May 12, 1998
Partisan rancor has risen to new heights in the House committee investigating campaign finance abuses. Democrats are calling for the removal of Rep. Dan Burton for his release of the Webster Hubbell tapes. Can Congress overcome the delays and disruptions and continue its investigation? After this background report, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. John Mica (R-FL) address the issue. You can also participate in an online forum regarding congressional investigations of the president.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D) California: Well Mr. Chairman I've made a point of order and I want you to rule on my point of order.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
May 12, 1998:
Rep. Henry Waxman discusses the partisan showdown.
May 12, 1998:
Rep. John Mica discusses the partisan showdown.
May 19, 1998:
Participate in an Online Forum on congressional investigations of the president.
May 8, 1998:
A report on Dan Burton's release of the Hubbell tapes.
May 6, 1998:
A debate over executive privilege with two former White House counsels.
May 1, 1998:
Our pundits discuss the war of words between Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Clinton.
May 1, 1998:
A report on the week's developments in the Starr Investigation.
April 30, 1998:
The NewsHour's commentators assess the President's press conference.
April 17, 1998:
Our pundits discuss Kenneth Starr, Paula Jones & a poll of government leaders.
Browse the Online NewsHour's coverage of the White House and Shields & Gigot.
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Delays and disruptions dominate the committee investigating campaign fund-raising abuses.
KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats--slightly outnumbered on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee--readily admit they've gone out of their way to delay and disrupt the committee's work--investigating charges of campaign fund-raising abuses during the 1996 presidential election.
REP. DAN BURTON (R) Indiana: We will enter into the record a letter from Justice regarding Mr. Lau without objection.
MEMBER OF COMMITTEE: I object, Mr. chairman.
REP. DAN BURTON: You object to having this letter--
SPOKESMAN: I want to know what the letter is. We understand that you offered unanimous consent to enter something into the record--two tapes that were then released. So I've lost my confidence in anything you ask unless we have--
REP. BURTON: Objection is heard. It will not be entered into the record.
KWAME HOLMAN: Tomorrow Republican Chairman Dan Burton will again try to get his committee to grant immunity to four minor players in the campaign investigation in exchange for their testimony, and Democrats again are expected to prevail in blocking him just as they did two weeks ago.
REP. DAN BURTON: Clerk will call the roll.
KWAME HOLMAN: House rules require at least two-thirds approval by any committee to grant immunity to witnesses. The previous vote on immunity fell along straight party lines.
REP. DAN BURTON: The clerk will report the tally.
CLERK: Mr. Chairman there are 21 ayes and 19 nays.
KWAME HOLMAN: Chairman Burton's motion to grant immunity failed.
REP. CHRISTOPHER COX, (R) California: The United States Department of Justice has told us they have no objection to granting immunity to any of these people. They are the people who would prosecute if anybody is going to prosecute. There will be no prosecutions. Therefore giving this immunity to which the Department of Justice has not objected is not controversial. Standing in the way of these grants of immunity, however, is a clear and obvious choice to obstruct this investigation.
Rep. Horn: "If you do not grant the immunity, you simply don't want to know the truth. It's as simple as that."
REP. SAM HORN, (R) California: If you do not grant the immunity, you simply don't want to know the truth. It's as simple as that.
KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats' primary complaint has remained the same throughout the committee's year-long investigation. They charge the focus has centered solely on President Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.
REP. CHAKA FATTAH, (D) Pennsylvania: There's a wall full of pictures on that side of the aisle but over here we have nothing. This desire to seek out illegality seems to lose its enthusiasm when its directed at the majority party. And so when you see the Democrats be less than enthusiastic about cooperating, it's because we don't see any effort to be even handed.
KWAME HOLMAN: But recent events have added to the partisan rancor. During the recent Easter recess published statements made by Chairman Burton about President Clinton drew the fire of committee Democrats, including top Democrat Henry Waxman.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN: It would be unforgivable of us to sit by, Mr. Chairman, when you bring discredit to this committee and to the House by calling the president a scumbag and admitting you are out to get him.
KWAME HOLMAN: That incident was followed by the leaking and subsequent partial release of transcripts of conversations of former associate attorney general Webster Hubbell, conversations recorded during Hubbell's 18 months in prison.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN: These are things that are not the business of this committee, and they violate the rules of everybody involved.
KWAME HOLMAN: Last weekend, Congressman Waxman sent a three-page letter to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, promising committee Democrats would cooperate in the ongoing campaign fund-raising investigation but only if Dan Burton steps down as chairman. Waxman wrote: "There are several senior Republican members of the Committee who could immediately take his place and continue the investigation. For the investigation to have any legitimacy, this must happen." But Chairman Burton said he did not expect that to happen.
REP. DAN BURTON: The speaker has indicated no change whatsoever. In fact, last week, when I talked to him personally, he indicated full support for our committee and our investigation.
JIM LEHRER: And late this afternoon, Burton went to the House floor.
REP. DAN BURTON: We have a number of good members on my committee on both sides of the aisle. I think that we have conscientious members, both Democratic and Republican, who are outraged by some of the things that happened during the last election. I hope that all of my colleagues are thinking long and hard about their votes. And I hope that they will reconsider and support immunity tomorrow.
Now, in conclusion, I have tried throughout this discussion to try to make clear to the American people and my colleagues that this an investigation that has faced countless obstacles, stone walls. We have faced obstruction from the White House. We have faced stalling from the Democrat National Committee. We have faced non-cooperation from foreign governments. We have had over 90 people take the Fifth Amendment or flee the country because they didn't want to testify because of criminal activity; however, we will continue. There are very serious allegations of crimes that have been committed, and the American people have a right to know. I hope that tomorrow we will start to tear down the stone wall by granting immunity to these four witnesses and getting on with the investigation. This--none of this should be covered up. The American people have a very clear right to know if our government was compromised. They have a right to know if foreign contributions influenced our foreign policy, if it endangered our national defense. These are things the American people have a right to know, and we're going to do our dead level best to make sure they get that right and they get to know it.
JIM LEHRER: We flashed the wrong date on that. That was Congressman Burton speaking this afternoon on the floor of the House of Representatives.