Starr Papers Provide No New Answers
Oct. 03, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) _ More than 4,000 newly released documents on President Clinton's affair with an intern amounts to hefty weekend reading for House Judiciary Committee members, but the papers provide few new insights as lawmakers prepare to vote on an impeachment investigation.
``I don't think it contributes much,'' Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla., a committee member, said of the document dump Friday. ``The fundamental facts were set forth in the independent counsel report.''
``There were no new additions to what had already been revealed in the leaks and other sources,'' panel member Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, concurred.
But lawmakers of both parties nonetheless seized on discrepancies in the newly released testimony, arguing that the exact words witnesses used before the grand jury either helped or hurt Clinton's case against allegations of possible obstruction of justice, witness tampering and perjury.
The documents made public Friday include transcripts of 20 hours of telephone conversations between former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and her onetime friend Linda Tripp, who secretly taped their talks. The documents also include grand jury testimony by Clinton friend Vernon Jordan and the president's personal secretary, Betty Currie.
Of interest in the documents, said one Republican, is Mrs. Currie's testimony about why she hid gifts the president had given Ms. Lewinsky under her bed after the items had been subpoenaed in Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton.
Who, if anyone, directed Mrs. Currie to collect and hide the gifts is key to determining whether Clinton obstructed justice or tampered with witnesses.
Ms. Lewinsky testified that during a conversation with Clinton, she suggested moving her gifts elsewhere. The president was noncommittal, she said.
But a few hours later, Mrs. Currie called and said: ``I understand you have something to give me,'' or words to that effect, Ms. Lewinsky testified. Mrs. Currie testified that she retrieved the items at Ms. Lewinsky's request and put them under her bed.
``Would a personal assistant to the president of the United States put gifts under subpoena under a bed on her own?'' asked Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., a former prosecutor.
Also significant _ if not definitive _ is testimony about Jordan's job search on Lewinsky's behalf. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr has alleged that Clinton tried to obstruct justice by triggering the job hunt, when Ms. Lewinsky could have become a harmful witness to the president in the Jones lawsuit.
There is conflicting testimony about who initiated the contact with Jordan. Regardless, Jordan met with Ms. Lewinsky, began a job search and, he told the grand jury, kept Clinton informed.
Starr also contends that Clinton lied in the Jones case by denying his conversations with Jordan about Ms. Lewinsky.
Clinton's attorneys say the president generally was aware of Jordan's efforts on Ms. Lewinsky's behalf but never sought to facilitate them.
Hutchinson said he finds the arrangement suspicious and key to the inquiry the Judiciary Committee is likely to approve next week.
But several Democrats maintained that even if the charges against Clinton are true, they do not meet the standard for impeachment they believe was envisioned by the nation's founders.
``Nothing released today has any relevance whatsoever of whether our constitutional system has been undercut'' by Clinton's actions, said Judiciary Committee member Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.