Republicans may expand impeachment probe
Starr sends more materials to the Judiciary Committee
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, November 17) -- With two days to go until the House Judiciary Committee begins formal impeachment hearings about President Bill Clinton, sources told CNN that committee Chairman Henry Hyde is considering making additions to his witness list. The list previously included only Independent Counsel Ken Starr.
Hyde's committee is also discussing whether to expand the inquiry to include Starr's new allegations about assistance that Clinton friend Webster Hubbell got from controversial Democratic fund-raiser John Huang, one source said.
Minority Leader Dick Gephardt told reporters he may ask Judiciary Committee Democrats to boycott Thursday's hearing with Starr to protest the possible inclusion of matters outside the president's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
"This is an outrage," Gephardt said referring to press reports that Hyde is considering expanding the inquiry. "This is really an outrageous procedure that we hotly contest ... Democrats may decide not to come to the meeting."
Congressional aides told CNN that Hyde is considering adding several more witnesses to the impeachment inquiry witness list after Starr testifies this week, as several conservative committee Republicans are pushing to question several key players in the Lewinsky scandal, including top White House aide Bruce Lindsey and perhaps presidential secretary Betty Currie and Washington lobbyist Vernon Jordan.
Meanwhile, Hyde rejected a request by Clinton's lawyers that they be allowed to question Starr for 90 minutes instead of the 30 minutes allotted to them on Thursday, Republican committee officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The granting of any time to the White House illustrates our efforts to be fair," one official said. "Considering each member only has five minutes to question Starr, granting the White House 30 minutes is more than generous."
In addition to the Lewinsky affair, two Democratic sources said the possibility of expanding the inquiry to include allegations about Huang had come up in informal conversations with Republican committee aides.
Starr is expected to discuss that aspect of his investigation during a two-hour presentation set for Thursday.
Democrats said they would object on grounds Starr's referral to Congress included no substantive mention of Hubbell or Huang. The Democrats also questioned whether it was proper to discuss secret grand jury testimony in this aspect of the Starr investigation at a time Starr's new indictment of Hubbell is being challenged in the courts.
This is somewhat of a Catch-22 for Democrats, however, who are planning to cite the recent indictment of Hubbell, the third time he has been charged by Starr, as evidence the independent counsel is overzealous in his pursuit of the president and his friends.
Democrats said there was talk among some Republicans of an additional week of testimony and some hearings after Starr's appearance late this week. But Democrats say they are getting mixed signals about whether Hyde will go along with extending and expanding the inquiry. One committee Democrat said late Monday that talk of calling Huang as a witness "does not mesh with my understanding of what the chairman wants to do, but we have been surprised before."
Hyde was planning to meet with committee Republicans on Tuesday to discuss his plans for the committee inquiry, which the chairman hopes to bring to a vote on articles of impeachment by the first or second week of December.
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Georgia), a member of the committee and longtime Clinton critic, told CNN he favored additional witnesses and while "that's not a decision that has been conveyed to us with any finality by the chairman ... I'm confident there will be additional very important witnesses."
Sources said Hyde was balancing the interest in questioning additional witnesses with his strong desire to wrap up the inquiry by year's end, a timetable sources say is being pushed by Rep. Bob Livingston (R-Louisiana), the all-but-certain choice to become House speaker in January.
Given that, sources in both parties said it was likely some of the additional testimony would be in the form of depositions, not public committee testimony.
Gephardt plans to meet with Judiciary Committee Democrats Tuesday evening to discuss a possible boycott.
"Given the manner in which this hearing has been arranged, members have raised the possibility of not attending," Jim Jordan, spokesman for the Judiciary Committee Democrats, said in response to a question about Gephardt's suggestion.
Jordan also said the Republicans had broken Hyde's promise to abide by the "Rodino rules" that governed the Watergate hearings by limiting White House lawyers to a half-hour of cross-examination.
But one Democrat on the committee indicated Tuesday she will be at the hearing. "There is reason to show up, if none other than to continue to tell you how unfair the process is," Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) said.
And Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida said Tuesday evening that he hoped a walkout would be used as a "last resort," commenting "I would hope that that certainly would not happen."
Clinton's legal team asks for more time with Starr
White House Counsel Charles Ruff sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday informing the Hyde the he, the president's private lawyer David Kendall and Special White House Counsel Gregg Craig will be representing the president at the hearing.
The letter also asked for additional time to cross examine Starr.
"Because we have not been informed what the nature and scope of Mr. Starr's testimony will be, it is difficult to predict with any certainty just how long it will take to conduct a full an fair examination. I understand however that Mr. Starr has been allocated two hours for an uninterrupted presentation," Ruff wrote. "We submit that anything less than 90 minutes would unfairly constrain our ability to explore the basis for Mr. Starr's testimony and for any conclusions he may proffer."
Although every Republican members of the House of Representatives voted in September to proceed with an impeachment inquiry, congressional sources told CNN last week that about 20 Republicans in the full House are poised to vote against formal articles of impeachment. After this month's midterm election, the GOP only has a six-vote majority in the House.
But if the president thought he would ease into Thursday's hearings with the Democratic victories on election night fresh in the minds of Congress and the public, he was mistaken.
The House Judiciary Committee finally released the audio recordings of the infamous Linda Tripp tapes Tuesday. The release marks the first time the public has heard Lewinsky describe her relationship with the president in her own voice. The detailed, often emotional exchanges between Tripp and Lewinsky are contained on 37 seven tapes and are nearly 22 hours long. | Full story
Also on Tuesday Starr sent the House Judiciary Committee four boxes of information from his investigation of consulting payments to Hubbell, congressional sources tell CNN.
Committee members and top aides were reviewing the documents Tuesday in an executive session. The new materials detail payments from a variety of sources to Hubbell after he was forced to resign from the Justice Department because of charges stemming from Starr's Whitewater investigation, two sources familiar with the material said.
Starr also sent information Tuesday to the panel detailing the early days of his investigation of Clinton's affair with Lewinsky.
Those documents were handed over after Hyde forwarded a request to Starr from the committee's ranking Democrat, John Conyers of Michigan, two congressional sources familiar with the documents said. Conyers had requested the documents Starr provided to Attorney General Janet Reno when Starr asked to expand his Whitewater investigation last January.
The documents include correspondence between the independent counsel and the Justice Department about Starr's request to investigate alleged obstruction of justice and perjury by the president, the sources said.
The Democrats on the committee hope to use the documents to illustrate "questionable tactics" by the independent counsel and to explore whether Starr withheld information from the Justice Department when he asked to expand his investigation.
Starr justified the expansion of his inquiry by alleging the help presidential pal Vernon Jordan and others gave Lewinsky in finding a job paralleled help given to Hubbell by some of the same people when Hubbell was being forced from the Justice Department.
CNN's John King and Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.
Tuesday, November 17, 1998
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