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Former Rep. Bob Barr, Clinton impeachment manager, on ‘fatally flawed’ case against Trump

Former Congressman Bob Barr, a Georgia Republican, was a House manager during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss how the roles of the impeachment managers during the Clinton trial were different from today, what he thinks about the current managers’ performance so far and why he believes the articles of impeachment are “fatally flawed.”

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now I am joined by Bob Barr. He's a former Republican congressman from Georgia who was a House impeachment manager in the trial of President Bill Clinton.

    Congressman Barr joins me from Atlanta.

    Thank you very much for being with us.

    So, as someone who was part of the last impeachment trial we saw in Washington 21 years ago, how do you compare the presentation the House managers are making this time against President Trump with what you and your team were doing in 1999?

  • Bob Barr:

    Thank you for having me.

    The roles or the purposes for the managers now and what we were faced with in 1999 are very different. In 1999, our job was much more limited and precise and clear, because President Clinton had been charged in two articles of impeachment, as you will recall, with violations of specific criminal laws, obstruction of justice and perjury.

    Now the job of the impeachment managers is far broader and perhaps a lot more problematic, because they are trying to defend articles of impeachment that do not allege any crime. So it's a much vaguer standard, and I think is more difficult to explain both to the senators and to the American public.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that's part of what is being discussed.

    What do you make, though, of their presentation so far? They had hours to present. They were talking about the rules yesterday, but, in that conversation, certainly, they talked about the merits of the case against the president.

    And we heard that, certainly, for a number of hours today from Adam Schiff, who's the lead manager, and then from the other managers.

  • Bob Barr:

    While I don't agree with their arguments, I have to say that the managers have been very adept at using the time allotted to them for the purpose yesterday, for example, to defend or advocate for a certain rule or rules.

    They have been very adept at expanding that opening and arguing not only the merits of the articles of impeachment themselves, but introducing extraneous evidence that is not or shouldn't be part of the record, that is, post-impeachment evidence, even though the Senate rule for the impeachment trial here appears, to me, to not allow that evidence.

    The managers have been very successful in getting all sorts of additional evidence in, for example, relating to this fellow Lev Parnas.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Who was an associate of Rudy Giuliani. And that's information that's come out since the House investigation and, frankly, since the vote on impeachment took place in the House.

    So, are you saying that it's the way they are presenting the case that you think is effective? Is it effective enough, do you think, to change minds?

  • Bob Barr:

    Well, that, of course, remains to be seen.

    But I think they — they, the House managers — are very smart and clever at doing two things, one, sort of going over the senators themselves and arguing their case and repeatedly using terms that are designed to, you know, sort of inflame voters, corrupt motives, corruption, and so forth, evil president.

    But they are also, I think, very careful that they recognize that, in the short term, their audience is two or three, maybe four senators and their constituents in the states that they represent to convince them or pressure them to open up this case to allow additional — or allow witnesses and additional evidence.

    I think that that's very much in the forefront of what the managers are trying to do here, to sway those few Republican senators to open this trial up far beyond the articles themselves.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Interesting.

    And I want to ask you about the White House defense, the president's defense, because so much of what we have heard from the president, from the people around him has been, this is all a hoax, there's nothing to see here, it's not even worth wasting our time on.

    Is that going to be sufficient for the president's legal team, to come back and basically dismiss the whole thing without going down point by point what the managers have alleged?

  • Bob Barr:

    I do agree with the White House position that the articles are fatally flawed on their face, because they allege no crime whatsoever, much less a high crime or a high misdemeanor, so to speak.

    But one thing I think that the president's lawyers need to keep in mind, and maybe they will, is that they need to do more than simply present lawyerly arguments to other lawyers, and to keep in mind that what really will sway people here, in the broadest sense, is very effective, demonstrative evidence, for example.

    And the House managers, I think, again have been very effective at using demonstrative evidence to buttress their case.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Representative — former Representative Bob Barr, former House manager in the Clinton impeachment trial, thank you so much for joining us.

  • Bob Barr:

    My pleasure.

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