The Rebuttal



The Starr report lists several instances of alleged perjury that could be grounds for impeachment. The White House rebuttal counters that none of the examples is an impeachable offense because the president did not “knowingly” lie.

* Starr: “President Clinton lied under oath at a civil deposition while he was a defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit, lied under oath to a grand jury, lied to potential grand jury witnesses, knowing that they would repeat those lies before the grand jury.”


Of his testimony in January in the Paula Corbin Jones case, Starr said, “The President’s linguistic parsing is unreasonable. Under the president’s interpretation (which he says he followed at his deposition), in an oral sex encounter, one person is engaged in sexual relations, but the other person is not engaged in sexual relations.”


* White House: “In fact, all the OIC (Office of Independent Counsel) has is a witness who gave narrow answers to ambiguous questions. ... A perjury conviction cannot rest on simple inconsistencies and memory disparaties between only two witnesses. ... The perjury charges ... in reality serve one principal purpose--to lay out in a public forum as much salacious, gratuitous detail as possible with the goal of damaging the president and the presidency.”



The Starr report alleges other instances where Clinton attempted to tamper with evidence or otherwise obstruct justice. The White House rebuttal argues that none of Clinton’s actions--in helping Monica S. Lewinsky find a job, for instance--constitutes obstruction of justice.

* Starr: “There is substantial and credible information that the President and Ms. Lewinsky reached an understanding that both of them would lie under oath when asked whether they had a sexual relationship (a conspiracy to obstruct justice or to commit perjury, in criminal law terms). ... The President assisted Ms. Lewinsky in her job search in late 1997, at a time when she would have become a witness harmful to him in the Jones case were she to testify truthfully. ... The central factual question is whether the President orchestrated or approved the concealment of the gifts. The reasonable inference from the evidence is that he did.”


* White House: “This claim is wholly unfounded and simply absurd. ... The president was unconcerned about the gifts he had given to Ms. Lewinsky because he frequently exchanges gifts with friends. That is why he gave her additional gifts on December 28 even though according to her testimony he knew the Jones lawyers were interested in them. ...The chronology presents precious little in the way of presidential involvement and nothing that supports an inference of any intent to obstruct justice by helping Ms. Lewinsky (to the limited extent he did) in her job efforts.”


Finally, the Starr report alleges that Clinton abused the powers of the presidency to conceal his affair with Lewinsky by exerting executive privilege and refusing to testify for months. The White House rebuttal argues that nothing Clinton did corrupted the office of the presidency for personal gain or improper purpose.

* Starr: “The President has pursued a strategy of (i) deceiving the American people and Congress in January 1998 (ii) delaying and impeding the criminal investigation for seven months, and (iii) deceiving the American people and Congress again in August 1998.”



* The White House: “The Office of Independent Counsel is asking the House of Representatives remove a duly, freely and fairly elected President of the United States because he had--as he has admitted--an improper, illicit relationship outside of his marriage....Trying to keep such a relationship private while understandable, is wrong. But such acts do not even approach the Constituional test of impeachment...”


Highlights of the second White House rebuttal to Kenneth W. Starr’s report to Congress:


The president’s lawyers slam Starr’s four-year Whitewater investigation as a “hit-and-run smear campaign” that boiled down to nothing but sex in “pornographic” detail. Starr’s report “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.”


Nothing in the Starr report “even approximates” conduct that would injure the nation and constitute high crimes and misdemeanors. Starr’s claim that he found 11 potential grounds for impeachment--including obstruction of justice, witness tampering, abuse of power and perjury--falls “far short” and “their very allegation demeans the constitutional process.”



The president’s lawyers maintain that Starr has not established the basic elements of perjury: that the false statements were made knowingly and that “literally” true statements don’t constitute perjury “even if a witness intends to mislead the questioner.” It was the president’s “good faith and reasonable interpretation that oral sex was outside the special definition.” His lawyers said Jones’ counsel declined to ask President Clinton more specific questions. As for acts that Monica S. Lewinsky testified about, “a perjury conviction cannot rest on simple inconsistencies and memory disparities between only two witnesses.”


On charges that Clinton lied when he denied touching Lewinsky’s breasts or genitalia, the president’s lawyers contend that Starr’s report is inaccurate in asserting that there “can be no contention that one of them [Clinton or Lewinsky] has a lack of memory or is mistaken” about the details of their encounters. Further, if the president was wrong in his testimony about the date the relationship began, it is immaterial because the statement “cannot possibly have influenced the grand jury in any decision-making function,” his lawyers write.


“Wholly unfounded and simply absurd,” the lawyers wrote. Clinton did not “direct or encourage” his personal secretary, Betty Currie, to retrieve gifts from Lewinsky’s apartment. As for an intimate note from Lewinsky that Clinton allegedly destroyed, his lawyers say he may not even have received it. Or, if he did and did discard it, Starr cannot assume that Clinton knew at the time the note had been subpoenaed by Jones’ attorneys.


Just because Clinton suggested Lewinsky give Jones a written affidavit as a way of avoiding a verbal deposition--and then failed to assure that her affidavit was truthful--is not obstruction, his lawyers say. The president never told her to file a false affidavit and, besides, concealment of an adulterous relationship or the “use of cover stories” is “hardly a remarkable proposition.” Clinton’s attempts to help her find a job outside Washington were not intended to impede the Jones lawyers from collecting testimony, his lawyers said.


The Starr report accuses Clinton of attempting to influence the testimony of Currie after he testified in the Jones lawsuit on Jan. 17, by summoning her to his office the next day. “Pejorative conjecture,” said the rebuttal, because Currie was not a witness in any proceeding at the time they spoke. All the president wanted was to “reassure himself” that Currie had no idea of his affair, his lawyers said.

Sources: Associated Press; Staff reports

Researched by TRICIA FORD / Los Angeles Times