Clinton's lawyers ask for several days to make their case
White House escalates anti-impeachment efforts
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, December 4) -- Lawyers for President Bill Clinton have asked the House Judiciary Committee for three to four days next week for their defense presentation so they can call witnesses during the impeachment hearings.
In a letter to the committee's general counsel released by the White House late Friday, Clinton's lawyers said they want to call witnesses to discuss the constitutional standard for impeachment; standards for prosecution for perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power; prosecutorial misconduct; and the impact of tainted evidence.
The Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee had hoped to vote on articles of impeachment by the end of next week but if the president's request for more time is approved, that could push any action off until the following week.
Clinton's private attorney, David Kendall, and White House counsels Charles Ruff and Gregory Craig will appear before the committee beginning Tuesday to present their case.
"We feel it is essential to the President's defense that we be able to call our own witnesses and present our own arguments to address these important questions," Ruff and Craig wrote in the letter.
"We anticipate that we will require no more than three or four days of the Committee's time to deal with the topics identified ... at which time counsel for the President will present a final argument as to why, given the law, the facts and these circumstances, this Committee should not report out articles of impeachment to the full membership of the House of Representatives," the lawyers wrote.
The president's lawyers said they would like to call witnesses on the subject of "prosecutorial misconduct and the impact of tainted evidence," suggesting the lawyers will continue their attacks on Independent Counsel Ken Starr's investigation of the president.
According to terms set out by the panel, the president's witness list was due Friday and Republicans warned the White House that anyone defending the president may be subject to questioning by committee members and staff. As he did in the questioning of Starr, Kendall is expected to take the lead in any presentation.
The timetable is significant because soon-to-be House Speaker Bob Livingston (R-Louisiana) said Thursday that if the committee does not wrap up its work by next week he does not see how the full House can vote by the end of the year.
White House aides insist the request was not made to delay the process and that they are interested in having the process completed by the year-end deadline.
White House moves into battle mode
The White House is moving into full battle mode as aides suggested for the first time that the president might be willing to pay a financial penalty as part of a censure alternative to avoid impeachment.
"I think if members in good faith want to pursue that option and approach representatives here at the White House with that option, we will listen and take anything they say seriously," White House Press Secretary Lockhart said.
The president's team also launched a fresh attack on the impeachment process, all but calling Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde a hypocrite.
Hyde says impeachment is a fair punishment for Clinton's lies about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
But back in 1987 Hyde accused Democrats of a witch hunt for investigating Reagan White House aides for lying about the Iran-Contra scandal. Hyde said then it was wrong to "label every untruth and every deception an outrage." Listen to Hyde on the Iran-Contra "witch hunt," 100K wav file.
Lockhart suggested Hyde's current outrage over lying might be motivated by politics. "Given the fact that those comments were made, his remarks now, his impassioned remarks on this subject, indicate more about politics than about conviction," Lockhart said.
Clinton's attorneys have complained they still don't know what charges their client faces.
Hyde decided Thursday to drop alleged fund-raising abuses from the impeachment inquiry after a review by his chief investigator, David Schippers, of four secret memos reportedly found little directly implicating the president in criminal acts.
But the committee still seems to be exploring other areas, as last week the panel asked the Secret Service for information about a conversation Clinton had in 1994 with an Arkansas woman who alleges she once had an extramarital affair with Clinton.
A November 24 letter signed by Hyde asked the Secret Service for the name of two agents believed to have witnessed the July 1994 conversation between the president and Dolly Kyle Browning. The letter suggested the committee wanted to interview the agents.
Browning has alleged that Clinton allies threatened her and warned her not to talk publicly about her alleged relationship with the president. Clinton has said he was confronted by Browning at their high school reunion in 1994, and called aide Marsha Scott over to witness the conversation.
It was not immediately clear why the committee wanted the information, although Republicans have accused the president of a pattern of trying to intimidate witnesses.
Despite the White House's anti-impeachment efforts committee Republicans are already drafting articles of impeachment and are not likely to be swayed.
The process enters its defining week with hearings scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET Tuesday. If the committee approves any articles of impeachment, a full House vote is expected on December 15.
CNN's coverage of the impeachment hearing, which will be aired live, begins at 9 a.m. ET Tuesday.
CNN's John King and Carl Rochelle contributed to this report.
Friday, December 4, 1998
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