TOPICS > Politics

Making Their Case

January 14, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT


KWAME HOLMAN: The Senate of is called the world’s greatest deliberative body, but House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, with a mixture of sarcasm and reverence, recently referred to the Senate as “Mount Olympus.”
SPOKESMAN: The sergeant-at-arms will make the proclamation.

KWAME HOLMAN: Today Hyde and his team of 12 House Republicans were on the Senate floor. They sat at a temporary table to the right of the chair and waited to begin prosecuting the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Hyde this week said he wasn’t at all nervous about having to deliver the opening argument before 100 sitting Senators, but he said he was anxious to get started, which he did shortly after 1 o’clock this afternoon.

REP. HENRYHYDE: Distinguished counsel for the President and Senators, We are brought together on this most solemn and historic occasion to perform important duties assigned to us by the Constitution. We want you to know how much we respect you and this institution and how grateful we are for your guidance and your cooperation. With your permission, we the managers of the House are here to set forth the evidence in support of two articles of impeachment against President William Jefferson Clinton. You are here seated in this historic chamber not to embark on some great legislative debate, which these stately walls have so often witnessed, but to listen to the evidence, as those who must sit in judgment.

To guide you in this grave duty you have taken an oath of impartiality. With the simple words “I do,” you have pledged to put aside personal bias and partisan interest and to do “impartial justice.” Your willingness to take up this calling has once again reminded the world of the unique brilliance of America’s constitutional system of government. We are here, Mr. Chief Justice and Distinguished Senators, as advocates for the Rule of Law, for Equal Justice Under the Law and for the sanctity of the oath. The oath. In many ways the case you will consider in the coming days is about those two words “I do,” pronounced at two Presidential inaugurations by a person whose spoken words have singular importance to our nation and to the great globe itself.

KWAME HOLMAN: Hyde introduced the House Managers, who will assist him, and described the roles each would play in laying out the prosecution’s case over the next three days. He then turned the floor over to Wisconsin’s James Sensenbrenner.

JAMES SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Chief Justice, we are here today because William Jefferson Clinton decided to use all means possible – both legal and illegal – to subvert the truth about his conduct relevant to the Federal Civil Rights suit brought against him by Mrs. Paula Jones. Defendants in civil lawsuits cannot pick and choose which laws and rules of procedure they follow and which they will not. That’s for the trial judge to decide, whether the defendant be president or pauper. In this case, a citizen claimed her civil rights were violated when she refused then Governor Clinton’s advances and was subsequently harassed at work, denied merit pay raises, and finally forced to quit. The court ruled she had the right to obtain evidence showing other women, including Miss Lewinsky, got jobs, promotions, and raises after submitting to Mr. Clinton, and whether other women suffered job detriments after refusing similar advances.

When someone lies about an affair and tries to hide the facts, they violate the trust their spouse and family put in them. But when they lie about it during legal proceedings and obstruct the parties from obtaining evidence, they prevent the courts from administering justice. That is an offense against the public, made even worse when a poor and powerless person seeks the protection of our civil rights from the rich or powerful. Mr. Chief Justice, the House has adopted two articles of impeachment against President William Jefferson Clinton. Each meets the standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and each is amply supported by the evidence.

Article 1 impeaches the President for “perjurious, false and misleading” testimony during his August 17, 1998, appearance before a grand jury of the United States in four areas:

First, the nature and details of his relationship with a subordinate government employee; second, prior perjurious, false and misleading testimony he gave in a federal civil rights action brought against him; third, prior false and misleading statements he allowed his attorney to make to a federal judge in that federal civil rights lawsuit; fourth, his corrupt efforts to influence the testimony of witnesses and to impede the discovery of evidence in that federal civil rights action. The evidence will clearly show that President Clinton’s false testimony to the grand jury was not a single or isolated instance which could be excused as a mistake, but rather a comprehensive and calculated plan to prevent the grand jury from getting the accurate testimony in order to do its job. Furthermore, it is important to dispel the notion that the President’s false testimony before the grand jury simply relates to the details of the relationship between President Clinton and Miss Lewinsky. These charges make up only a small part of Article 1. The fact is, the evidence will show that President Clinton made numerous perjurious, false and misleading statements regarding his efforts to obstruct justice. The President’s perjurious, false, and misleading statements regarding his relationship with Miss Lewinsky began early in his grand jury testimony. These statements included parts of the prepared statement the President read at the beginning of his testimony. He referred or reverted to this statement at least 19 times during the course of the testimony. Further, the evidence will show the President made other false statements to the grand jury regarding the nature and details of his relationship with Miss Lewinsky at times when he did not refer to his prepared statement.

Second, the evidence will show that the President piled perjury upon perjury when he provided perjurious, false, and misleading statement — testimony to the grand jury concerning prior perjurious, false, and misleading testimony given in Mrs. Paula Jones’ case. On two occasions, the President testified to the grand jury that his deposition testimony was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and that he was required to give a complete answer to each question asked of him during the deposition. That means he brought to the grand jury his untruthful answers to questions at the deposition.

Third, the evidence will show the President provided perjurious, false, and misleading testimony to a federal grand jury regarding his attorney’s use of an affidavit he knew to be false during the deposition in Mrs. Paula Jones’ case before Federal Judge Susan Webber Wright. The President denied that he even paid attention to Mr. Bennett’s use of the affidavit. The evidence will show he made this denial because his failure to stop his attorney from utilizing a false affidavit at a deposition would constitute an obstruction of justice. The evidence will also show the President did not admit that Mr. Bennett’s statement was false because to do so would be to admit that he had perjured himself earlier that day during the grand jury testimony, as well as at the deposition.

Fourth, the evidence will show the President provided perjurious, false, and misleading testimony to the grand jury concerning his corrupt efforts to influence the testimony of witnesses and to impede the discovery of evidence in Mrs. Paula Jones’ civil rights action. Article II impeaches William Jefferson Clinton for preventing, obstructing, and impeding the administration of justice in Mrs. Paula Jones’ case by either directly or through subordinates and agents engaging in a scheme to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence and testimony relating to Mrs. Jones’ federal civil rights action. As in the case of Article 1, the President’s direct and indirect actions were not isolated mistakes, but were multi-faceted actions specifically designed to prevent Mrs. Paula Jones from having her day in court. It is truly sad when the leader of the greatest nation in the world gets caught up in a series of events where one inappropriate and criminal act leads to another, and another and another. Even sadder is that the President himself could have stopped this process simply by telling the truth and accepting the consequences of his prior mistakes.

At least six times since December 17, 1997, William Jefferson Clinton could have told the truth and suffered the consequences. Instead he chose lies, perjury, and deception. He could have told the truth when he first learned that Miss Lewinsky would be a witness in Mrs. Jones’ case. He could have told the truth at his civil deposition. He could have told the truth to Betty Currie. He could have told the truth when the news media first broke the story of his affair. He could have told the truth to his aides and cabinet. He could have told the truth to the American people. Instead, he shook his finger at each and every American and said,” I want you to listen to me,” and proceeded to tell a straight-faced lie to the American people. Finally, he had one more opportunity to tell the truth. He could have told the truth to the grand jury. Had he told the truth last January, there would have been no independent counsel investigation of this matter, no grand jury appearance, no impeachment inquiry and no House approval of articles of impeachment. And, we would not be here today fulfilling a painful and essential constitutional duty. Instead, he chose lies and deception, despite warnings from friends, aides, and members of the House and Senate that failure to tell the truth would have grave consequences.

KWAME HOLMAN: Sensenbrenner spoke for nearly an hour and then gave way to Tennessee’s Ed Bryant, who promised to provide a road map Senators could follow that would lead them to conviction.

REP. ED BRYANT: Throughout our presentation of the facts, especially as it relates to the various illegal acts, I ask that you pay particular attention to what I call the big picture. Look at the results of these various acts, as well as who benefited. Please make a mental note now, if you can, and ask yourself always, as you look at each one of these illegal acts that are presented to you: (a) What was the result of that illegal act?; and (b) Who benefited from that illegal act?

I believe that you will find that the evidence will show that while the President’s “fingerprints” may not be directly on the evidence proving these illegal acts, the results of the acts usually inure to the benefit of the President and the President alone . Subordinates and friends alike are drawn into this web of deceit. The President is insulated. Crimes are committed. Justice is denied. The Rule of Law is suspended. And this President is the beneficiary. Some examples:

One –Subpoenaed evidence disappears from Ms. Lewinsky’s apartment and reappears under Ms. Currie’s bed. What was the result of that? Who had the benefit of that?

Two — Ms. Lewinsky files false affidavit in Jones case. What’s the result of filing a false affidavit, and who benefited from that?

Number Three – The President’s attorney files the Lewinsky affidavit, not knowing it was false, representing to the Court that “there is absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form” – while the President sits in the deposition and does not object to that – very silently sits in the deposition. What was the result of that, and who benefited from that filing of the affidavit?

Four and finally — Ms. Lewinsky, after months of job searching in New York City, is offered a job with a Fortune 500 company in New York City within 48 hours of her signing this false affidavit. Who shared the results of that with Ms. Lewinsky and who obtained the benefit of that?

I want to now rewind the clock back to November, 1995. We are here in Washington where Ms. Lewinsky has been working at the White House since July of 1995. As you continue to listen to the evidence, from this point on November 15th forward, remember that Ms. Lewinsky and the President were alone in the Oval Office workplace area at least 21 times. And I have listed these in chart form, beginning again in November of 1995 and going through ’96 and into the early part of 1997, continued through the year.

During that time they had at least 11 of the so-called salacious encounters there in the workplace at various times during the day and night: three in 1995, five in 1996, and three in 1997. They also had in excess of 50 telephone conversations, most of which appear to have been telephone calls to and from Ms. Lewinsky’s home. And I have scheduled all these telephone calls to show you the 50 plus telephone calls.

Also, they exchanged some 64 gifts, with the President receiving 40 of these gifts and Ms. Lewinsky 24 of these gifts. And, again, we have charts that reflect the receipt of both sets of gifts. And, again, these charts will be here in the front, always available for your inspection. We also know that their affair began on November 15th. Interestingly, there is even a conflict here with the president. According to Ms. Lewinsky, they had never spoken to each other up to that point. Yet, he asked this unknown intern into the private area of his office that day, the Oval Office, and kissed her. He then invited her back to return later that day when the two engaged in the first of these eleven acts of misconduct.

Now, the contradiction in the statement that the President relied upon in his grand jury testimony that’s been referenced earlier, very carefully worded, in that statement, the President gave his testimony before the grand jury about meeting in this relationship and it says – he says: “I regret that what began as a friendship came to include this conduct.” It is anticipated that the attorneys for the President will present arguments which will contest much of the relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

The President has maintained throughout the last several months that while there was no sexual relationship or sexual affair, in fact, there was some type of inappropriate, intimate contact with her. What has now been dubbed as “legal gymnastics” on the part of the President has made its appearance. Other examples followed. Within his definition of the word “alone”, he denies being alone with Ms. Lewinsky at any time in the Oval Office. He also questions the definition of the word “is.” And it depends on what the word “is” means and how do you answer a particular question. Further, we would expect the President to continue to disavow knowledge of why evidence detrimental to his defense in the Jones case was removed from Ms. Lewinsky’s apartment and hidden beneath Ms. Currie’s bed or knowledge of how Ms. Lewinsky found herself with an employment offer in New York virtually at the same time she finally executed an affidavit in the Jones case. Unfortunately for your search for the truth in these proceedings, the President continues today to parse his words and use “legal hairsplitting” in his defense.

I cite for your consideration his answer filed with this body just days ago. For instance: One, Responding in part to the Impeachment Article I, the President persists, in a wrongheaded fashion, with his legal hair-splitting of the term “sexual relations,” which permits him to define that term in such a way that– in the particular salacious act that we’re talking about here, one person has sex and the other does not. As a graduate of one of the finest law schools in America and as a former law professor and Attorney General from the State of Arkansas, the President knows better.

JIM LEHRER: The first three House Managers spoke without interruption for nearly two hours. At that point Chief Justice Rehnquist recessed the trial for 20 plus minutes. When Senators returned, Arkansas’s Asa Hutchinson began laying out the case for Article II as approved by the House of Representatives. Kwame Holman continues.

KWAME HOLMAN: Asa Hutchinson said he would make the case for the second impeachment article because events supporting obstruction of justice occurred before those supporting the perjury charges contained in the first article.

REP. ASA HUTCHINSON: The obstruction, for our purposes, started on December 5, 1997. And that is when the witness list from the Paula Jones case was faxed to the President’s lawyers. At that point the wheels of obstruction started rolling and they did not stop until the President successfully blocked the truth from coming out in a civil rights case. These acts of obstruction included attempts to improperly influence a witness in the civil rights case – that’s Monica Lewinsky; the procurement and filing of a false affidavit in the case; unlawful attempts to influence the testimony of a key witness, Betty Currie; the willful concealment of evidence under subpoena in that case, which are the gifts of December 28th; and illegally influencing the testimony of witnesses before, that is, the aides that testified before the grand jury, before the grand jury of the United States. Each of these areas of obstruction will be covered in my presentation today. As I said, it began on Friday, December 5, when the witness list came from the Paula Jones case. Shortly thereafter the President learned that the list included Monica Lewinsky. This had to be startling news to the President because if the truth about his relationship with a subordinate employee were known, the civil rights case against him would have been strengthened. And it might have totally changed the outcome.

KWAME HOLMAN: Hutchinson delivered a more conversational presentation than did his predecessors. He referred to charts as often as his notes and made eye contact with the seated Senators whenever possible.

REP. ASA HUTCHINSON: Now, what happened in the time between the President learning Monica Lewinsky was on the list and when he notified her of that fact on December 17th is very important. The President during that time frame talked to his friend, his confidante, and his problem solver, Vernon Jordan. The President was aware that Mr. Jordan had the contacts and the track record to be of assistance to the President in delicate matters.

Now let’s go back a little. Monica Lewinsky had been looking for a good paying and high profile job in New York since the previous July, as I pointed out. She had been offered a job at the U.N., but she wanted to work in the private sector. She wasn’t having much success and then in early November, it was Betty Currie who arranged a meeting with Vernon Jordan, which ultimately was on November 5. At this meeting Ms. Lewinsky met with Mr. Jordan for about 20 minutes; no action followed whatsoever. No job interviews were arranged, and there were no further contacts with Mr. Jordan. Mr. Jordan made no effort to find a job for Ms. Lewinsky for over a month. Indeed, it was so unimportant to him that he “had no recollection of an early November meeting” and, in fact, he testified that finding her a job was not a priority. But then, the President’s attitude suddenly changed. What started out as a favor for Betty Currie dramatically changed after Ms. Lewinsky became a witness and the Judge’s order was issued – again on December 11th. And at that time the President talked personally — personally to Mr. Jordan and requested his help in getting Ms. Lewinsky a job.

At this point we do not know all that the President was telling Vernon Jordan, but we do know that there were numerous calls back and forth between Mr. Jordan and the President; there were numerous calls being made by Mr. Jordan in behalf of Monica Lewinsky, searching for a job, and that despite the fact that Monica Lewinsky did not know that she was a witness, she did know that she was a witness – the President knew that she was a witness during his intensified efforts to get a job. The question here is not why did the President do a favor for an ex-intern, but why did he use the influence of his office to make sure it happened. The answer is that he was willing to obstruct – impede justice by improperly influencing a witness in order to protect himself in a civil rights case.

KWAME HOLMAN: Hutchinson also went into great detail trying to show President Clinton encouraged Monica Lewinsky to submit a false affidavit in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and that he later tampered with a potential grand jury witness, his secretary, Betty Currie.

REP. ASA HUTCHINSON: This is more than witness tampering. It is witness’ compulsion of false testimony by an employer to a subordinate employee. This has nothing to do with facts, nothing to do with media inquiries. It has to do with keeping his team on board, keeping the ship from sinking and the hiding of facts that are important. At this point, we are not talking about hiding personal facts from inquiring minds but about an effort to impede the legitimate and necessary functioning of our court system.

SPOKESMAN: The Chair recognizes Mr. Manager Rogan.

KWAME HOLMAN: After another break, the final House Manager of the day took the podium. James Rogan of California outlined the basis for the perjury charge contained in the first article of impeachment of the president.

REP. JAMES ROGAN: On the afternoon of August 17, 1998, President Clinton raised his right hand and took an oath before the grand jury in their criminal investigation.

[Video Clip #1: Clinton taking oath]

REP. JAMES ROGAN: Note the incredibly solemn obligation of the oath the President took. “Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give in this matter will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” At his deposition in the Jones case, the President was shown a definition, approved by Judge Wright, of what constitutes “sexual relations.”

I’m going to read the definition that was presented to the President. And let me say at the outset that I’m going to slightly sanitize it. You have in your materials, members of this body, a copy of the actual definition that was given to him, so you will be able to understand precisely what was put before the President. “Definition of Sexual Relations : For the purposes of this deposition, a person engages in sexual relations when the person knowingly engages in or causes contact with the certain enumerated body parts of any person with an attempt to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.”

Members of the Senate, just for clarification, I did not feel the need to actually relate to this body what those enumerated body parts are. After reviewing the definition, the President then denied that he ever had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. As we have already seen, from the day in January when the President testified in the Jones deposition, until the day he appeared in August for his grand jury testimony, he vehemently denied ever having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Listen to the President addressing the American people on the subject of his credibility. The date is January 26, 1998, five days after the Lewinsky story broke in the press.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: (videotaped testimony) But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman – Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie — not a single time. Never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you.

REP. JAMES ROGAN: Beginning in January 1997, the president went on an eight-month campaign, both under oath and in the press, denying any sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky in any way, shape or form. But eight months after his deposition testimony and these passionate denials, the tide had turned against his story. By August, Monica Lewinsky was now cooperating with the office of the Independent Counsel. If she was telling the truth in her sworn testimony, then the President’s January denial in the Paula Jones case would have been a clear case of him committing perjury and obstructing justice. Why? Because she was describing – in very graphic detail – conduct occurring between her and the President that clearly fit the definition of sexual relations as used in the Paula Jones deposition – conduct that he repeatedly denied under oath.

KWAME HOLMAN: Tomorrow, at 1 p.m., Eastern Time, House Managers continue their presentation with a summary of their case.