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Summing Up the Evidence

January 15, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT


KWAME HOLMAN: A total of eight television cameras ringed the Senate chamber, enough to capture the faces of all 100 Senators watching the impeachment trial.

SPOKESMAN: All persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment.

KWAME HOLMAN: But Senate rules limit the variety of pictures shown and for the impeachment trial thus far the view has been restricted to the person speaking or a single wide shot of the chamber. So while Senators sit and watch the proceedings with whatever degree of attention, they do so knowing television viewers aren’t watching them.

WILLIAM REHNQUIST: The presiding officer recognizes Mr. Manager McCollum to resume the presentation of the case for the House of Representatives.

KWAME HOLMAN: The role of Bill McCollum of Florida in the impeachment trial today was to summarize the six hours’ of evidence presented yesterday.

REP. BILL McCOLLUM, Impeachment Manager: To put the essence of all of this in a nutshell for you, think back on the evidence presented yesterday. I would suggest that President Clinton thought his scheme out well. He resented the Jones lawsuit. He was alarmed with Monica Lewinsky’s name when it appeared on the witness list and he was even more alarmed when Judge Wright issued her order signaling that the court would hear evidence f other relationships. To keep his relationship with Monica Lewinsky from the court once Judge Wright issued her ruling he knew he would have to lie to the court.

To succeed at this, he decided he had to get Monica Lewinsky to file a false affidavit to try to avoid having her testify, and he needed to get her a job to make her happy, to make sure she executed that false affidavit and then stick with her lies when she was questioned about it. Then the gifts were subpoenaed, and he had to have her hide the gifts, the only tangible evidence of his relationship with her that would trigger questions. She came up with the idea of giving them to Betty Currie and the President seized on it. Who would think Betty Currie should be called to produce the gifts? Nobody would.

Then he’d be free to lie in his deposition. And that’s, of course, what he did. But after he did, this he realized he had to make sure that Betty would lie and cover for him. He got his aides convinced to repeat the lies to the grand jury and the public. And all this worked until the dress showed up. Then he lied to the grand jury to try to cover up and explain away his prior crimes. That’s the case in a nutshell.

KWAME HOLMAN: McCollum walked Senators back through the allegations regarding the President’s efforts to help Monica Lewinsky find a job, to hide gifts they exchanged, to involve Betty Currie, and to conceal his relationship with Monica Lewinsky from the outset.

REP. BILL McCOLLUM: I want us to specifically look at her testimony together because it is so compelling. On pages 123 and 124 of her testimony – and you can find it Appendix A, Part 1, to the Starr Report – I know you can’t see all of this that well back there, but you should have the charts here, and I’ve pointed out in red on this chart the most important part of it – this is where she describes the December 17th television conversation. I’m going to read you part of it.

She says right here – and this is what I’ve highlighted in red – “At some point in the conversation, and I don’t know if it was before or after the subject of the affidavit came up, he sort of said, ‘You know, you can always say we [you] were coming to see Betty or that you were bringing me letters.’ Which I understood was really a reminder of things which we had discussed before.

“Question:” So when you say things you had discussed, sort of ruses that you had developed.”

Monica Lewinsky: “Right. I mean, this was – – this was something that – – that was instantly familiar to me.”

Question: “Right.” Answer: “And I knew exactly what that meant.” “And I knew exactly what that meant.”

“Had you talked with him earlier” – the questioner asks – “about these false explanations about what you were doing visiting him on several occasions?”

Monica Lewinsky answers down here: “Several occasions throughout the entire relationship. Yes. It was the pattern of the relationship, to sort of conceal it,” she says.

Now, let’s look at another chart. Monica Lewinsky’s grand jury – August 6 grand jury testimony, pages 233 and 234, both of these are the August 6 grand jury testimony – where in the context of her affidavit she makes the now-famous statement: “No asked or encouraged me to lie.”

She did say that. But let’s look how she said that. “For me, the best way to explain it,” she says, “For me, the best way to explain how I feel what happened was, you know, no one asked or encouraged me to lie, but no one discouraged me either.” “But no one discouraged me either.” I don’t know how many times anybody said that to you when they’ve made the arguments, but that’s what she said and the context in which she said it.

Then later on down here says in her testimony right there on those same pages: “It wasn’t as if the President called me and said, ‘You know Monica, you’re on the witness list, this is going to be really hard for us, we’re going to have to tell the truth and be humiliated in front of the entire world about what we’ve done,’ which I would have fought him on probably. That was different. And by him not calling me and saying that, you know, I knew what that meant.” “I knew what he meant.”

Question: “Did you understand all along that he would deny the relationship, also?” And she answers, “Mm-hmm. Yes.”

And, the questioner says, “And when you say you understood what it meant when he didn’t say, ‘Oh, you know, you must tell the truth,’ what did you understand that to mean?”

Monica Lewinsky: “That – – that – – as we had on every other occasion and every other instance of this relationship, we would deny it.”

After reading this, if you believe Monica Lewinsky, can there be any doubt that the President was suggesting that she file an affidavit that contains lies and falsehoods that might keep her from ever having to testify in the Jones case and give the President the kind of protection that he needed when he testified? And, of course, in the same December 17 conversation the President encouraged Monica to use cover stories and tell the same lies that he expected her to do in the affidavit if she was called to testify live and in person. Both of those would be obstruction of justice and witness tampering. And together, the encouraging her to file this false affidavit that she clearly describes here, and the encouraging of her to lie, if she’s ever called as a witness, both of them are counts (1) and (2) of the obstruction of justice charge. If I don’t leave you with any other impression walking away from here today, I want you to think about this. This is the clearest, boldest, most significant obstruction of justice charge I would say anybody walked away from and explain it out. And it is the beginning of this whole obstruction. It is a pattern. It shouldn’t be looked at in isolation, but think about it. It’s the kickoff to what really happened. It’s why we got involved in this in the first place. The President had a scheme and he went through this process.

KWAME HOLMAN: McCollum also reminded Senators of the number of times he says the President lied in his grand jury testimony.

REP. BILL McCOLLUM: He testified before the grand jury that, “my goal in this deposition was to be truthful, but not particularly helpful — I was determined to walk through the mine field of this deposition without violating the law and I believe I did.” Contrary to this testimony, the President was alone with Ms. Lewinsky when she was not delivering papers, which he even conceded in his grand jury statement. So he lied in the deposition when he said he wasn’t alone with her. In the deposition the President swore that he could not recall ever being in the Oval Office hallway with Ms. Lewinsky, except perhaps when she was delivering pizza. The evidence indicates that he lied. The President swore in the deposition that he could not recall gifts exchanged between Monica Lewinsky and himself. The evidence indicates that he lied. He swore in the deposition that he did not know whether Monica Lewinsky had been served a subpoena to testify in the Jones case at the last time that he saw her in December, 1997. The evidence indicates that he lied. In his deposition the President swore that the last time he spoke to Monica Lewinsky was when she stopped by before Christmas 1997 to see Betty Currie at a Christmas party. The evidence indicates that he lied.

In his deposition, in the Jones case, the President swore that he didn’t know that his personal friend, Vernon Jordan, had met with Monica Lewinsky and talked about the case. The evidence indicates that he lied. The President in his Paula Jones deposition indicated the he was “not sure” whether he had ever talked to Monica Lewinsky about the possibility that she might be asked to testify in the Jones case. Can anybody doubt the evidence indicates that he lied? The President in his deposition swore that the contents of the affidavit executed by Monica Lewinsky in the Jones case in which she denied they had a sexual relationship were “absolutely true”. The evidence indicates that he lied. In other words, when the President swore in the grand jury testimony that his goal in the Jones deposition was to be truthful but not particularly helpful the evidence is clear that he lied and committed the crime of perjury inasmuch as he had quite intentionally lied on numerous occasions in his deposition testimony in the Jones case — his intention in the deposition was to be untruthful.

KWAME HOLMAN: McCollum concluded his presentation was the managers did yesterday, by urging Senators to permit witnesses to be called in the trial. The case against the President rests to a great extent on whether or not you believe Monica Lewinsky. But it’s also is based upon the sworn testimony of Vernon Jordan, Betty Currie, Sydney Blumenthal, John Podesta, the corroborating witnesses. Time and again the President says one thing and they say something entirely different. Time and again somebody is not telling the truth, and time and again an analysis of the context and the motivation and all of the testimony taken together with common sense says it’s the President who is not telling the truth.

But if you have serious doubts about the truthfulness of any of these witnesses I, again, as all of my colleagues do, encourage you to bring them in here. Let’s examine Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan, Betty Currie and the other key witnesses – let you examine the testimony — invite the President to come – judge for yourself their credibility. But on the record, the weight of the evidence taken from what we have given you today, what you can read back here, everything taken together is huge that the President lied. It’s refutable, but it’s not refutable if somebody doesn’t come in here besides just making an argument. I don’t know what the witnesses will say, but I assume if they’re consistent, they’ll say the same thing that’s in here. But you’ve got a chance to determine whether they’re telling the truth. And the only way you’ll ever know that – other than just accepting it, if you think the evidence and the weight is that huge – and it may be – is by looking them in the eye and determining their credibility.

JIM LEHRER: McCollum spoke for an hour and finished the evidence phase of the prosecution’s presentation. Then four other House Managers spoke of how criminal laws might apply to the charges against the President. Kwame Holman continues our coverage.

KWAME HOLMAN: Pennsylvania’s George Gekas was the first of the four managers to speak at length and without notes to the charge of obstruction of justice.

REP. GEORGE GEKAS, Impeachment Manager: In attempting to obstruct justice, we mean by that obstructing the justice of whom? It was an attempt – a bold attempt – one that succeeded in some respects – to obstruct the justice sought by a fellow American citizen. That is heavy. That is soul-searching in its quality. That goes beyond those who would say he committed perjury about sex. So what? That goes beyond saying this is just about sex. So what? Everybody lies about sex. But when you combine all the features of the actions of the President of the United States, and you see that they are funneled and tunneled and aimed and targeted towards obliterating from the landscape the rights of Paula Jones, a fellow American citizen, then you must take a second look at your own assertion that, ‘So what? It’s just a question of fact about sex.’

Many of the Members of this Chamber and others have already acknowledged that the President has lied under oath. But then they are quick to add, ‘So what?’ which is so disturbing in view of the results of what has happened in this case. That brings up the question. If someone, a member of your family, or someone who is a witness to these proceedings had a serious case in which one’s self, one’s property, one’s family has been severely damaged, would you suffer, without a whimper, perjurious testimony given against you? Would you, knowing down deep that at the end of the day it had caused you to lose your chance at retribution and a chance to be compensated for damages, to restore your family life? Isn’t that what our system is all about?

KWAME HOLMAN: Ohio’s Steve Chabot sounded much like a law school professor as he tried to show why the President’s statements under oath violated perjury laws.

REP. STEVE CHABOT, Impeachment Manager: As with almost all perjury cases, you will have to make a decision regarding the President’s knowledge of his own false statements based on the surrounding facts and, yes, by circumstantial evidence. This does not in any way weaken the case against the President. In the absence of an admission by the defendant, relying on circumstantial evidence is virtually the only way to prove the crime of perjury. The Federal jury instructions which Federal courts use in perjury cases can provide helpful guidance in understanding what is meant by the requirement that the false statement must be made knowingly. Let me quote from the Federal jury instructions: “When the word ‘knowingly’ is used, it means that the defendant realized what he was doing and was aware of the nature of his conduct, and did not act through ignorance, mistake or accident.” So as you reflect on the President’s carefully calculated statements, remember the Federal jury instructions and ask a few simple questions: Did the President realize what he was doing, what he was saying? Was he aware of the nature of his conduct — or did the President simply act through ignorance, mistake or accident? The answers to these questions are undeniably clear even to the President’s own attorneys. In fact, Mr. Ruff and Mr. Craig testified before the Judiciary Committee that the President willfully misled the court. Let’s listen to Mr. Ruff.

(Text of videotape presentation:)

QUESTIONER: But did he lie?

CHARLES RUFF: I’m going to respond to your question. I have no doubt that he walked up to a line that he thought he understood reasonable people–and you maybe have reached this conclusion–could determine that he crossed over that line and that what for him was truthful but misleading or non-responsive and misleading or evasive was in fact false.

REP. STEVE CHABOT: In an extraordinary admission, the President’s own attorney has acknowledged the care, the intention, the will of the President to say precisely what he said. Finally, it is painstakingly clear during the President’s grand jury testimony that he, again, knows exactly what he is doing. Let’s again watch the following excerpt from that testimony. (Text of videotape presentation:)

QUESTIONER: . . . was an utterly false statement. Is that correct?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: It depends upon what the meaning of the word “is” is.

REP. STEVE CHABOT: In this instance, and in many others that have been presented to you over the last two days, the facts and the law speak plainly. The President’s actions and demeanor make the case that President Clinton knowingly and willfully lied under oath in a grand jury proceeding and in a civil deposition. The compelling evidence in this case satisfies the intent element required under both sections 1621 and 1623 of the Federal Criminal Code. You will probably hear opposing counsel argue that the President did not technically commit perjury, and appeal to the case of Bronston v. United States. This is a legal smoke screen. In the Bronston case, the Supreme Court held statements that are literally truthful and non-responsive cannot by themselves form the basis for a perjury conviction. This is the cornerstone of the President’s defense. However, the Court also held that the unresponsive statements must be technically true in order to prevent a perjury conviction; such statements must not be capable of being conclusively proven false. As we have seen, none of the President’s perjurious statements before the grand jury, covered in the first impeachment article, are technically true. So, when the President’s counsel cites the Bronston case, remember the facts. And ask yourselves, are the President’s answers literally true? And, remember, to be literally true they must actually be true. It is also important to note that, consistent with the Bronston case, the response, “I don’t recall,” is not technically true if the President actually could recall. The factual record in the case, consisting of multiple sworn statements contradicting the President’s testimony and highly specific corroborating evidence, demonstrates that the President’s statements were not literally true or legally accurate. On the contrary, the record establishes that the President repeatedly lied, he repeatedly deceived, he repeatedly feigned forgetfulness.

KWAME HOLMAN: Utah’s Chris Cannon warned Senators is presentation on witness tampering would not be easy to follow but promised to keep it short.

REP. CHRISTOPHER CANNON, Impeachment Manager: Some may ask if it is necessary that the witness who is influenced or tampered with know that he or she might be called to testify? The answer is no. And both sections 1503 and 1512 answer this question: The fact that the target of a defendant’s actions is not named as a witness, or whether the person is not ever called to be a witness, is immaterial. The focus of both statutes is on what the defendant believed. If the defendant believes that it is possible that some person might someday be called to testify at some later proceeding and then acted to influence, delay or prevent his or her testimony, the defendant commits the crime.

KWAME HOLMAN: Georgia’s Bob Barr gave the day’s final presentation.

REP. BOB BARR, Impeachment Manager: I would respectfully ask that you remember that, under the law of impeachment based on our Constitution, proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the President committed each and every element of one or more violations of provisions of the Federal Criminal Code has never been required to sustain a conviction in any prior impeachment trial in the Senate. However–and I can say confidently that I speak for all House managers in relating to you our belief that the record and the law applicable to these two articles of impeachment clearly establishes that President William Jefferson Clinton did, in fact, violate several provisions of title 18 of the United States Code–that is the criminal code–including perjury, obstruction, and tampering with witnesses. At this point, a lawyer would face, a fortiori–I won’t, but I will say at this point that it therefore goes without saying that there, indeed, exists-under every historical standard, every historical benchmark, which this Chamber has used — there is more than sufficient grounds on which you might face a conviction as to both articles.

KWAME HOLMAN: As Barr wrapped up his statement, the first objection of the trial was heard. It came from Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa.

REP. BOB BARR: We urge you, the distinguished jurors in this case, not to be fooled.

SEN. TOM HARKIN, (D) Iowa: Mr. Chief Justice, I object to the use and the continued use of the word “jurors” when referring to the Senate sitting as triers in a trial on the impeachment of the President of the United States.

KWAME HOLMAN: Harkin raised the point that nowhere in the Constitution are Senators referred to as “jurors.”

SEN. TOM HARKIN: It may seem a small point, but I think a very important point. I think the Framers of the Constitution meant us, the Senate, to be something other than a jury and not jurors. What we do here today does not just decide the fate of one man.

KWAME HOLMAN: After a few moments, New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg objected.

JUDD GREGG: This is not a motion, and if it is a motion, it is non-debatable, as I understand it.

KWAME HOLMAN: Chief Justice Rehnquist then made his first substantial ruling of the trial.

WILLIAM REHNQUIST: The Chair is of the view that the Senator from Iowa’s objection is well taken, that the Senate is not simply a jury; it is a court in this case. And, therefore, counsel should refrain from referring to Senators as “jurors.”

KWAME HOLMAN: Barr then finished his statement and the trial adjourned until tomorrow morning at 10, when the House Managers will conclude their presentation.