[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
JIM LEHRER: The impeachment trial: Kwame Holman begins our coverage.
KWAME HOLMAN: The days since the trial last convened a week ago have been filled with witness depositions, strategy sessions and an unending stream of sound bites fed to the media’s stakeout position just outside the senate chamber. Even this morning, in the hours leading up to the trial’s scheduled 1 o’clock start, members of the senate continued to define and refine their positions on a couple of issues. That was true particularly of the Republicans’ findings of fact proposal, which would assert the president committed possibly illegal acts but would not convict him and remove him office. A portion of the motion was read by New Mexico’s Pete Domenici.
SEN. PETE DOMENICI, (R) New Mexico: I would just like to read just one of the findings. “The President of the United States, on August 17, 1998, swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth before a United States grand jury. Contrary to that oath, the president willfully provided false and misleading testimony to the grand jury.” Now, frankly, that’s a very simple statement. We know that at least eight senators have said that from the Democratic side on speeches on the floor or statements to the media, live.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Minority Tom Daschle said virtually all Democrats were opposed to the finding of fact idea.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE, Minority Leader: It’s unconstitutional because it would be made part of an official impeachment proceeding. If we adjourn and go directly to a censure motion, that is constitutional, that is within the confines and the rules that are allowed, so — or that would allow such a motion. So we believe that there is a great deal of merit to taking that approach.
KWAME HOLMAN: Nor were all Republicans convinced the finding of fact motion was workable.
SEN. PHIL GRAMM, (R) Texas: I’ve read the Constitution many times, and prayerfully looked at it in the last few days. I don’t find room in the Constitution for finding of fact. I’m not going to support finding of fact. I’m going to support strict construction of the Constitution in this process, as I have from the very beginning.
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, before heading to the senate for today’s session, lead House Manager Henry Hyde reluctantly admitted the managers’ chances of getting live witnesses to testify in the trial looked bleak.
REPORTER: Do you have a sense that the votes are there for live witnesses?
REP. HENRY HYDE: Do you want a candid answer?
REPORTER: Yes. Please.
REP. HENRY HYDE: I would not bet the ranch on that.
KWAME HOLMAN: By the time the trial resumed shortly after 1 o’clock this afternoon, House managers had decided to limit their call for live witnesses, and requested only one.
REP. ED BRYANT, Impeachment Manager: The House further moves that the senate authorize and issue a subpoena for the appearance of Monica S. Lewinsky before the senate for a period of time not to exceed eight hours.
KWAME HOLMAN: Tennessee’s Ed Bryant deposed Monica Lewinsky on Monday, and today he argued Lewinsky should be brought to testify on the floor of the senate.
REP. ED BRYANT: At her deposition, she appeared to be a different Monica Lewinsky than the Monica Lewinsky with whom I had met a week earlier. Unlike before, she was not open to discussion or fully responsive to fair inquiry. She didn’t volunteer her story. She didn’t tell her story. Rather, she was in a — very guarded in each response and almost protective. Her words were carefully chosen and relatively few.
As we progressed through her deposition Monday, I felt more and more like one of the characters in the classic movie “Witness for the Prosecution.” I was Charles Laughton, Ms. Lewinsky was Marlene Dietrich, and the president was Tyrone Power. And if you are familiar with this movie, you’ll understand. And if you aren’t, you should see the movie. (Laughter)
However, there was, and there still remains, truth in her testimony. Sometimes though, just like the president, and now Ms. Lewinsky, it is the literal truth only, the most restricted and stretched definition one can reach. And we all know that the law frowns upon the manipulations such as this to avoid telling the complete truth.
Two, her testimony is clearly tinted, and some might even say tainted, by a mixture of her continued admiration for the president, her desire to protect him, and her own personal views of right and wrong. On the perjury article of impeachment, she reaffirmed the specific facts which happened between her and the president on more than one occasion, including November 15, 1995, their first encounter, when the president’s conduct fit squarely within the four corners of the term “sexual relationship” as defined in the Jones lawsuit. And this is in opposition to the president’s own sworn testimony of denial. But this is one of the clearest examples of the president’s guilt of this charge of perjury.
And that’s not about this twisted definition that the president assigned to the term “sexual relations”; rather, it’s his word against her word as to whether this specific conduct occurred. Even under his own reading of this definition, he agrees that that specific conduct, if it occurred, would make him guilty of sexual relations within that definition. But he simply said, “I did not do that.” She says, “you did do that,” a he said/she said case. But this is why it’s important for you for you to be able to see Ms. Lewinsky in person.
KWAME HOLMAN: Arkansas’ Asa Hutchinson conducted the interrogation of Vernon Jordan on Tuesday. Today Hutchinson argued the managers should be allowed to show the video of that deposition and the others as well on the senate floor.
REP.ASA HUTCHINSON: Now, to lay the stage for this– and I’ll do this very briefly– if you look at page four, you see the previous testimony of Mr. Jordan before the grand jury in march. And at that time the question was asked to him:
“Did you ever have breakfast or any meal, for that matter, with Monica Lewinsky at the Park Hyatt?”
His answer was “no.”
It was not equivocal; it was indubitably no. And so the investigation required us to go out and get the receipt at the Park Hyatt, which is page eight, and the receipt showed that there was a charge on December 31st by Mr. Jordan that included every item for breakfast, that corroborated the testimony of Ms. Lewinsky as to her memory, that is, the omelet they had for breakfast. And so it’s tightening here. The evidence is becoming more clear, unequivocal, that this meeting occurred.
And so we had to ask this to Mr. Jordan, and this is page nine. And, of course, I presented the Park Hyatt receipt; I presented the testimony of Ms. Lewinsky. And his testimony – which is page nine – “It is clear based on the evidence here that I was at the Park Hyatt on December 31st. So I do not deny, despite my testimony before the grand jury, that on December 31st, that I was there with Ms. Lewinsky, but I did testify before the grand jury that I did not remember having a breakfast with her on that date, and that was the truth.”
But what amazed me was, as you go through the questions with him, all of a sudden he remembered the breakfast, but all of a sudden he remembered the conversation in which before he said it never happened at all. There’s much more there. I just have a moment to develop a portion of Mr. Jordan’s testimony that I believe is helpful. But, secondly, it tells a story never told before. Now I went and saw the videotape, and I was underwhelmed by my questioning because it’s just not the same. I thought we had a dynamic exchange. But then I saw it on videotape, and I’m nowhere to be found. You get to look at Mr. Jordan, a distinguished gentleman, but it’s still helpful, notwithstanding the difficulty of a video presentation.
And I would respectfully request this body to develop the facts fully, to hear the testimony of Mr. Jordan, to allow him to explain this. It tells the story, start to finish, on this one aspect of obstruction of justice that is critical to your determination.
KWAME HOLMAN: White House Special Counsel Gregory Craig argued against calling Monica Lewinsky as a live witness and against use of any of the deposition videotapes as evidence.
GREGORY CRAG: Senators have themselves been reviewing the videotaped deposition testimony of the three witnesses at great length and in great detail over the past four days. It appears to us that the senate has been very conscious just in carrying out this assignment. And in a matter of days senators will listen to arguments from each side.
Is there really a need for an intermediate stage involving the playing of videotaped testimony of the very same evidence? Presumably the House managers seek to present a collection of snippets, the greatest hits from the deposition testimony of Ms. Lewinsky, Mr. Jordan and Mr. Blumenthal. This would be unfortunate because it would require a full response from the White House, presumably our own collection of snippets, aimed at putting the managers’ excerpts into some kind of context. This would be a duel of snippets and excerpts. Placing these videotapes into the formal record of this trial will be one step closer to releasing the tapes to the public for immediate broadcast.
And if that release occurs, it will produce an avalanche of unwelcomed deposition testimony into the public domain. The videotaped testimony of Ms. Lewinsky, Mr. Jordan and Mr. Blumenthal will be forced hour after hour, unbidden and uninvited into the living rooms and family rooms of the nation. Make no mistake about what will happen. We’ve seen it before. We can expect to see the networks play these tapes wall to wall nonstop and without interruption over the airwaves.
And, as I say, this would be a repeat of what happened when the case first came to the House of Representatives. For the senate to decide to include the videotapes of this deposition testimony, as opposed to the written transcripts in the formal record of this trial, would have the same effect and could result in this kind of release. The pictures, the voices, and the words on these tapes would flow directly and irreversibly into the life of the nation.
Now as for the issue of witnesses, we believe that there is no useful purpose served by calling live witnesses to testify before the senate in this trial. Live witnesses will not advance the factual record. We have known the facts for many months.
Now the managers first argued that live witnesses were necessary to resolve conflicts and testimony; that the only way to reconcile disparities and differences in testimony was to bring in live witnesses. Today we know that is not true. You gave the managers an opportunity to resolve those conflicts and to find new facts. But most of the critical conflicts that existed a week ago still exist today. Calling Monica Lewinsky to testify a 24th time is not likely to resolve those conflicts. Then we were told that we must look into the eyes of the witnesses and observe their demeanor to make a judgment as to credibility.
But you now have the opportunity to observe almost every major witness as he or she testifies. Precious little is left to the imagination or to guesswork or to questions of credibility. And you certainly have a better chance of observing demeanor through the videotape than you do with the witness sitting on the floor of the senate. The senate has given the managers every opportunity to persuade the senate and the nation to see this case the same way they see it.
And the managers have run a vigorous and energetic campaign aimed at capturing the senate and at changing American public opinion. In fact, in our view, the senate has indulged the managers. And despite the misgivings of many senators, the senate has leaned over backwards to accommodate the managers. We believe it is time for the senate to say, it’s time to vote.
KWAME HOLMAN: After a break, senators voted first on the motion to admit the transcripts of the three depositions as evidence. It passed unanimously. However, on the next vote, more than two-thirds of the senate, including 25 Republicans, decided they did not want Monica Lewinsky to be called as a live witness and make an appearance on the floor of the United States Senate.
WILLIAM REHNQUIST: On this vote, the yeas are 30 and the nays are 70. Division two of the motion is not agreed to.
KWAME HOLMAN: But an overwhelming number of senators, including nine Democrats, agreed both sides in the trial should be allowed to use the videotaped depositions during floor arguments.
WILLIAM REHNQUIST: On this vote the yeas are 62, the nays are 38, division three of the motion is agreed to.
KWAME HOLMAN: Those arguments will resume on Saturday.