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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Transcript: Questioning By Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX)

House Judiciary Committee hearing, December 8, 1998

SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Smith.

SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, under this process of ours, we inevitably have, I think, two sides, and each side feels strongly about representing their client. In this case, we have individuals who feel strongly that the president did not commit an impeachable offense; we have other individuals that feel just as strongly that his wrongful actions reached that level.

If the system is functional -- and I believe that it is -- what we all hope is that the truth is going to shake out.

Mr. Craig, my first question is this: that you admitted in your statement that the president did -- did make -- you called them, I think, evasive and misleading statements.

Have you ever counseled the president to go before the American people and tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, which is to say forget about the polls -- in fact, it's likely that the White House conducted a poll to find out generally what you ought to say today -- but forget the polls, forget the partisan politic, and no matter how much it hurts, level with the American people and tell the whole truth?

CRAIG: Congressman, let me just say that he has acknowledged the wrongdoing. He has himself acknowledged that he was evasive, that he misled people and that he went out of his way to conceal. And on the issue...

SMITH: Right. Mr. Craig, let me follow-up...

CRAIG: May I just finish the...

SMITH: ... by asking you this question then: Does the president intend to specifically correct any of those evasive and misleading statements that you've acknowledged that he has made?

CRAIG: Well, I think he has gone a long way, Congressman, when he gave that statement on August 17th, in which he made the painful admission and acknowledgement that he did in fact have...

SMITH: Right. And Mr. Craig, you also said he regretted it. It's very easy to say you've regretted something after caught. But my question was, specifically, is he going to go back and correct the record and correct any of those misleading and evasive statements?

CRAIG: Congressman, I think he has in fact corrected the most central element of what he testified evasively about.

SMITH: OK, Mr. Craig.

CRAIG: And that had to do with the relationship that he denied and that he has now acknowledged and he has told everybody that he was wrong in denying it.

SMITH: Right. Mr. Craig, I understand all of that. But you have answered my question, and that is, I gather there are no plans to go back and correct those false and misleading statements.

Mr. Katzenbach, may I address my next question to you?

I'd like to read a statement by Leon Jaworski, who was the special prosecutor during the Nixon proceeding. And he wrote this: "The president, a lawyer, coached Haldeman on how to testify untruthfully and yet not commit perjury." It about -- "It amounted to subornation of perjury. For the No. 1 law enforcement officer of the country, it was, in my opinion, as demeaning an act as could be imagined."

Wouldn't you agree with that statement, at least as it pertained to the situation in 1974?

KATZENBACH: I'm not sure, Congressman, that I heard everything that you said. I'm inclined to think I would agree with what Mr. Jaworski said, because I think he was saying you can have an impeachable offense whether or not it amounts to perjury.

SMITH: Right. Let me read a couple more statements.

This is a quotation from the Lewinsky proffer: "At some point in the relationship between Ms. Lewinsky and the president, the president total Ms. Lewinsky to deny a relationship if ever asked. He said something to the effect of, `If the two people who are involved said it didn't happen, it didn't happen."'

And in this well -- "Ms. Lewinsky has testified that on December 17th, 1997, when she and the president discussed her possible appearance in the Jones case, the president told her -- quote -- `You know you can always say you were coming to see Betty or that you were bringing me letters."'

In your judgment, didn't the president's actions amount to coaching a witness to testify falsely?

KATZENBACH: As you quoted them, Congressman, I wouldn't think so, but I'm not trying to trivialize that. If that is true, that was the wrong thing to say, but it does not amount to grounds for impeachment.

SMITH: Let me say to you that I think 90 percent of the American people would consider this to be tampering with the witness, which is a serious felony and might well be impeachable offense.

SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman's time has expired.

Investigating the President


Tuesday, December 8, 1998

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