

“It was not our place to reinvent the investigative wheel,” Starr said.

Starr told lawmakers that “no one is entitled to lie under oath simply because he or she does not like the questions or because he believes the case is frivolous or financially motivated or politically motivated.”

Starr was the leadoff witness in the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry, and depending on the committee action on further subpoenas, perhaps the only major one. Americans who watch the proceedings on TV or via the Internet will not see any of the principals, including Clinton, Lewinsky or Lewinsky friend-turned-informant Linda Tripp.

On the other side of the world

Clinton, on an official trip to Asia, could not escape from the aftermath of his affair with Lewinsky. At a town hall meeting, a woman asked him how he had apologized to his wife and daughter for his “inappropriate” relationship with Lewinsky.

“I did it in a direct and straightforward manner,” Clinton said. Did they forgive him? “I believe they did, yes,” he said. Clinton has denied he committed perjury or obstruction of justice in trying to keep their relationship secret.

As unyielding as Starr’s statement was, it did contain some good news for the White House. Starr said there was no evidence of impeachable offenses in other activities that he investigated, including the gathering of FBI files on Republicans by the Clinton White House and the firing of White House travel office workers.

Starr also disclosed that his office drafted an impeachment referral to Congress on the original Whitewater real estate loan allegations last year, but decided not to send it to Congress. The referral focused on the president’s testimony about a fraudulent $300,000 loan and a second loan from a savings and loan owned by the president’s former business partners.

“In late 1997, we considered whether this evidence justified a referral to Congress,” Starr told the committee. “We drafted a report. But we concluded that it would be inconsistent with the statutory standard because of the difficulty of establishing the truth with a sufficient degree of confidence.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) twice sought to block Starr from mentioning the Whitewater or travel office investigations, saying it was not germane to his referral, which focused on the Lewinsky matter.

“I believe Mr. Starr’s remarks are now out of order,” Lee said.

But Hyde overruled Lee and let Starr continue.”

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