September 18, 1998
Elizabeth Farnsworth is joined by two members of the Judiciary Committee that voted to release President Clinton's grand jury testimony.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And to get that story we turn to two members of the Judiciary Committee, Republican George Gekas of Pennsylvania and Democrat Bobby Scott of Virginia. Congressman Gekas, we know that the President's grand jury - the videotape of the President's grand jury testimony will be released and also a transcript of Monica Lewinsky's grand jury testimony. What else can we look for on Monday?
REP. GEORGE GEKAS: The remainder of the appendices - the buttressing evidence to support the allegations made in the Office of Independent Counsel's original referral - the one that was made public last week.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And will there be transcripts or descriptions of the telephone conversations between Monica Lewinsky and the President?
REP. GEORGE GEKAS: Some of them. Those that were not subjected to the redaction process which was conducted on a bipartisan basis within the committee, that would be deleted, but the remainder, not deleted, will be made public.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Congressman Gekas, just tell us briefly how the cuts were made, how the redaction process was undertaken.
REP. GEORGE GEKAS: It was agreed very early in the process that our staff attorneys would prepare what they felt in the original instance would be redactable, removable from the texts, et cetera. And then they presented this agreement that they reached to the members of the committee sitting as a whole. And we decided which ones to accept and which ones not to accept.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Congressman Scott, what's your reaction to the decisions and the process going into those decisions so far?
REP. BOBBY SCOTT: Well, first of all, I think you have to start off with the process. The first part of the process of our constitutional responsibilities ought to have been to decide what impeachment is, why it's in the Constitution, when it ought to be invoked, and an evaluation of whether the allegations, if proved, meet those constitutional standards. Then we know what we're investigating. Here we have - we've discussed for the last week what materials will be released. There is, in my judgment, no constructive purpose to be served for some of the detailed sexual activity that's described in some of these reports that will be coming out.
REP. GEORGE GEKAS: But the House directed us, I must say, to do all of this, to release all of the materials, except for those that we would, in our judgment, on a bipartisan basis, feel should be redacted. So this was a process that was set in motion by the House in an overwhelming bipartisan vote.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, Congressman Scott, I just need to get a few other things clear. On the editing process the Committee chairman, Henry Hyde, said that there were 120 redactions and only 20 that weren't agreed on. So there was some agreement in the committee about what should be cut and what shouldn't?
REP. BOBBY SCOTT: There was some - we voted to - being a secret session, it's very difficult to discuss what went on. But we did vote to release the votes that were taken. There were some votes that were taken without opposition. Other votes were taken when there was significant controversy. And I think it's important for people to look at those votes, because it will outline the partisan nature of the - of the proceedings.
REP. GEORGE GEKAS: How can you say that, when we just said that we voted on a bipartisan basis to redact more than 100 items? Therefore, looking at the record will also indicate that we did agree and did reach bipartisan agreement on some matters of redaction.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Congressman --
REP. BOBBY SCOTT: That's true, some was redacted. But if you look at the -- all of the motions that were made - the first motion that was made is that we taken - make this a deliberative process. Friday we were faced with 450 pages of a report, 2600 pages of additional material -- there's no way that anyone can intelligently decide what goes in and what comes out before you've even decided what's relevant to the investigation. The first point that needs to be made is we need to determine what are impeachable offenses and whether or not these allegations - even if true - meet the constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. We haven't done that, because everybody is going into the office trying to determine what is too offensive to be released. And I can tell you that people will be offended by some of the material that was released. And there was no constructive purpose. That level of detail had no legal significance, and I think people will just be gratuitously offended.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressman Gekas, what about the basic point that you're putting the cart before the horse by releasing the material without having some sort of standard by which to judge what is an impeachable offense and whether this material is relevant to that?
REP. GEORGE GEKAS: The only edict that we had before us, which we had to follow, because there was much left in the process in determining conclusions of law and findings of fact, the entire process, was to determine whether or not the public should have the right to know what is the context of the impeachment process which has now begun. And that's the only big issue that has been decidedly, namely that the public's right to know will be fulfilled. With respect to the details of the sexual activity, which all of us abhor, and which all of us feel we could have possibly avoided it, could have been avoided had the President, we believe, not asserted, as he has all the way up to this very moment, that there was no sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Otherwise, we would not have had to see the office of independent counsel make a special case of showing the details, so that the public and the Congress would know that, indeed, sexual relations did occur, in their judgment, therefore, the question of perjury has to be next in line.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Congressman Scott, --
REP. BOBBY SCOTT: That assumes -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: -- why not release it all? Even some of your colleagues have said it's just going to get out one way or the other. Why not release it all?
REP. BOBBY SCOTT: I think common decency ought to come in at some point. There is no constructive purpose to be served by releasing some of these explicit sexual - sexual material.
REP. GEORGE GEKAS: And we did redact them.
REP. BOBBY SCOTT: My friend has said that there are certain things that we need to investigation. We don't know what we're going to investigate because we haven't made the preliminary judgment about what an impeachment is and what the standards ought to be, and whether or not any of these allegations will be investigated, because they don't - they may or may not - we haven't discussed it - amount to impeachable offenses. If they don't - if they don't -- suppose we conclude that they do not amount to impeachable offenses, then here we've put out on the public all of this explicit sexual activity. Now, last Friday, when we voted, I didn't vote for the resolution, but I can tell you that no one could have suspected the level of detail of explicit sex that was in that report when they voted.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressman Gekas, are you worried about a public backlash? The polls show that people may not want to see the videotape.
REP. GEORGE GEKAS: Whether or not there be a public backlash, as you term it, cannot affect us, or should not affect us or influence us one bit. We have to proceed with the process that has been thrust upon us. And no matter what the polls say, backlash, criticism, approbation, none of these sentiments will be a directive to us to act in any other fashion other than to proceed with our constitutional duty to inquire.
REP. BOBBY SCOTT: Well, I think the resolution provided that we would use our common sense and common decency to release only that which had some significance. The resolution said everything would be released, except that which was determined by the Judiciary Committee not to be relevant. And a lot of this stuff that will be released Monday morning should not have been released.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressman Scott, is this solidifying - the way this is going - Democratic support? Is it sort of getting the Democrats together in the committee?
REP. BOBBY SCOTT: Well, as members of the Judiciary Committee, I think we really ought to ignore the political implications of what we're doing and just do our constitutional responsibility of first determining what impeachment is. We have a referral. We need to determine whether or not these are not two impeachment offenses. And if so, we have a duty to do which ought not be on a partisan basis. But this is clearly not fair. We don't have any standards by which we are releasing this. Some of this detailed sexual explicit sex has no legal significance and never should be released.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And so, Congressman Gekas, just so we're clear, at 9 o'clock, Monday morning, or sometime like that, the videotape will be taken into the press gallery in the House, and it will be fed to the pool and to TV stations and viewers all around the country?
REP. GEORGE GEKAS: I suppose. I was not privy to the technical aspects of how it was going to be released. All we were led to understand was that it was going to be released within the next day or so after the action was favorably undertaken.
REP. BOBBY SCOTT: I think we expect it to be as soon after 9 o'clock Monday morning as they can possibly get it out. But there's one bit that will not be released, and that is a transcript of our proceedings. I made a motion that was defeated that we release a transcript of our proceedings to determine -- let the public know the debate that preceded the release of this explicit sexual activity, determine whether or not they agreed with the arguments that it ought to have been released.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Thank you both very much.