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

Checking the House managers' facts

By Brooks Jackson/CNN

January 16, 1999
Web posted at: 1:25 p.m. EST (1825 GMT)

WASHINGTON (January 16) -- The House managers accuse President Bill Clinton of perjury, but are the 13 Judiciary Committee Republicans telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Well, not always.

Friday, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) didn't tell the whole truth when he used the president's lawyers' words against him.

Rep. Steve Chabot  

"In fact, Mr. Ruff and Mr. Craig testified before the Judiciary Committee that the president willfully misled the court," Chabot said.

That was not the whole story.

Chabot played for the Senate only a portion of White House counsel Charles Ruff's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last December.

"Reasonable people, and you maybe have reached this conclusion, could determine that he crossed over that line, and that what for him was truthful but misleading, or nonresponsive and misleading, or evasive was in fact false," Ruff responded.

But here's Ruff went on to say immediately after Chabot cut him off: "But in his mind -- and that's the heart and soul of perjury -- he thought and he believed that what he was doing was being evasive but truthful."

Ruff firmly denied the president committed perjury.

At one point Thursday Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Arkansas) made it sound as though Monica Lewinsky gave a signed copy of her affidavit to Vernon Jordan.

"She delivers the signed affidavit to Mr. Jordan," Hutchinson said.

That statement could be misleading. Lewinsky actually testified she did not give Jordan a copy.

Rep. Asa Hutchinson  

"I did not provide him with a copy. No ... I believe I showed him a copy," Lewinsky told the grand jury last summer. "I think he may have said, 'I don't need to see it.'"

"So you don't specifically recall handing it over to him or even showing it to him specifically?" Independent Counsel Ken Starr's prosecutor asked Lewinsky.

"No," Lewinsky answered.

Also, the House Managers keep saying the president deliberately lied when he said the affair started in 1996, claiming Clinton's did so because Lewinsky was so young in November 1995 when she says it began.

"She was a young, 21-year-old White House intern," Rep. James Rogan (R-California) said.

This is not true. Actually Lewinsky had already turned 22-years-old in July.

And as for Betty Currie, House managers constantly describe her memory as vague about who suggested that she pick up Lewinsky's gifts.

"Ms. Currie, in her grand jury testimony, had a fuzzy memory," Hutchinson said Thursday.

But Currie's testimony was clear enough.

"Monica said she was getting concerned, and she wanted to give me the stuff the president had given her -- or give me a box of stuff." Currie told the grand jury.

And another time Currie said: "The best I remember is Monica calls me and asks me if she can give me some gifts."

Time after time during their opening statements, the House managers stated their conclusions as though they were facts.

Rep. Bill McCollum  

"The only reasonable interpretation of the facts... " Rep Bob Barr of Georgia said Friday.

"It's the only possible rationale..." Rep. Bill McCollum of Florida proclaimed.

"You must conclude that the directive to retrieve the gifts came from the president..." Hutchinson resolved.

"Then you must also conclude that the president committed perjury ..." McCollum told senators.

These are arguments, rather than proven facts.

None of this should be surprising. Prosecutors are only supposed to present one side of a case -- theirs. And in two days of argument some small factual mistakes are bound to happen.

And when White House lawyers present their side -- we'll be watching them, too.

Investigating the President


Saturday January 16, 1999

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