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 TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics with Congressional Quarterly

In defense of Clinton

TIME magazine

Even before the report was released, the President's lawyers had prepared a "prebuttal" to its expected allegations. On Saturday they issued an "initial response" to the charges. A selection from both defenses:


On May 31, 1998, the spokesman for the Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr declared that the Office's Monica Lewinsky investigation "is not about sex... " is plain that "sex" is precisely what this four-and-a-half-year investigation has boiled down to. The Referral is so loaded with irrelevant and unnecessary graphic and salacious allegations that only one conclusion is possible: its principal purpose is to damage the President.

...Many of the lurid allegations...have no justification at all... They plainly do not relate, even arguably, to activities which may be within the definition of "sexual relations" in the President's [Paula] Jones deposition, which is the excuse advanced [by the Office of the Independent Counsel]. They are simply part of a hit-and-run smear campaign, and their inclusion says volumes about the OIC's tactics and objectives.

...Spectacularly absent from the Referral is any discussion of contradictory or exculpatory evidence, or any evidence that would cast doubt on the credibility of the testimony the OIC cites (but does not explicitly quote). This is a failure of fundamental fairness which is highly prejudicial to the President, and it is reason alone to withhold judgment on the Referral's allegations until all the prosecutors' evidence can be scrutinized--and then challenged, as necessary, by evidence from the President...


Use of a federal grand jury to compile evidence for possible impeachment proceedings in Congress raises numerous troubling questions regarding the credibility of that evidence. Indeed, given the limited role of a grand jury in our system and the total absence of procedural protections in the process, the Independent Counsel's insistence that his investigation has been a search for "truth" is deeply misleading. In fact, it has been a one-sided effort to present the worst possible version of a limited set of facts... The grand jury's historic role is not to determine the truth but rather to act as an accusatory body...


The OIC ignores the careful standards that the courts have mandated to prevent the misuse of perjury allegations... By selectively presenting the facts and failing to set out the full context of the answers that it claims may have been perjurious, the OIC has presented a wholly misleading picture. This tactic is most pronounced in the OIC's astonishing failure to set out the initial definition of "sexual relations" presented by the Jones lawyers at President Clinton's deposition... The burden that must be met by the OIC extends beyond showing that the President was wrong on the semantics, it must also show that...he knew he was wrong and intended to lie--something that the OIC could not begin to demonstrate. In fact, all the OIC has is a witness who gave narrow answers to ambiguous questions.


The expansion of the Independent Counsel's jurisdiction [from the Whitewater investigation] to encompass the Jones case and Ms. Lewinsky did not occur by accident or easily... The sequence of events suggests that Independent Counsel Starr deliberately delayed requesting the expansion of his jurisdiction. Neither Monica Lewinsky nor President Clinton had made any statements under oath in the Jones case (at least that had been filed with any court) when Linda Tripp approached the OIC on January 12. The only evidence the OIC possessed at that time were tapes illegally created by Tripp. The OIC itself proceeded to tape the Tuesday, January 13 conversation between Tripp and Lewinsky. Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit was not filed in the Jones case until January 16, and the OIC had petitioned the Attorney General the day before for an expansion of the authority based on the evidence (the Tripp tapes and the OIC's tape) that he had acquired without any authority to do so... This entire sequence...suggests an intention by the OIC to ensure that the expansion of jurisdiction was kept a secret until the President and Ms. Lewinsky had given testimony under oath and (if Ms. Lewinsky could be so persuaded) she had been enlisted to do surreptitious taping. In other words, rather than taking steps to defer or avoid any possible interference with the Jones case, the OIC did everything in its power--and some things outside its authority--to set up a case against the President.


It has come down to this.

After four years, scores of FBI agents, hundreds of subpoenas, thousands of documents and tens of millions of dollars...the Office of the Independent Counsel has presented to the House a Referral that no prosecutor would present to any jury.

...In 445 pages, the Referral mentions Whitewater, the failed land deal which originated its investigation, twice. It never once mentions other issues it has been investigating for years--matters concerning the firing of employees of the White House travel office and the controversy surrounding the FBI files. By contrast, the issue of sex is mentioned more than 500 times, in the most graphic, salacious and gratuitous manner.

The Office of Independent Counsel is asking the House of Representatives to undertake its most solemn and consequential process short of declaring war; to remove a duly, freely and fairly elected President of the United States because he had--as he has admitted--an improper, illicit relationship outside his marriage. Having such a relationship is wrong... But such acts do not even approach the Constitutional test of impeachment--"treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."


Cover Date: September 21, 1998

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