Starr: Clinton Used His Power And Authority To Thwart Investigation
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr says U.S. President Bill Clinton "repeatedly used the machinery of government and the powers of his office" to thwart Starr's grand jury investigation and the Paula Jones lawsuit.
"That is not a private matter," Starr said in remarks prepared for delivery Thursday at the opening of impeachment hearings. A copy of his testimony was obtained late Wednesday by The Associated Press.
"The evidence further suggests that the president, in the course of these efforts misused his authority and power as president and contravened his duty to faithfully execute the laws. That too is not a private matter," Starr said in challenging the argument that Starr had no right to investigate the president's consensual sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
Starr's testimony reiterated many of the same allegations, in the same harsh language, that he included in his referral to Congress in September, accusing Clinton of 11 impeachable offences. His testimony laid out a litany of examples that he said show a "misuse of presidential authority occurred."
Starr said Clinton "made a series of premeditated false statements under oath" in his Jan. 17 deposition testimony in the Jones lawsuit, and "participated in a scheme" at the deposition to deceive the trial judge in the lawsuit by not correcting his lawyer's false assertion that the president did not have sexual relations with Lewinsky.
Starr also said Clinton used his cabinet as "unwitting surrogates" to support his false story denying the affair for months. He charged that the president "concocted false alibis" to aides who then repeated the inaccurate information to the grand jury.
Starr eventually subpoenaed Clinton, who testified Aug. 17 before the grand jury. Starr said Clinton lied during that testimony too, and again when he told the American public in a speech that night that he had given "legally accurate" testimony in the Jones case.
Other misuses of power, according to Starr, came when Clinton and his administration asserted governmental privileges to conceal information from the grand jury.
Starr is the leadoff witness at the first impeachment hearings of a president in a quarter century. The House Judiciary Committee has given Starr two hours to present his evidence on Thursday, followed by questions from committee investigators and lawmakers.
Then Clinton's private lawyer, David Kendall, will get a chance to question the independent counsel.
Starr, a former judge not accustomed to the politically charged atmosphere of congressional hearings, has been holding rehearsal sessions with his own staff.
Clinton, meanwhile, was visiting Japan and South Korea.
Committee Republicans signalled their intention to broaden the hearings, setting votes Thursday on subpoenas for four more witnesses: White House deputy counsel Bruce Lindsey, the president's most trusted adviser; lawyer Robert Bennett, who represented Clinton in the Paula Jones lawsuit; Daniel Gecker, the lawyer for Clinton accuser Kathleen Willey; and Nathan Landow, a Maryland Democrat who had contacts with Willey. She has accused the president of a sexual advance inside the White House.
Committee chairman Henry Hyde also requested a Justice Department memo on alleged campaign fund-raising abuses from the 1996 campaign.
Starr said that in addition to misusing his authority, Clinton "used government resources and prerogatives to pursue his relationship with Monica Lewinsky" and used Oval Office secretary Betty Currie to "facilitate and conceal the relationship."
Clinton also used White House aides and former UN ambassador Bill Richardson in an effort to find Lewinsky a job "at a time when it was foreseeable -- even likely -- that she would be a witness in the Jones case," Starr argued. And he used a government lawyer -- Lindsey -- to assist his personal legal defence during the Jones case, Starr said.
"The president repeatedly used the machinery of government and the powers of his office to conceal his relationship with Monica Lewinsky from the American people, from the judicial process in the Jones case, and from the grand jury," Starr said in his prepared statement.
Starr also presented an overview of his four-year criminal investigation in an effort to give context to the allegations that gave rise the Lewinsky investigation.
He focused on payments that presidential friends made to former Justice Department official Webster Hubbell at a time when Hubbell was under investigation by Starr's office. Starr said those payments "raise very troubling questions" about whether Clinton, through his aides, sought to encourage Hubbell's silence. Hubbell was indicted for a third time by Starr's office last Friday.
Starr noted that many of those who paid Hubbell were Clinton campaign supporters who were contacted by then-White House chief of staff Mack McLarty seeking help for Hubbell.