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Transcript: Judiciary Committee members on decision to release Clinton videotape, Starr documents

September 18, 1998

SPEAKERS: U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN MEEHAN (D-MA)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BILL MCCOLLUM (R-FL)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BARNEY FRANK (D-MA)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE HENRY J. HYDE (R-IL), CHAIR, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR)

MEEHAN: I'm Marty Meehan from Massachusetts. The last day and a half has been a sobering experience. I think there are wholly different views between Democrats and Republicans about what is right, about what is fair, and about what is constitutional.

I sense that we're coming to an end of this process. I am confident that the votes that have been made will be made public and the explanation of those votes will be made public as well.

I think if this process continues, it's going to be extremely important that members of Congress recognize that what we're about to do and what we're doing is more important than any individual member of Congress, more important than William Jefferson Clinton. We're talking about setting dangerous precedents for future generations of Americans.

And frankly, I think we should be exercising better judgment and more fairness as we follow down the road in this process.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MEEHAN: There may be -- there may be a couple of other motions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MEEHAN: I'm talking about the precedent of releasing grand jury information. And some members of this committee haven't so much as read that information. I think that the Congress made a serious mistake in releasing the report without having so much as taken a quick look at it.

I think for this committee to release information that many haven't looked at is a serious mistake and a dangerous precedent to set for future generations.

I think we ought to be looking to the precedent that was set 25 years ago when the Democrats afforded Richard Nixon more due process and more fairness than what we seem to be affording this particular president.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MEEHAN: Nothing. Nothing.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCOLLUM: I'm Congressman Bill McCollum. Chairman Hyde is due out here momentarily. And I certainly expect him to make a full statement about what we've just done. But those of us who are here know that we have voted, we believe, to do the right thing in as bipartisan a fashion as we could imagine to do.

We're going to release about 2,800 pages of this material in volumes 1 through 7 of the appendices, which has been given to us. We've also voted to release the videotape of the president, which you've been asking about, as a part of that.

And you will begin to see what all is coming here in the next little while. But we can't talk about any of this. We can't discuss the details of it. We can tell you that we think what's been done is right. Some of the material, however, is sexually explicit and I think that's unfortunate. But the fact and reality is that we have to do that because of the president's insistence on the status of his matter of his not -- of his telling the truth in certain instances where the Ken Starr independent counsel said he did not.

And there's no way to reveal this to the public without giving the full context in which all of that is being said. So that, approximately, is what's happening. I expected the chairman to join me by this time.

But I understand he's on his way. I also understand this is going to go to the printers, and you're going to be given in a couple of minutes the timetable, as best we can, of when this will be released.

None of it will be released except together at one time. Perhaps one of my other colleagues would like to make a comment about anything here at this point.

Mr. Frank, do you want to? When the chairman gets here, we trust you'll yield.

FRANK: I just want to say that the assertion that this was bipartisan is just silly. If this is bipartisanship, then the Taliban wins the meddle for religious tolerance.

What we have is the Republican majority using their votes not to advance the process of fact finding. We're no closer today to figuring out how to do fact finding than we were before, not in anyway unfortunately to decide what is or isn't impeachable.

The Republican majority has decided that it's important decided that it's important for them to make the president less firmly involved with the people than he is. They don't think there's enough of a vote for impeachment yet out in the public.

So what we have is a very one-side, partisan effort to release material before the president gets a chance to review it or respond it, that makes the president look bad. And we even had the spectacle of a majority of Republicans voting not to even release the votes by which we voted today.

The Republicans insisted on keeping secret the proceeding in which they were open. They're for openness about everybody but themselves. It is a disappointment to us, because it is not only partisan, but it is not a process of trying to get into fact finding or defining impeachment. It's basically an effort to discredit the president.

QUESTION: What does this mean...

MCCOLLUM: This is -- Chairman Hyde is here now.

HYDE: Well, I don't think things were as dismal as Barney portrayed them. We accomplished a lot. We had vigorous, spirited debate, but it was civil. I would say the spirit of bipartisanship is alive and flourishing.

There was a general view among the Democrats not to reveal anything, and there was a general view among Republicans to reveal as much as possible consistent with responsible redactions to protect people whose names and vital statistics and involvement in this was very peripheral, we did that.

Out of some 120 redactions, we agreed on 120, and I think there were about 20 we didn't agree on. They all got worked out ultimately, and so this phase of our complicated and burdensome hearings are over.

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, could you...

FRANK: Can I just say that this is a new concept -- I just want to say this a new concept, unfortunately, of unilateral bipartisanship.

Bipartisanship can't be unilateral. And you will see when the votes are released that we -- that virtually every vote was on a party-line vote on every issue because we believe bipartisanship has simply not been part of the process.

HYDE: Well, I disagree. I think we did get along well. I may have a different definition of bipartisanship, but it is not -- it doesn't include surrender to everything the Democrats want.

FRANK: No, I didn't say -- we got along fine. I don't deny that it was civil. We were very civil. It was very civil and very (OFF- MIKE).

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, do you know when the documents will (OFF-MIKE)?

HYDE: That's a mechanical problem. It has -- the documents have to get to the printer's office. And as soon as they can produce them, then they will be released simultaneously with the videotape.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)...

HYDE: That's a mechanical problem, a problem of production.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

HYDE: We'll announce that later today as soon as we know. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)...

HYDE: Well, the next step is more of the same -- continue to examine the 17 cartons, analyze them, and then process them as much as we can by meeting with the committee and having votes to release them. Our mandate is to release as much as possible consistent with responsible deletions to protect innocent people, salacious material that is redundant and doesn't go to prove anything in particular.

The staffs of both Democrats and Republicans have been operating quite effectively to winnow out things that really shouldn't be released.

But the rest will be released.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) party-line vote on these things?

HYDE: Well, yes. I wouldn't deny that there weren't lots of party-line votes. But there is a spirit of collegiality, which overcomes Republicans and Democrats when they're in an adversarial position.

QUESTION: Chairman Hyde, (OFF-MIKE) coming out...

HYDE: Pardon?

QUESTION: Is only the tape coming out?

HYDE: Is only the tape...

QUESTION: Right now?

HYDE: No, the tape will come out with the transcript simultaneously.

QUESTION: How many of the other pages?

HYDE: Two thousand-and-some paper (ph) pages.

QUESTION: How damaging do you think all of this information will be to the president?

HYDE: Pardon?

QUESTION: How damaging will all of this be to (OFF-MIKE)?

HYDE: That's for you to decide. That's why we're releasing it.

(CROSSTALK)

HYDE: I -- I -- one at a time.

What?

QUESTION: The Paula Jones deposition videotape?

HYDE: No, we're not -- we haven't received it yet physically, and we're not going to release that, at least until we've looked at it and made an analysis and had a vote in the committee.

QUESTION: Mr. Hyde, what do you (OFF-MIKE)?

HYDE: Last question. I have to vote.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) that it's a dangerous (OFF-MIKE). HYDE: It's a what? A dangerous precedent to give out grand jury...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) testimony (OFF-MIKE).

HYDE: It -- that's not so. That is customary. It has been done when it's appropriate, and it's appropriate here.

QUESTION: And when else (OFF-MIKE)?

HYDE: It's been done many times. We've read the law. We read from text on that issue.

It was given to us for the purpose of reviewing it and then releasing it if we deemed as a committee that it was appropriate. That is the law.

QUESTION: Mr. Hyde, could we see how (OFF-MIKE)

(CROSSTALK)

HYDE: Yes. You'll see that.

QUESTION: When?

HYDE: When it's printed.

QUESTION: What do you (OFF-MIKE) in the polls. It looks Americans don't want this to be released.

HYDE: I'm not -- I haven't seen those polls. But we're trying not to be guided by polls, but by our instincts and our conscience.

MCCOLLUM: I want to make one follow up as go out of here. The bipartisan nature that I was referring to that Barney Frank is disputing is reflected in the fact that you're going to see -- when you do see these votes cast -- that we cast solid votes together for the vast majority of the redactions that are in here.

It was done, completed and important. And the second point I want to reiterate to you is the fact that we indeed do have an obligation, because the president has put things in dispute, to bring forth whatever is brought forth in here, and that is the deep feeling of most of the members of our committee.

QUESTION: Mr. McCollum...

MCCOLLUM: Mr. -- Mr. Hutchinson, do you want to add any comment to this before we...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) what was the reaction to the (OFF-MIKE)

HUTCHINSON: You will see the details on the redactions. But I think it's important to recognize that the minority and the majority worked together in a large portion to agree upon the appropriate redactions.

There were a number of them in dispute. And if you look, there was some cross-voting as you went through that.

This is not strictly party line as you go through it. In fact, the last vote that was taken, a Republican member made the motion and a Democrat supported it. And so you'll see some bipartisanship in there.

But that's a spin that is being put on here.

What we have done today is to open this up in accordance with the mandate of the House so that the public can review this along with the Judiciary Committee and the other members with sensibility toward the salacious material and taking that away from there as well as the privacy issue.

So I think it was very fair what we did during the committee process today.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)...

HUTCHINSON: No, you'll see that some of the redactions were sexually explicit material. So there were a number of those that were removed from the text, because my standard was we did not want to put anything more out, more graphic in detail, than what was already in the public record. And I think that we met that standard today.

QUESTION: Why release it at all if so much is gone in the report?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) with an impeachment inquiry?

HUTCHINSON: We will not meet again until next week. But we will have to meet again probably to go over the balance of this. Don't forget, there were 17 boxes. This is by no means the end of the process.

On the 28th, a week from Monday, anything we don't further redact or exclude will be released to the public. So there's a lot more material we haven't begun to go over that are in the boxes over in the annex right now.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)...

HUTCHINSON: Well, we can't -- we can only tell you that it'll -- the material we just voted on will go to the printers and they'll be working on it. It will be maintained in executive session until they get done printing it and the videotape will be released simultaneously with the printed material.

Now whether...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)?

HUTCHINSON: Now whether -- I don't know. It's up to the printers. And Henry Hyde, Chairman Hyde, and Mr. Conyers will be notified at the time that they're ready, and then you'll be notified. Whether that's tomorrow -- it's certainly not going to be today -- whether it's tomorrow or next week on Monday or Tuesday, I don't know, because I can't tell you that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

HUTCHINSON: Well, that -- you'll get plenty of notice, I can assure you of that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)...

HUTCHINSON: It consists of about 2,800 pages. It consists of material that were in the appendices -- technical appendices to the Starr report. There are still boxes of other material and evidence we have not gone through and surveyed at this point. We'll have to do that, complete it before the 28th of September.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)...

HUTCHINSON: Twenty-eight hundred pages.

QUESTION: There's only (OFF-MIKE)

HUTCHINSON: You know, volume wise it's very small. So you still have quite a large number. And you can imagine the complications of the printer to print this. So...

QUESTION: What is the reason for releasing some material now rather than releasing everything on the 28th?

HUTCHINSON: These -- this material was the appendices. These are the documents to which the Ken Starr report in its footnote refers. And we felt it was best to get that out of the way. Those are the issues that the public's going focus most on first.

And then anything we don't get to, we want to redact things out of that and take our time with it. Anything we don't get to, anything we don't have time to review in great detail is going to be released automatically under the House rule passed last week.

Well, we've got to go vote. I'm sorry.


Investigating the President

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Friday, September 18, 1998



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