Clinton Won't Testify At Campaign Hearing
Thompson won't subpoena the president
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 26) -- President Bill Clinton has declined a request to voluntarily testify before a Senate committee investigating campaign finance in the 1996 election.
And Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) who chairs the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee conducting the investigation, said Sunday he will not subpoena the president to force him to testify.
"I'm disappointed," Thompson said on CBS's "Face The Nation." "But we're not going to press the issue. I think that if he declines, that is his decision to make. I wish he wouldn't, but, since he's taken that position, I think we're going to leave it at that."
Thompson also said "we have reason to believe" that Vice President Al Gore would likewise turn down any invitation to testify before the committee.
Last week, Thompson had invited Clinton to appear with the man he defeated for the presidency, former Sen. Bob Dole, "in the spirit of resolving outstanding questions concerning 1996 campaign practices." Dole agreed to come before the committee.
But in a letter sent to Thompson on Friday and released by the White House on Sunday, White House counsel Charles Ruff said it would be inappropriate for the president to testify because of concerns about separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.
"Give the course that these hearings have followed ... and given the special relationship between the legislative and executive branches embodied in our Constitution and our nation's history, we do not believe that it would be appropriate for the president to appear before the committee," Ruff wrote.
But Ruff said "the White House remains willing to cooperate with the committee, as we have over the past eight months, and to provide information that is responsive to the committee's legitimate oversight and investigative concerns."
On Sunday, the ranking Democrat on Thompson's committee, Sen. John Glenn of Ohio, said he would not object if the committee asked Clinton to respond to written questions.
"I don't have any quarrel with sending written questions or submitting whatever kind of testimony they want over there are the White House. That's up to the president," Glenn said on NBC's "Meet The Press.".
Thompson and Glenn both expressed frustration with the course of the committee's investigation -- but they had widely divergent views as to why it hasn't been more effective.
Glenn said the hearings were "largely an opportunity lost."
"If we're just to continue with trying to see how much blood we can let out of Democrats and how much we can wound Democrats and not make it bipartisan, I'm for ending it as quick as we can end this thing," Glenn said. "I think we had the opportunity to make this bipartisan."
But Thompson said the committee's biggest hurdle has been "foot dragging" by the White House.
The committee's investigation has a cutoff date of Dec. 31, and Thompson said he would not agree to extend the probe unless the Senate removed a deadline altogether. He conceded it would be "very difficult" to get the Senate to go along with that idea.
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Weekend Oct. 25 & 26, 1997
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