Money Readied for Impeachment Probe
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House Judiciary Committee hired a new top staff lawyer today to look into the Justice Department, but a man who could turn his attention to impeachment preparations if necessary.
Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., had said he planned to recruit new staff aides _ including a $130,000-a-year senior counsel _ who are capable of handling impeachment preparations if needed.
``I would hope they could walk and chew gum at the same time,″ he said Wednesday. ``Make a lateral move if that is required.″
Hyde reached back to Illinois to fill the top new post, naming Chicago attorney David P. Schippers to the job. Schippers, 67, is a defense lawyer as well as a former federal prosecutor and one-time head of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section in Chicago. One GOP aide said Schippers, 67, is a Democrat.
He acted a day after Republicans, over the protest of Democrats, put a new $1.3 million on deposit to help prepare for any impeachment evidence against President Clinton that independent counsel Kenneth Starr submits to Congress.
``It simply is inappropriate for them to be playing with this money,″ Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., charged Wednesday, shortly before Republicans forced approval of the additional funds by party-line vote.
In addition to the $1.3 million earmarked for the Judiciary Committee, the GOP voted $1.8 million to extend a long-running investigation a separate panel is conducting into Democratic campaign fund-raising abuses.
The Judiciary Committee money sparked the loudest protests from Democrats, and Republicans offered varying explanations for how the money would be spent.
Hyde originally asked for the funds late last year to help conduct a review of Justice Department investigations, including Attorney General Janet Reno’s refusal to turn over her own campaign fund-raising probe to an independent counsel.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, also seemed caught off-guard on Wednesday by questions about the money.
Asked about the subject, he initially told reporters, ``We know that Judge Starr will be sending us a report.″
Asked a few moments later about his comment, he backtracked.
``I have the expectation we will receive a report from him ... and we should be prepared to deal with it in a professional manner.″
Asked again for clarification, he said of his original answer: ``Scratch that. Let us say I was a dutiful rat and I took the bait. I r ally don’t want any more cheese. I just want out of the trap.″
Clinton’s approval ratings remain high, despite a two-month battering over an alleged sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and accusations that he groped former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey in the hallway just outside the Oval Office.
And fearful of repercussions, most Republicans have refrained from directly attacking the president.
That has begun to change recently, though, as Republican women challenged Democrats to defend Willey.
And one GOP pollster, Frank Luntz, stood outside a closed-door meeting of the GOP rank and file during the day to hand departing lawmakers a memo suggesting a change in tactics.
``The season of silence must end,″ advised the memo, although it also said there could be a political backlash on lawmakers who choose to speak out.
Starr began his investigation into the Clintons’ Arkansas business dealings four years ago, and has had his authority expanded into several other areas involving the White House, including the allegations of sexual misconduct and a cover-up by Clinton. Starr has not said when _ or whether _ he intends to submit evidence possibly warranting impeachment to the House.
Even though Armey is second-ranking Republican in the House, he has not been involved in the impeachment planning meetings with Hyde _ a prerogative that House Speaker Newt Gingrich has reserved thus far for himself.
To underscore their point that Republicans were acting unilaterally in planning, Democratic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gingrich had spoken two or three times within the past several days with Democratic leader Dick Gephardt about congressional business without broaching the subject of impeachment planning.
For his part, Hyde insisted that Democrats were attempting to create an atmosphere of partisan confrontation where none existed.
``I have no interest in not working in a bipartisan way,″ he told reporters. ``Because the end product will not be trusted. I do not want a partisan witchhunt or a partisan attack.″
While a majority vote is sufficient to approve articles of impeachment in the House, it takes a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove a president from office.