The Democrat Who Would Pursue Clinton
By Harriet Barovick
(TIME, August 10) -- David P. Schippers, the lawyer hired by the house to help lead possible impeachment hearings against the President, is a lifelong Democrat who voted for Clinton twice. That's not the only surprising thing about his appointment as lead counsel by Judiciary Committee chairman Henry Hyde. Schippers, a widely respected criminal-defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, has had practically nothing to do with national politics in his four-decade career. He once said he counts Thomas Jefferson among his heroes because "he never wanted to be in politics."
This is also a man who wrote a fan letter to a hostile witness because he knew the witness was telling the truth. Schippers says he's the kind of lawyer who prefers to "play it according to the rules" rather than bend them to score a point off a legal opponent. By that standard alone, Schippers, 68, may seem an anomaly within the Beltway. In fact, he came to Washington only in March, having grown up and spent most of his professional life in Chicago. He considered becoming a priest and attended Chicago's Quigley seminary. But he opted for law school (night classes at Loyola University) and soon landed a Justice Department job with the Chicago arm of John Kennedy's Organized Crime Strike Force. That position led to an early brush with history: he was with his boss Robert Kennedy hours before the Attorney General's brother was shot in Dallas. Schippers' credentials--including nailing reputed mobster Sam Giancana and regularly defending unpopular clients like 1980s porn star Seka--have left him with an urge for rigor when it comes to gathering and evaluating evidence. "You can't prejudge what you don't know anything about," the father of 10 told the Los Angeles Times last month. "That's one of the things that bothers me about Washington: everybody knows what Mr. Starr has, and really nobody knows what he has."
The ruddy-faced attorney is almost defiantly uncool (a favorite catchphrase: "What're the facts, babe?"). And defiant, period. He has described his cross-examination technique as "going for the jugular." But if he's prepared to be a tough legal mind, he remains profoundly reticent about the political role he may be asked to play. "Every once in a while it hits you," Schippers has said. "It really hit me when I took my wife to the Jefferson Memorial. If you stand at Mr. Jefferson's feet and you look where he's looking, you see right into the Oval Office. It kind of hit me right then. I thought, 'Oh, God. I pray that it doesn't happen.'" But if it does, Schippers could become as much of a household name as Lewinsky.
--Reported by James Carney/Washington