Hatch: Clinton Likely To Escape Impeachment If Truthful
Clinton greets Lewinsky in this recently discovered video made during an October 1996 Democratic National Committee fund-raising event in Washington
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, August 2) -- While prosecutors were talking to Monica Lewinsky this weekend in preparation for her grand jury testimony -- which could occur as early as this week -- politicians and pundits filled the airwaves with talk about her and her alleged affair with President Bill Clinton.
Sunday morning's TV talk shows were chock full of opinions and predictions about the sensational case.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch told NBC's "Meet the Press" that a sexual relationship with Lewinsky would not force Clinton from office if he tells Americans what really happened.
Hatch stressed there is still no proof that the president has lied in denying he and Lewinsky had a sexual relationship. But he said that even if Clinton has perjured himself, impeachment may not be the appropriate penalty.
"If he comes forth and tells it and does it in the right way and there aren't a lot of other factors to cause the Congress to say this man is unfit for the presidency and should be impeached, then I think the president would have a reasonable chance of getting through this," said Hatch, R-Utah.
"I don't know anybody at the top of the system," Hatch said, "who really wants to see the president hurt in this matter."
But fellow Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, a strong advocate of bringing impeachment charges against the president, said if Clinton does reverse his denial, he should face serious consequences.
"If you perjure yourself, you have perjured yourself whether or not you say later, 'Oh, I'm sorry I did it,'" Barr said on "Fox News Sunday."
Starr must eventually present a report on the Lewinsky case and other investigations concerning Clinton and the White House to the House Judiciary Committee, which then must decide whether to file articles of impeachment with the full House.
If the House decides there are grounds for impeachment, the Senate would act as the final judge in ruling whether the president should be removed from office.
Lewinsky's grand jury appearance could come as early as this week, sources say.
One source told CNN that Lewinsky spoke to prosecutors Saturday and could do so again Sunday as part of the
pre-interview process before she faces independent counsel Ken Starr's grand jury.
The grand jury is set to meet Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes is among the witnesses already scheduled for this week.
Lewinsky, who now enjoys immunity from prosecution, apparently is willing to say she had a sexual relationship Clinton after all.
Clinton has maintained he never had a "sexual relationship with that woman." He is expected to repeat those denials during his own grand jury testimony scheduled for Aug. 17 via closed-circuit television from the White House.
Rep. Bob Barr of the House Judiciary Committee outlines his view of the scope of Starr's investigation on "Fox News Sunday"|
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Sen. Orrin Hatch weighs in on the issue during NBC's "Meet the Press"
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Rep. Robert Wexler of the House Judiciary Committee insists on "Fox News Sunday" that the Clinton-Lewinsky issue is "a private matter."
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Poll: Americans don't want impeachment
As the investigation moves toward its conclusion, Americans are divided about what version of events they believe and what should happen to Clinton if Lewinsky is telling the truth.
Even if Clinton lied under oath about having an affair with the former White House intern, most Americans don't want him impeached, according to a Newsweek poll.
Thirty-five percent of adults polled said a presidential apology would be appropriate, while 19 percent thought no action should be taken at all. Thirty-nine percent favored impeachment.
A slightly higher percentage of Americans -- 44 percent -- said they think the president should be impeached if he encouraged others to lie under oath.
The poll of 602 adults, taken July 30 and 31 and released in the magazine's Aug. 10 issue, showed that the nation is split over whether Clinton owes the public an explanation -- 49 percent said no, 47 percent said yes.
A majority of Americans -- 67 percent -- say they doubt Congress will decide to impeach. But about a quarter -- 26 percent -- believe Congress will take some action against Clinton.
Taking into account the survey's margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, those surveyed were divided on whose word they believe -- Lewinsky's or Clinton's. Given no other evidence about what allegedly happened, 39 percent said they would believe Lewinsky and 36 percent would believe Clinton.
Still, more than half -- 59 percent -- said they did not believe the president's denial of the allegations.
Clinton's TV testimony
Clinton will give his own grand jury testimony via a
closed-circuit audio-video hookup that will allow grand jurors to question the president through prosecutors.
Clinton's attorney, David Kendall, issued a statement Saturday confirming the arrangement, which, he said, was supposed to have been kept confidential for security reasons.
Kendall said he was only issuing a "clarifying" statement because of "leaks" detailing the TV transmission of the president's testimony.
"Because of mutual concerns about communications security, the Office of Independent Counsel and I agreed that the audio-video transmission would be kept confidential," Kendall's statement said. "In view of the leaks concerning this matter, this clarifying statement seems appropriate."
CNN Congressional Correspondent Bob Franken, CNN White House Correspondent John King and The Associate Press contributed to this report.