Impeachment Articles Being Drafted
WASHINGTON (AP) _ House Judiciary Committee staffers have begun drafting three articles of impeachment against President Clinton, The New York Times reported today.
The articles would allege perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, and abuse of power, the Times reported, citing an unidentified senior Republican committee official.
The official told the Times the drafting was in its ``very early stages″ and that any proposals would have to be circulated for approval to the committee’s 21 Republican members.
The new development comes as several Republican lawmakers have said they would not vote for impeachment and prefer a censure of Clinton instead. Committee Chairman Henry Hyde asked Clinton to present his impeachment defense to the committee as early as Dec. 8.
A senior Republican aide told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that a House vote on an impeachment article accusing Clinton of perjury would be close, according to a GOP analysis. A vote on obstruction of justice would fail, the aide said.
Committee officials told the AP the panel probably won’t have the time or the evidence to expand the inquiry beyond allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Lewinsky controversy.
With indications the inquiry will not expand beyond the Monica Lewinsky affair, Hyde, R-Ill., wrote Clinton on Wednesday that ``you, or your counsel″ could appear as a witness as early as Dec. 8 _ and could call other defense witnesses.
But the letter also carried an angry tone, admonishing the president for failing ``to provide any exculpatory information″ or ``contest a single fact″ submitted to the House by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.
Hyde also demanded that Clinton respond by Monday to 81 questions the chairman submitted earlier this month, or face a subpoena. The White House has said it will respond by Friday.
It is still possible the committee will receive further evidence on other items, one Republican member told the AP. But with time growing short, Starr’s report on the Clinton-Lewinsky matter ``most likely″ will be the focus of any impeachment vote, said that member.
If the situation changes, the most likely areas of expansion would be possible intimidation of former White House aide Kathleen Willey, who says Clinton made an unwanted sexual advance to her; payments to presidential friend Webster Hubbell, who has refused to help prosecutors with information about the president; and campaign fund raising.
As Hyde chided the president, Democrats stepped up their criticism of Starr.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, a committee member, asked Attorney General Janet Reno in a letter to expand her ``investigation of misconduct″ by Starr. Nadler contended that during his testimony last Thursday, Starr disclosed the contents of sealed court documents in violation of a court order and House rules.
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility has not opened an investigation of Starr but has been considering it. The department has asked him to respond to some allegations.
Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, sought written answers from Starr to 19 questions _ most of them left unanswered by Starr last Thursday.
The committee hopes to convene the week of Dec. 7 to debate articles of impeachment or, possibly, a censure of the president. The House could be called back into session the week of Dec. 14 to vote on impeachment or a censure.
Rep. Paul McHale, D-Pa., who previously called for Clinton’s resignation, circulated a censure resolution that would accuse Clinton of ``a pattern of deceitful and dishonest conduct.″
McHale’s proposal prompted Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., a Judiciary Committee member, to plead with House colleagues not to make hasty judgments.
``I have yet to conclude that the president is guilty of the serious charges laid down by Rep. McHale. ... Surely we can withhold judgment until all the facts are in,″ Hutchinson wrote in a letter to his colleagues.