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Senator Tom Daschle

January 8, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: Now, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota. I talked with him earlier this afternoon.

JIM LEHRER: Senator, welcome.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Thank you, Jim.

JIM LEHRER: I take it you’re pleased with this agreement passed by the Senate.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: I am pleased.

JIM LEHRER: You said you were a happy camper. What makes you so happy about this?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Well, we wanted this process to be fair, expedition, and dignified. And I think we’ve laid out a procedure that allows us to do that. We also wanted to be able to present our case without witnesses before we have a vote to dismiss or adjourn. We’re going to be able to do that. So it met the criteria the Democrats have said all along were – our goal – and I believe very strongly that this is a win-win. It’s a win for, of course, the Democrats and Republicans, but it’s also a win procedurally for all of those others involved in the House, as well as the White House.

JIM LEHRER: But this procedure does not preclude the calling of witnesses, correct?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Well, no, it doesn’t. The only thing it does allow is the ability to depose witnesses at some point should the Senate make that vote. And obviously that was always a right of somebody to make a motion to call witnesses. So we couldn’t preclude that under any circumstances.

JIM LEHRER: All right. Well, let’s go through this. It’s to begin on Thursday, is that correct?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: That’s correct. Well, actually it’s beginning right now, but the House presentation will begin on Thursday.

JIM LEHRER: On Thursday. And they’ll have 24 hours over how many days?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Well, that’s up to the House within reason. They can divide it up – three eight-hour days, two twelve-hour days. It’s going to be up to them.

JIM LEHRER: I see. You all have no preference in the Senate?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: That’s correct.

JIM LEHRER: All right. And then once they are finished, the president can lay out – also take 24 hours for a defense, is that correct?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: That’s correct

JIM LEHRER: All right. And then you Senators can ask questions but through the chief justice?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: That’s correct.

JIM LEHRER: And then comes motions, is that correct?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: That’s right. There would be two motions: a motion to dismiss and perhaps a motion to depose witnesses. Now, the motion to depose all witnesses would be presented in block. The House and the White House would be given three hours to make their case for witnesses or against witnesses, whatever the case may be. Following the presentation of whatever case could be made for witnesses, then we would vote first on dismissal and then on whether or not to depose witnesses. Now, if we did choose to depose witnesses, then there would be that deposition – they call it discovery – there would be an opportunity for us to consider the testimony — and then there would be another vote required to call the witness. So there is a multi-part step process here prior to the time we would come to some decision on a witness.

JIM LEHRER: All right. But first there – the vote comes on whether or not to dismiss this altogether, correct?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: That’s correct.

JIM LEHRER: And you Democrats will make that motion.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: That’s correct.

JIM LEHRER: And do you expect that to pass?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: I don’t know. I think it depends a lot on the circumstances at the time. Obviously, if you assumed – and I can’t make this assumption – that there would be 45 Democratic votes — it would still take six Republicans.

JIM LEHRER: Okay. But that does not require 2/3. That requires a simple–

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: A simple majority.

JIM LEHRER: A simple majority. Let’s assume there are witnesses, and let’s say there is not a dismissal and goes on to witnesses. What would be the nature of how they would come before the Senate and how — would you then vote individually? Let’s say a proposal is made for Monica Lewinsky, you would vote up or down on a majority way whether or not she would come as a witness and be questioned by all of you?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Well, we haven’t decided. Again, we’ve decided to take this one step at a time, so we have not made any decisions with regard to how witnesses would be called and what the circumstances would be. Could I say one other thing, Jim?


SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Earlier in the process I didn’t mention that we’re going to be bound by a record, and the record is the one set out by the House of Representatives, the five volumes. Nothing that is outside the record would be in order during the presentations made by the House or the White House.

JIM LEHRER: I see what you mean. In other words, all this talk about extra witnesses and all of that, that could not be brought up in the opening presentation?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: That’s correct.

JIM LEHRER: The only way that could be brought up is later, and it would have to be by a majority vote of the Senate before it could be brought up?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: That’s correct. Basically what we’re saying is that we’re going to be guided by the record presented in the House. Presentations will be made in large measure based upon that record. The House and the White House can make whatever case it wishes. If at some later date we decide to go to witnesses, we start the process all over again, that is, the actual subpoenaing of witnesses, the discovery, the taking the testimony of the witnesses, and then a decision after that has all been done to call witnesses, so there is a very long process, should it be required at a later date. Our hope is that we can consider the testimony and come to some conclusion prior to that time.

JIM LEHRER: In other words, consider the presentations first by the House and then by the president and then have a vote, which is essentially a dismissal vote and forget it, right?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: I guess that would be one way to look at it. Obviously, it would be a vote for dismissal.

JIM LEHRER: Now where does censure play a part in this, or does it anymore?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt that this only takes us, again, as I said earlier, to the first phase. Once the trial has been resolved, then it would be anticipated that the Senate would entertain a censure motion. I think there is still very strong support, at least on our side of the aisle, for a vote on censure. And I would expect that that would be the time it would be taken up and voted upon.

JIM LEHRER: Okay. Just so we get a feel for what’s in your head at least on this, let’s say that it goes the way you want it to go, which is the quicker rather than the longer way, what does quicker mean in this case? To go through the process to, say, a dismissal vote, how long would that take?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: It wouldn’t take any longer than the end of the month. I haven’t figured out yet – there’s been such a flurry.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE: You could easily figure it out. Of course, it depends on whether the House chose to divide up its 24 hours in smaller segments or in larger ones, and the same could be said of the White House. It would depend on how many questions are asked. And so there are a lot of variables here. But I would think that in no case – even if all the time was used – would it go much longer than the end of the month.

JIM LEHRER: If it goes beyond that, and there are, in fact, witnesses called, then is there any way to gauge how long it might take?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Then there is no way to gauge because we wouldn’t how long it would take to depose the witnesses, how many witnesses would be called, whether or not all of the witnesses would be voted upon, and approved by the Senate, so there are so many variables that it would be impossible to make any prediction should the Senate decide to call one or more witnesses.

JIM LEHRER: Now, once matters begin – as you say – there are other things to take up between now and Thursday – but once the heart of the case begins on Thursday — is the Senate going to do any other business, other than impeachment?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: I don’t believe it will. I think when you say the Senate, I think I’d better clarify to say that those maters that would normally come up on the Senate floor would not be taken up. I cannot imagine that, for example, committees could not meet and activities of various kinds could not begin in committees, but certainly I don’t anticipate that anything would happen on the floor.

JIM LEHRER: Is it going to be either suggested, if not required, that every Senator be in his or her seat whenever the impeachment trial is in progress?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Absolutely. I can’t imagine that a Senator, except for good reason, would be absent during any of these proceedings.

JIM LEHRER: Is the president going to go ahead with the State of the Union message on the 19th while the trial is in progress?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: That hasn’t been decided, of course, and we’ll have to discuss that at some point. My advice to him and to the White House at least to date has been to maintain the 19th date, and we’ll have to consider it now in light of these new agreements.

JIM LEHRER: How would those agreements affect that, do you think?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: I guess I don’t know yet. I’d want to talk through it with the White House, as well as with our colleagues, the Republican colleagues, just how we might proceed and how they would be affected, but certainly given that we now know the schedule, I think we would want to think about how we ought to proceed in that regard.

JIM LEHRER: Is it your understanding that the White House is on board with this? I realize the White House had no vote on this – this is 100 Senators voting — but I assume that the White House was consulted on this agreement that you all passed. What is your reading of what they think about it?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Well, I think it’s fair to say that the White House, as well as the House, was consulted substantially on this process. And while I think it’s also fair to say that neither the House or the White House is completely satisfied, they’re willing to live by this, this agreed-upon proceeding. And I think that most people recognize that in compromise not everybody gets everything they want.

JIM LEHRER: Why did you and Sen. Lott think it was so important for this to be bipartisan? I mean, 100 percent – a 100 to zero vote on this procedure – why was that so important to both of you?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Well, I think in large measure because of the debacle in the House. I don’t think anybody wants to repeat what happened there. And we felt that we needed to go the extra mile if there was any way to avoid the extraordinary acrimony that we saw there, the contentious debate, the – just the minimizing of the whole process, it was an ugly scene, and to a large extent, Sen. Lott and I just said that if there was any way to avoid it, we wanted to do so.

JIM LEHRER: Yes. You said yesterday that you and Sen. Lott had never worked as closely on anything before? Is that – do you still feel that way, 24 hours later?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Yes. This has been one of those times when it did require a very close working relationship. And I think it was a productive one.

JIM LEHRER: But there’s still going to be disagreement from now on out, is there not, over specifics?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Absolutely. I mean, this only allowed us to agree on a procedure; we agreed on that. We both anticipate many, many differences. Obviously, we may end up voting differently on the outcome, voting differently on motions, voting differently on every one of the questions to come before us. But we needed to get at least a bipartisan agreement on procedure.

JIM LEHRER: All right. Sen. Daschle, thank you very much.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: My pleasure.