Top Republicans Warn Clinton About Resisting Subpoena
Could lead to impeachment, Hatch says
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, July 26) -- Top Republicans Sunday warned President Bill Clinton that refusing to honor independent counsel Ken Starr's grand jury subpoena in the Monica Lewinsky case could have serious political consequences -- including the possibility of impeachment.
"I think it would be disastrous. It is basically saying he is above the law, he doesn't have to comply with the law," said Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles of Oklahoma on NBC's "Meet The Press." "Everybody else in America has to comply with subpoenas (while) he's saying he wouldn't. ... I don't think that would be sustainable."
"(Clinton) has an obligation as the highest official in this government, sworn to uphold the Constitution and the laws of this country. If he doesn't do that, I think public opinion would turn overwhelmingly against him," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah on CBS's "Face The Nation."
"The only person who can really answer the questions is the president. And he has an obligation to do that," Hatch said. "And I think he will, if push comes to shove."
But Hatch said if Clinton were to fight the subpoena to the U.S. Supreme Court, ultimately lose and then still refuse to testify, it would create a "constitutional crisis" that could lead to impeachment.
"I think the fact that he would ignore and violate a subpoena would certainly be grounds to file articles of impeachment," Hatch said. "If Kenneth Starr does have additional information, I think it could snowball into a real impeachment problem for the president. I personally hope that doesn't happen."
However, another leading Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, disagreed, telling CNN's "Late Edition" that "I don't believe ignoring a subpoena would be grounds for impeachment."
Kerrey: Not 'shocking' Clinton would resist subpoena
And Sen. John Kerrey (D-Neb.) said he thinks that a decision by Clinton to fight the subpoena would not be particularly unusual.
"Many citizens when they receive a subpoena will challenge the legitimacy of the subpoena. It is not unusual for a legal counsel to challenge the legitimacy of a subpoena that's sent to an individual citizen," said Kerrey on "Meet The Press."
"So it's not, it seems to me, shocking that the president, if he has received a subpoena, may show some reluctance, based upon some of the legal judgment that's being made by his counsel," he said.
Starr and the grand jury are investigating allegations that Clinton and Lewinksy, a former White House intern, had a sexual relationship, then lied about it under oath and encouraged others to lie as part of a cover-up.
The subpoena calls for Clinton to testify Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, though that schedule is subject to change.
Kendall 'instructed to work with Starr'
After turning down at least four requests for Clinton to testify voluntarily, the White House reversed course Friday and announced that he would answer questions, under certain conditions short of a full-blown grand jury appearance.
Rahm Emanuel, a senior White House adviser, said Sunday on "Meet The Press" that the president's lawyer, David Kendall, "has been instructed to work with Ken Starr to find a way to get the information the grand jury needs."
"The president wants to get the information that the grand jury needs," Emanuel said.
Kendall was on a vacation trip to Canada over the weekend but was expected to return to Washington Monday to resume negotiations with Starr.
A sitting president has never before been forced to appear before a grand jury to answer questions in connection with an investigation in which he is a possible target.
Some legal experts and Clinton supporters believe the president could prevail if he fought the subpoena to the Supreme Court. James Carville, the president's one-time political strategist, has even suggested that he avoid the subpoena by invoking his Fifth Amendment right against
"That would greatly surprise me. I can't image that happening," said former Clinton White House counsel Jack Quinn on "Meet The Press."
The White House strategy at this point appears to be trying to reach an agreement with Starr that would allow the questioning of Clinton to take place via deposition, outside of the presence of grand jurors; to allow his lawyers to be present; and to possibly limit the scope of the questioning.
If Clinton were to testify in front of a grand jury, he could not take his lawyers into the room with him. CNN has learned that the issue of whether the president can have legal representation during questioning has been a sticking point in the discussions with Starr.
CNN White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.