House panel reportedly draws up Clinton impeachment chargesNovember 26, 1998
Web posted at: 12:55 p.m. EST (1755 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, November 26) -- Staff members of the House Judiciary Committee are drawing up articles of impeachment against President Clinton for "possible consideration" by the committee, a Republican member of the panel told CNN Thursday.
"The case begins to speak for itself," the committee member said, adding that the proposed articles are in the drafting stage and have not yet been signed off by the committee's chairman, Rep. Henry Hyde.
But a high-ranking Judiciary Committee source cautioned that the process remains in the "preliminary stage." The source told CNN the committee must still take "three depositions, hold a hearing" and wrap up intense fact-finding missions.
"We're still in the fact-finding stage. We'e not ready to develop (impeachment) language yet. It's still in the preliminary stage," the source said.
A Congressional source close to the committee said the articles under discussion would allege perjury, obstruction of justice and -- on the basis of the president's repeated assertion of legal privileges -- abuse of power.
A senior White House official dismissed reports about the proposed articles saying, "you can get a good case of sea sickness" trying to follow the Republicans through the impeachment inquiry.
"The process is beyond absurd," the White House official said.
The articles are being drawn up by majority investigative counsel David Schippers and Thomas Mooney Sr., the committee's chief of staff, with Hyde, R-Illinois, overseeing the work, according to a report in The New York Times.
A senior Republican official was quoted in the Times as saying the articles were being drafted using the report of independent counsel Ken Starr, which focused on Clinton's affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, as well as the Watergate articles of impeachment that led to former President Richard Nixon's resignation from office, and on impeachment cases against three federal judges.
Although many lawmakers have been quoted as saying they believe a motion of censure rather than articles of impeachment would gain more votes in the House, the Republicans said the committee majority is following its own course and that there has been little if any coordination with the party leadership.
Any article beyond perjury 'doomed'
The committee is moving steadily along the path toward recommending impeachment even though moderate Republicans and some aides believe a floor vote on a single count of perjury would be too close to call.
One senior House Republican aide told the Times that any article beyond perjury would be "doomed."
The committee hopes to convene the week of December 7 to debate on articles of impeachment or, possibly, a presidential censure.
Republicans hold a 21-16 majority on the committee and are expected to approve articles of impeachment. But chances for impeachment are in doubt in the full House, where vote-counters estimate at least 20 Republicans oppose it.
Hyde prods Clinton for responses
Hyde warned Clinton on Wednesday that he would subpoena answers to 81 questions that he sent the president unless the written responses arrived by Monday.
James Kennedy, spokesman for the White House counsel's office, responded, "As the chairman knows full well, we will be providing our response by Friday, so I'm not sure what the point of his letter is."
White House officials told CNN that the president has reviewed the answers prepared by his lawyers to the questions -- including whether he committed perjury -- and may make minor changes before submitting them to the committee on Friday.
A Democratic congressman who has read a draft of the answers told CNN they contain no bombshells. Clinton does not make any strong yes or no statements in the responses, while denying in general terms that he committed perjury, the congressman said.
The answers will rely heavily on Clinton's previous testimony in the Paula Jones case and in the Starr investigation, and on prior White House rebuttals to Starr's report to Congress, said an official close to Clinton.
Hyde told Clinton in his letter that he would set aside a day, as early as December 8, for Clinton or his attorney to present their side of the case.
He chided the president for failing to provide "any materials that tend to exonerate you or even dispute the evidence submitted" by Starr.
Democrats needle Starr
Democrats, meanwhile, launched new attacks on Starr.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, a committee member, asked Attorney General Janet Reno to "expand your investigation of misconduct" by Starr. Nadler contended that during his testimony last Thursday, Starr disclosed the contents of sealed court documents, in violation of a court order and House rules.
The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, in fact, has not opened an investigation of Starr but has been considering whether to do so. The department has asked him to respond to some of the allegations.
Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, sought written answers from Starr to 19 questions -- most of them left unanswered by Starr last Thursday.
"This is simply an attempt by committee Democrats to clarify the factual record, where Mr. Starr was vague, evasive, forgetful or perhaps not altogether candid," said Democratic committee spokesman James Jordan.
Correspondents Bob Franken, John King and David Ensor contributed to this report.
Thursday, November 26, 1998
Former Republican leader McPhail dies at 68