House impeachment managers call Lewinsky meeting 'productive'
But her lawyer says she told them nothing new
January 24, 1999
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, January 24) -- Three House impeachment managers met for nearly two hours Sunday afternoon with Monica Lewinsky in a session the managers described as "productive" -- but which her attorney said "adding nothing" to the record in President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial.
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"We found her to be a very personable and impressive young woman, and we found that she might be a very helpful witness to the Senate if she's called," said Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Florida.
"I believe that she would be a witness that would help (senators) determine the truth, and that's what we're all endeavoring to do during this process," said Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Arkansas.
But Lewinsky's attorney, Plato Cacheris, said Lewinsky added nothing new to what she has said previously about her relationship with Clinton. And he made a plea to the managers not to put her through the ordeal of testifying in the Senate.
"It is unnecessary to call her as a witness, because all of her testimony is fully and completely disclosed," he said. "We hope, on behalf of Monica and her family, that this long nightmare that has endured in their lives will come to a quick conclusion."
Also on Sunday, former Clinton political confidant Dick Morris met for two hours with staff lawyers from the House Judiciary Committee, though no impeachment managers were present.
Morris described it as "a very good and a cordial meeting" during which the lawyers went over his grand jury testimony related to conversations with Clinton after the Lewinsky scandal broke. He said he provided some "amplification" in response to their questions.
Lewinsky traveled from Los Angeles to Washington on Saturday after U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ruled that she was required to do so under an immunity agreement reached with Independent Counsel Ken Starr.
Sunday's meeting took place inside the posh Mayflower Hotel, where Lewinsky stayed overnight. Hutchinson, McCollum and Rep. Ed Bryant, R-Tennessee, attended the session, along with David Schippers, the House Judiciary Committee's chief impeachment investigator.
The House managers portrayed the meeting as a routine, get-acquainted session with the woman at the heart of the perjury and obstruction-of-justice case against Clinton.
"We simply want her to understand that she's likely to be a witness," McCollum said earlier on ABC's "This Week."
But Democrats criticized the interview as a last-minute fishing expedition and an attempt to intimidate Lewinsky into changing her testimony to help the House managers.
Meanwhile, the Senate impeachment trial is set to resume at 1 p.m. ET Monday, with senators generally agreed that a motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment, brought forward by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, will fail.
If the motion fails, the Senate will then consider and vote on a request to subpoena witnesses, including Lewinsky, for closed-door depositions under oath.
Senators remain divided on calling witnesses, with some lawmakers predicting there could be an up-or-down vote on the articles of impeachment by the end of the week.
On the Sunday talk shows, participants in the impeachment drama debated whether House managers violated the spirit of the Senate's trial rules by pushing for the Lewinsky interview before the Senate decided whether to allow witness testimony.
Rep. Henry Hyde, who heads the team of House managers, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that they needed to talk to Lewinsky "to get a sense of how she feels and what her demeanor (is) and what kind of witness she would make. That's standard operating procedure in preparing a case.
"The Senate shouldn't tell us how to try our case," Hyde said.
Hyde denied that House managers and Starr's office were in collusion, calling that an "invidious conclusion drawn by the spinmeisters."
"We're at the stage in the impeachment trial in the Senate where we're going to be required to produce a list of witnesses that we want," Hyde said. "Monica Lewinsky is, of course, the most important witness in this whole drama."
But Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-New Jersey, called Sunday's meeting an attempt to intimidate Lewinsky into changing her story, and he warned of the potential spectacle of Lewinsky testifying on the Senate floor about her sexual activities with the president.
"There is a heavy burden to meet before we're going to allow that to happen," Torricelli said on ABC's "This Week."
Hyde, however, said Lewinsky is represented by good lawyers and it "would be kind of stupid to try and intimidate her."
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, called Lewinsky's questioning a "significant distraction."
"And I think it was a huge mistake to put another chair at the House managers' table for Mr. Starr, and to create sort of a sideshow here which I think runs the risk of causing the Senate, this fragile bipartisanship we've been able to hold together here, you run the risk, I say very sincerely, you run the risk of shattering that," Dodd said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
After Lewinsky's attorneys rejected a request for a face-to-face meeting, House managers then enlisted Starr's help in going to court to enforce his immunity agreement with Lewinsky to get her to cooperate.
Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, one of the 13 House managers, challenged Democratic complaints about the Lewinsky interview.
"All we want to do is tell the story," Graham said on "This Week." "I tell you, as a prosecutor, I've won a few cases from the defense, and we may put her on, and it may blow up in our face."
House managers are anxious to call Lewinsky as a witness to explore her conversations with Clinton and Clinton's secretary, Betty Currie, which are at the heart of the charges in the second presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.
Hutchinson said he also had contacted an attorney for Clinton friend Vernon Jordan about arranging an interview. Jordan declined and, because he has no immunity agreement, cannot be compelled to give testimony unless subpoenaed by the Senate.
Also Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott continued to push for Clinton to answer senators' written questions.
Lott said in a statement he was encouraged when one of Clinton's lawyers offered during Saturday's trial session to let Clinton answer questions.
"Unfortunately, the White House withdrew that offer as soon as the Senate quit for the day," Lott said in his statement. "The offer to have the counsels to the president answer more questions is not a substitute for the president answering the questions. In fact, it is because of the questioning of the president's counsels the last few days that we need to ask the president himself some questions."
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