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Investigating The President

House leaders get first look at Starr report

Bipartisan discussions begin

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sept. 10) -- Republican and Democratic House leaders were working through the night to fashion procedures for handling Independent Counsel Ken Starr's report on the possible impeachable offenses of President Bill Clinton.

A 445-page report and 18 boxes of supporting evidence collected by Starr during his investigation of Clinton were delivered to the House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon.

Starr's historic move is the first step in the process of notifying the House that he and his investigators have found "substantial and credible" evidence of wrongdoing by the president, triggering the nation's first formal impeachment review since Watergate a quarter-century ago.

Also in this story:

The report from Starr includes a 25-page introductory summary, 280 pages of narrative and about 140 pages dealing with details of alleged impeachable offenses, sources tell CNN. Starr's office delivered two sets of the material, or 36 boxes in all.

The two vans transporting the material from the independent counsel's office arrived at 4 p.m. EDT and were escorted by two FBI agents. U.S. Capitol police officers then formed a perimeter around the vehicles as other officers carried the material inside the Capitol.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt e spearheading a bipartisan effort to review the politically explosive report, delivered in the shadow of the mid-term elections. Plans were being thrashed out to make several hundred pages public within a few days, including posting it on the Internet.

Gingrich characterized the bipartisan discussion as "extraordinarily good," but Gephardt was more guarded, telling reporters "we have gone over a lot of questions. We have not resolved those questions."

The content is expected to focus on the sex-and-perjury investigation of Clinton and his admitted sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Following the delivery Starr spokesman Charles Bakaly said the office had fulfilled its responsibility, but refused to comment on what the material contains.

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Clinton lawyer David Kendall comments on the allegations
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Bakaly
Starr spokesman Charles Bakaly  

"As required by the Ethics and Government Act, and with the authorization of the court supervising independent counsels, the Office of Independent Counsel submitted a referral to the House of Representatives containing substantial and credible information that may constitute grounds for impeachment of the president of the United States," Bakaly said.

The Starr report and the grand jury transcripts, videotaped testimony, affidavits and other materials gathered in the investigation were turned over to the House sergeant-at-arms.

They will be locked up until the House adopts a resolution authorizing Gingrich to turn them over to the House Judiciary Committee, the panel that would initiate any impeachment proceedings. Once the committee receives Starr's report, staffers hope to have a recommendation for the committee on how to proceed in the next two or three weeks.

House Rules Committee Chairman Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y., speaking to reporters at a Wednesday night news conference, said he expects the Judiciary Committee and the full House to decide by year's end whether Starr's report warrants a full-scale impeachment inquiry.

The day's events were long dreaded by the White House as speculation about alleged "impeachable offenses" became a reality.

Clinton's personal attorney, David Kendall, offered a terse defense of the president.

"The president has apologized for his relationship with Miss Lewinsky and has asked for forgiveness," Kendall said. "People should keep in the mind that the documents delivered to Congress today represent only the prosecutors' allegations -- allegations that we have been denied a chance to review.

"But we do know this. There is no basis for impeachment," Kendall declared.

Information now in Gingrich's hands

Kendall
Clinton attorney David Kendall  

Gingrich said the materials would remain locked up in a secure room in the Ford House Office Building, which is three blocks from the U.S. Capitol and guarded by the U.S. Capitol Police.

The full House is expected to vote on a resolution by Friday authorizing a Judiciary Committee review of the report.

Wednesday's delivery took many on Capitol Hill by surprise. It was expected that the independent counsel's office would alert Gingrich beforehand.

Transferring the bulk of his investigation to the House, Starr's office also delivered a letter Wednesday to Gingrich and Gephardt, a copy of which was obtained by CNN. It included the authorization order from the U.S. Court of Appeals issued last month approving Starr's request to deliver grand jury materials to the House of Representatives.

Gingrich
House Speaker Newt Gingrich  

The transmittal letter said Starr had delivered 36 sealed boxes containing two copies of a "referral" to the sergeant-at-arms of the House Wednesday afternoon.

The vanload of material most likely contained transcripts of eight months of grand jury testimony and the infamous 20 hours of tape of conversations between Lewinsky and Linda Tripp during which the former White House intern tells of a sexual relationship with the president.

Lawyers familiar with Starr's investigation say the report will include sordid sexual details. But they also predict it will include allegations of criminal wrongdoing, including perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power.

How much of the report will become public?

There is some dispute over the full disclosure of much of the report. The evidence was collected through the grand jury process and under federal Rule 6(e) that testimony must be kept secret unless revealed by a witness. But it is under debate whether that rule applies to Congress.

In the Gingrich and Gephardt letter, Starr said the contents of the report "may not be publicly disclosed unless and until authorized by the House of Representatives ... Many of the supporting materials contain information of a personal nature that I respectfully urge the House to treat as confidential."

Starr asked that the sergeant-at-arms "maintain this Referral in a sealed and secure condition and deliver this sealed Referral to the House of Representatives at a time and place to be determined by the House consistent with its own Rules."

Starr went on to say he and his staff consider the material to be a record of his office until it is formally received by the House and "respectfully request that the Referral remain sealed."

Bakaly said, "The office (of the independent counsel) has fulfilled its duty under the law. Responsibility for the information that we have transmitted today, and for any further action, now lie with the Congress, as provided for by the Constitution," he said.

Gingrich said Wednesday that Starr's report will be made public, but the "voluminous" supporting material may be kept private to protect the rights of people who testified before the grand jury.

Before sending his report to Capitol Hill, Starr turned down a request by Kendall, Clinton's attorney, for an advance copy. Even so, the president's legal team has already begun preparing a rebuttal that will present its side of the case to the House.

White House aides are expected to paint the independent counsel's report as one-sided, charging that key witnesses, including Lewinsky, were never cross-examined and that the allegations involve only sex.

Clinton apologizes again

Meanwhile, Clinton continued his efforts to shore up his base of support by meeting with House Democratic leaders Wednesday morning and later apologizing yet again for his behavior during a political rally in Florida. (Full story)

Clinton

Clinton told a fund-raiser crowd that he had let the country down but he was determined to redeem himself. "I have been your friend, I've done my best to be your friend, but I also let you down, and let my family down and I let my country down," Clinton said.

"But I'm trying to make it right, and I'm determined never to let anything like that happen again," he said to strong applause.

An explosive allegation

The tale of Clinton and Lewinsky first transfixed the world last January when the explosive charges first surfaced that the president had sex with the former intern and asked her to lie about it under oath.

The Lewinsky tempest overlapped with two other scandals plaguing Clinton. The allegations of perjury stemmed from Clinton and Lewinsky's depositions in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, and Whitewater Independent Counsel Starr was given authority to investigate the matter by Attorney General Janet Reno.

Soon after the story broke, Clinton adamantly told the American people, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

Fast forward to August 17 when the president emerged after four hours of grand jury testimony to address the American people. This time he admitted to a "relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong."

What prompted the presidential change of story?

For the past eight months Starr has been methodically building a case, using a Washington grand jury to question such high-profile witness as Vernon Jordan, Linda Tripp, Betty Currie, Secret Service personnel and presidential advisers, as well as obscure friends of Lewinsky and White House stewards.

There was physical evidence, too, including the so-called "talking points," the Tripp tapes and gifts allegedly exchanged by Clinton and Lewinsky. The most famous, and possibly damning piece of evidence, was the blue dress that may or may not contain physical evidence of sexual relationship. It underwent DNA testing by the FBI.

All the intersecting points quickly converged at the beginning of August as Starr granted Lewinsky full immunity in exchange for her cooperation and testimony in the investigation, and then reached a deal for Clinton's testimony.

The president admitted to a physical relationship during that session, though he refused to go into explicit detail.

But Clinton still denies that he lied in his Jones deposition or urged Lewinsky to do so.

Those are the most serious allegations that will be considered by the House over the next few weeks as lawmakers sift through those boxes of material.



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Wednesday September 9, 1998

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