Congressional impeachment inquiry expands to fund-raising
Clinton unlikely to testify before Judiciary Committee
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, November 30) -- The House Judiciary Committee will move to expand its impeachment inquiry into 1996 campaign fund-raising abuses, possibly including "allegations of criminal wrongdoing by the president," sources tell CNN.
The move by majority Republicans was prompted by a tip from "someone in the government," committee sources said, refusing to be more specific.
The move comes as the White House works on its anti-impeachment strategy amid continued division among lawmakers on what should happen to Clinton.
The committee will vote Tuesday on issuing subpoenas for Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI Director Louis Freeh and Charles LaBella, the lawyer who headed the Justice Department's campaign fund-raising investigation.
Both Freeh and LaBella recommended to Reno that she appoint an independent counsel to investigate the allegations. She declined to do so. LaBella's secret report included information on criminal misconduct, sources tell CNN.
It is that claim that majority Republicans will cite as a justification for expanding the impeachment inquiry into the campaign fund-raising issue for the first time.
Independent Counsel Ken Starr also is expected to be subpoenaed by the committee to turn over records of his investigation into John Huang, a principal figure in the campaign fund-raising scandal.
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On Monday, the White House focused on efforts behind the scenes to promote censure as an alternative to impeachment.
In addition, Clinton is not expected to accept Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde's invitation to plead his case before the panel.
"I don't think it's very likely that you'll see the president appear before that committee," White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said Monday.
Aides say the president's lawyers have not yet decided whether to send witnesses to defend him at a scheduled December 8 committee hearing. They are preparing a lengthy memorandum that is now expected to reach the panel sometime next week.
In a letter released late Monday, Hyde had stinging criticism for the president, accusing him of evading the committee's 81 written questions in his responses released last Friday and for sticking "with his reliance on bizarre technical definitions and legalistic defenses."
Hyde urged Clinton or a representative to appear before the panel, saying it would be the "last opportunity for the president to provide the committee with his version of the facts before the committee evaluates the evidence and considers debating articles of impeachment."
Meanwhile, "very delicate" contacts are under way between Republicans opposed to impeachment and White House officials concerning some sort of alternative punishment for Clinton, like censure, Republican congressional sources who wish to remain unidentified told CNN.
Some cabinet members have been in contact the last several weeks with centrist Republicans in the House. Among them, according to sources on Capitol Hill and in the Clinton Administration, are Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. Both are former Democratic members of the House. When contacted by CNN, neither would comment.
At the same time, Democratic sources told CNN that Minority Leader Dick Gephardt is "actively coordinating" efforts to reach a consensus on a censure resolution.
Clinton faces the impeachment inquiry in the aftermath of his admitted affair with former intern Monica Lewinsky, although he has denied committing perjury or obstructing justice.
One of those sources said, "We have to get as much cohesiveness as possible before the vote and for the vote," meaning Gephardt will strive to come up with one resolution that will attract almost all Democrats.
As for Republicans, a Democratic source said, "We'll make a run at getting them, too."
It is difficult to quantify who supports and who opposes impeachment. Most members on both sides of the aisle are convinced the Judiciary Committee will send to the full House at least one article of impeachment. That committee vote is expected sometime after December 8 and is likely to fall along strict party lines.
The predictions for the full House vote, both among supporters and opponents of impeachment, are remarkably similar.
Sources in Rep. Tom DeLay's office tell CNN that the majority whip predicts the full House will vote in favor of impeachment -- most likely on one count of perjury -- based on a belief that currently, eight Democrats are for impeachment and 20 Republicans are against it.
With the current 11-vote GOP majority, DeLay believes he is within one vote of gaining approval for an impeachment resolution. These numbers, sources say, are based on well- developed "models" used by staff members.
Opponents of impeachment who support a censure motion say there are 15 to 20 Republicans expected to oppose impeachment, although the actual number on the record is seven to nine. These impeachment opponents say they will lose just four to five Democrats.
All sides agree the preliminary vote counts are not fully reliable. Some fence-sitters might be persuaded, said one pro-impeachment source, that "the Senate should have the chance to deal with the ultimate question of whether to remove the president."
But on the other side, anti-impeachment advocates say a censure resolution that is punitive enough "might pull everyone together."
Opponents of censure currently range from liberals who believe there should be no further action against the president, to conservatives who feel impeachment is the only answer, to others who oppose the action on constitutional ground.
Meanwhile, Democratic fund-raiser Nathan Landow appeared as subpoenaed for a deposition in the House inquiry Monday morning, but according to Judiciary Committee sources, he asserted his right against self-incrimination. Sources familiar with Landow's appearance before Starr's grand jury say he also took the Fifth Amendment during that testimony.
CNN has learned Landow is being investigated by Starr's office over allegations he tried to dissuade former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey from revealing her accusation that Clinton fondled her in a room off the Oval Office in 1993. The president denies the charge.
Landow's appearance before the Judiciary Committee follows a deposition before the committee last week from Willey's attorney, Dan Gecker.
Sources familiar with Gecker's testimony say that because of that appearance, there is "a good possibility" the president's attorney, Bob Bennett, will not be subpoenaed to give a deposition as previously announced.
"There is less need for his (Bennett's) testimony," said a committee source. Another source says Gecker did not reveal any information that Bennett had an inappropriate role in the Willey matter.
Bennett told CNN, "I am hopeful they're recognizing their position, because it is very extreme. I am not going to violate attorney-client privilege."
There are still plans to depose Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey, a longtime friend of Clinton. No date has been set yet for his appearance.
The Judiciary Committee plans a public hearing Tuesday on the consequences of perjury.
The committee is attempting to assemble federal judges and individuals convicted of perjury in an effort to help persuade members that perjury is indeed significant enough to warrant impeachment.
Lockhart condemned Tuesday's scheduled hearing, insisting the president has nothing in common with those witnesses who've been convicted of perjury. "I think that it won't add any new information and can be put in the category of a stunt."
CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Bob Franken contributed to this report.
Monday, November 30, 1998
Hyde opposes preliminary vote on impeachment
Report on possible Starr leaks due
List of active independent counsel probes
Court rejects Missouri campaign contribution limits
Fascell, longtime congressman, dies of cancer at 81
Aides-turned-lobbyists advise Gore
Tom Hanks regrets Clinton defense fund donation
Report: Clinton wants to expand Medicaid