JIM LEHRER: Releasing the videotape of President Clinton's grand jury testimony and other arguments. Kwame Holman begins.
KWAME HOLMAN: Members of the House Judiciary Committee convened behind closed doors this morning. With Republicans holding a five-seat committee majority, it was assumed a vote in favor of releasing the president's videotaped deposition would come quickly and easily. But the meeting continued throughout the day. From time to time a handful of Republican committee members could be coaxed into giving updates to anxious reporters.
REP. CHARLES CANADY, (R-FL): And I remain optimistic that whatever decision we set out to make this morning we'll make today.
REP. ROBERT BARR, (R-GA): The charges obviously against the president are very serious. And I think it's just like the American people want to put this behind us, I think we in the Judiciary Committee want to do that too, so I hope the committee can move on with its work as quickly and as expeditiously as possible, at the same time being fair with the president.
KWAME HOLMAN: In addition to discussing the videotape, committee members reportedly also are carefully reviewing much of the 2,000 pages of supplemental material delivered last week with the Starr Report. While the committee met, there was fallout over yesterday's Internet publication of a story detailing an extramarital affair Judiciary Committee Henry Hyde had with a married woman named Cherie Snodgrass in Chicago more than thirty years ago. Hyde issued a statement admitting to the relationship, saying:
"The statute of limitations has long since passed on my youthful indiscretions. Suffice it to say, Cherie Snodgrass and I were good friends a long, long time ago. After Mr. Snodgrass confronted my wife, the friendship ended and my marriage remained intact. The only purpose for this being dredged up now is an obvious attempt to intimidate me, and it won't work. I intend to fulfill my constitutional duty and deal judiciously with the serious felony allegations presented to Congress in the Starr report."
Hyde is the third House Republican in recent weeks to face published accounts of a previuosly-undisclosed, extramarital affair. Government Reform and Oversight Committee Dan Burton of Indiana and outspoken conservative Helen Chenoweth of Idaho both were forced to admit to affairs when their home town newspapers ran or prepared to run details about their relationships. On the House floor this morning Majority Whip Tom Delay of Texas denounced the story about Hyde and claimed the White House was behind its release.
REP. TOM DELAY, Majority Whip: We're witnessing more signs of the White House's scorched-earth strategy. Allies of the president are now dishing dirt on the most respected member of this House. This is a direct assault on the United States House of Representatives.
KWAME HOLMAN: But today, White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles sent a letter to Hyde's office, assuring him "...the White House has zero tolerance for staff who are found to be prying or encouraging others to pry into the personal lives of members or any other government official." Bowles assured Hyde, "...any staff who are found to be engaging in such conduct will be fired immediately." And this afternoon, David Talbot, publisher of Salon...the Internet magazine that ran the story... appeared on CNN and denied any White House involvement in the story. But that didn't satisfy DeLay who appeared before Capitol Hill reporters late this afteroon.
REP. TOM DELAY: Today, the Republican leadership has sent a letter to FBI Director Louis Freeh asking that he investigate allegations that certain associates and allies of the White House have embarked on an effort to intimidate members of Congress. These intimidation efforts amount to a direct assault on the United States House of Representatives. This is not politics as usual. This is an assault on the very foundations of our democracy. And we believe it warrants an investigation by the FBI. And I'll be glad to take any questions.
REPORTER: Do you have any other evidence, besides the media reports, that the White House is involved in this?
REP. TOM DELAY: In your packet we've included the letter that includes many different stories that circles around these issues coming out of the media. And then, of course, this town is full of rumors. And, unfortunately, most of the time the rumors are true. So, no, I don't have any evidence. That's exactly why we need the FBI to look into this, because this is very serious.
KWAME HOLMAN: But two Congressional leaders are calling for a truce. The respective chairmen of the Democratic and Republican congressional campaign committees came to the House floor to announce they had reached an agreement to put the personal lives of candidates off limits.
REP. MARTIN FROST, (D-TX): The Democratic congressional campaign committee and our Republican counterpart will not fund any Democratic candidate who initiates an attack on the personal private life of an opponent in the coming election. And the Democratic congressional campaign committee will fire any employee who initiates an attack on the personal private life of an opponent in this election.
REP. JOHN LINDER, (R-GA): We both have agreed that responding is acceptable, but initiating a personal attack on anybody running for office is simply off limits. We are going to soon have no one of any stature willing to put themselves through this wringer. And it is sad for America.
KWAME HOLMAN: As the House returned to regular business, the Judiciary Committee continued to meet, and this evening, it appeared those were expecting to see the president's videotaped deposition today or tomorrow may have much longer to wait.