Full coverage of the impeachment
Jan. 8, 1999:
and Gigot on the Senate deal.
Jan. 7, 1999:
Gigot discuss the impeachment trial.
Jan. 6, 1999:
Oliphant and David Brooks analyze the beginning of the impeachment
trial in the U.S. Senate.
Jan. 6, 1999:
of impeachment managers on the Senate trial.
Jan. 5, 1999:
former senators discuss the format and duration of the upcoming
Jan. 4, 1999:
Senators are wrestling with a proposal for a shortened impeachment
Dec. 23, 1998:
foreign journalists discuss how President Clinton's impeachment
played around the world.
Dec. 21, 1998:
A growing number of voices are calling for a censure
Dec. 21, 1998:
on the vote to impeach President Clinton.
Dec. 21, 1998:
public reaction from Oregon on the impeachment vote.
Dec. 17, 1998:
& Gigot give analysis of the House's decision to continue
with the debate on impeachment despite the military action in
Dec. 15, 1998:
moderate Republicans came out in favor of impeaching President
Dec. 15, 1998:
Tannen and Shelby Steele debate the impeachment proceedings
of President Clinton.
Nov. 27, 1998: President Clinton answers
about the Lewinsky matter put to him by the House Judiciary
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the White
Chief Justice, Senators and distinguished counsel for the President,
my name is Chris Cannon. I represent the third congressional district
John Locke once said,
"Wherever law ends, tyranny begins."
To that, Roosevelt added,
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any
man's permission when we require him to obey it. Obedience to the
law is demanded as a right; not as a favor."
This case is about the
violation of law. My task is to clarify what the law states pertaining
to obstruction of justice, and what legal precedent is applicable
to the charges against William Jefferson Clinton.While both the laws
and the violations in this case are clear and direct, the presentation
I am about to make will not be simple. I ask your indulgence and attention
as I walk you through case history and statutory elements. I promise
to be brief -- about 30 minutes -- and direct. I will present the
legal underpinnings of the law of obstruction of justice.
18 U.S.C. Section 1503
I have in my hand the U.S.
Code. There are sixteen sections dealing with obstruction of justice.
Article II of the Articles of Impeachment alleges that the President
prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice, both
personally and through his subordinates and agents, and that he did
so as part of a pattern designed to delay, impede, cover up and conceal
the existence of evidence and testimony related to a Federal civil
rights action brought against him. Article II specifies seven separate
instances in which the President acted to obstruct justice. The House
believes the evidence in this case proves that each of the seven separate
acts which comprise the President's scheme constitute obstruction
of justice.I would like to draw your attention at this time to the
chart at my left which depicts Section 1503.Section 1503 is often
referred to as the general obstruction statute. It describes obstruction
simply as an impact on the due administration of justice.
1503 deems it criminal to use force or threats, or to otherwise act
corruptly, in order to influence, obstruct or impede the due administration
of justice.Federal court rulings clarify that it is not necessary
for a defendant to succeed in obstructing justice. Again, I direct
your attention to the chart or the accompanying copy in your packet.
For the government to prove a Section
1503 crime, it must demonstrate that the defendant acted with intent.
This can be shown through the use of force, threats by the defendant,
or by simply showing that the defendant acted "corruptly." The following
chart gives three case histories regarding the term "acting corruptly":
Under 1503, the government must also
prove that the defendant endeavored to influence, obstruct or impede
the due administration of justice. The statute is broadly applicable
to all phases of judicial proceedings.
The House believes that the facts of
this case make it very clear that the President did, corruptly, impair
the ability of a litigant in Federal court to learning all of the
facts that she was entitled to learn.
In doing so, the President committed
obstruction of justice under Section 1503.
other Federal crime which the President committed was witness tampering
under section 1512 of title 18. Again, I refer you to the chart on
my left, and now to the second page in your packet, which depicts
Sections 1503 and 1512 differ in an important
way -- there does not need to be a case pending at the time the defendant
acts to violate the law under 1512:
Putting it another way, a person may
attempt to tamper with a witness, and commit the crime of witness
tampering, before such a person is called as a witness and even before
there is a case underway in which that person might testify.
For the government to prove the crime
of witness tampering, it must prove that the defendant acted with
the intent to cause one of several results:
- The statute specifically states
that "for the purposes of this section, an official proceeding
need not be pending or about to be instituted at the time of the
offense..." for the crime to be committed.
- The defendant can be convicted
if he acted to influence, delay or prevent the testimony of any
person in an official proceeding; or
- The defendant can be convicted
if he acted to cause another person to withhold an
object from an official proceeding.
In the case before us, the evidence
proves that the President endeavored to cause both of these results
on several occasions.
And, the government may show intent
on the part of the defendant in several ways:
In this case, the evidence shows that
on several occasions the President acted corruptly to persuade some
witnesses, and engaged in misleading conduct toward others, in order
to influence their testimony and cause them to withhold evidence or
give wrongful testimony. In each instance, the President violated
the witness tampering statute.
How does acting corruptly to persuade
a witness differ from engaging in misleading conduct?
1515 of title 18 states:(a) As
used in section 1512...of this title and this section --(3) the term
"misleading conduct" means --(A) knowingly making a false statement;
or (B) intentionally omitting information from a statement and thereby
causing a portion of such statement to be misleading, or intentionally
concealing a material fact, and thereby creating a false impression
by such statement; or© with intent to mislead, knowingly submitting
or inviting reliance on a writing or recording that is false, forged,
altered or otherwise lacking in authenticity;
The difference, then, between corruptly
persuading a witness and engaging in misleading conduct toward the
witness, depends on the witness' level of knowledge about the truth
of the defendant's statement.
- It may prove the use of intimidation,
physical force or threats, or
- It may prove intent by showing
the use of corrupt persuasion or misleading conduct.
Let me clarify this detail: If a defendant
simply asks a witness to lie and the witness knows that he is being
asked to lie, then the defendant is corruptly persuading the witness.
In contrast, if a defendant lies to a witness, hoping the witness
will believe his story, this is misleading conduct. They are different,
but both are criminal.
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
The witness tampering statute can be
violated even if the victim has not been subpoenaed or listed as a
potential witness in an on-going proceeding.
- U.S. v. Rodolitz [786
F.2d 77, 81 (2d Cir. 1986)] held that misleading conduct involves
a situation "where a defendant tells a potential witness a false
story as if the story were true, intending that the witness believe
the story and testify to it before the grand jury."
The witness tampering statute can be
violated even when no case is pending. Therefore, it will not always
be clear to whom the defendant intended the individual to testify
-- and the statute does not require proof of this.
- In U.S. v. Shannon [836
F.2d.1125, 1128 (8th Cir. 1988)], the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the 8th Circuit reviewed the conviction of a defendant
under section 1503 who had attempted to influence the testimony
of a person who had not yet been subpoenaed or placed on a witness
list. On appeal, the defendant argued that because the target
of the obstruction had not yet become an official witness in the
case, it was impossible for the defendant to have engaged in obstruction
toward her. The Court of Appeals rejected that assertion. In affirming
the conviction, the court held "neither must the target be scheduled
to testify at the time of the offense nor must he or she actually
give testimony at a later time. It is only necessary that there
is a possibility that the target of the defendant's activities
be called on to testify in an official proceeding."
The mere attempt to influence the person
to lie, if asked, is the crime.
under either section 1503 or 1512, the fact that the target of a defendant's
actions is not named as a witness, or that 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.
Now, some have asserted that an obstruction
of justice charge cannot, or should not, be made against the President
because some of his acts occurred in the context of a civil trial.
There is simply no merit to this view.
There is no question that the obstruction
and witness tampering statutes can be violated by acts that occur
in civil proceedings. And, case law is consistent in upholding that
any attempt to influence, obstruct or impede the due administration
of justice in a civil proceeding violates section 1503.
U.S. v. Lundwall, which I referred
to earlier, is a perfect example, as it began as a civil case. The
actual language of the witness tampering statute makes clear that
it also applies to civil cases. The statute provides for enhanced
penalties in criminal proceedings -- a provision that would be unnecessary
if the law were only to apply to criminal cases. In short, the fact
that some instances of the President's misconduct occurred in the
course of a civil proceeding does not absolve him of criminal liability.
As Mr. Barr will demonstrate, the President
of the United States endeavored and did obstruct justice and tamper
with witnesses in violation of the law of the United States. On numerous
occasions he acted with an improper purpose with the intent to interfere
with the due administration of justice in the Federal civil rights
lawsuit filed by Paula Jones.
- In U.S. v. Morrison [98
F.3d 619, 630 (DC Cir. 1996)], the United States Court of Appeals
for the District of Columbia explained that section 1512 is violated
if the defendant asks a person to lie "to anyone who asks." The
court held that it is not necessary that the defendant even use
the words "testify" or "trial" when he tries to influence the
testimony of the other person. In such a case, there are no subpoenas,
there are no witness lists.
Whether attempting to persuade a person
to testify falsely, or to ignore court orders to produce objects;
whether suggesting to an innocent person a false story in hopes that
he or she will repeat it in a judicial proceeding; or testifying falsely
in the hopes of blocking another party's pursuit of the truth -
All these acts obstruct justice;
All these acts are Federal felony crimes;
All these acts were committed by William
- President Clinton corruptly endeavored
to persuade witnesses to lie. In some cases, he succeeded. In
every case, he violated the law.
- President Clinton engaged in misleading
conduct in order to influence the testimony of witnesses in judicial
proceedings. He succeeded. In each case, he violated the law.
- President Clinton acted with an
improper purpose to persuade a person to withhold objects from
a judicial proceeding in which that person was required to produce
them. He succeeded and in so doing violated the law.
- President Clinton made misleading
statements for the purpose of deterring a litigant from further
discovery that would lead to facts which the judge ordered relevant
in a Federal civil rights case. In so doing, he obstructed the
due administration of justice in that case and violated the law.