Waxman has options but won’t commit on Clemens
The man who has the power to immediately suggest federal law enforcement authorities launch an investigation into the truthfulness of Roger Clemens’ sworn statements to Congress was noncommittal on that subject at the end of Wednesday’s “robust discussion.”
“I don’t know if that’s the next step,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that devoted nearly five hours to the intense questioning of Clemens and his former personal trainer Brian McNamee. “That wasn’t the focus of my interest.”
Perhaps not right away, but legal experts say Waxman’s committee and the Department of Justice certainly have options to deliberate after Clemens stuck to his story by testifying he has never used steroids or human growth hormone -- a claim that conflicts with McNamee’s own repeated sworn statements.
“If I was Clemens’ lawyer or one of his family members, I’d be concerned those charges are coming,” said Katherine Darmer, a Chapman University law professor. “And if they end up having physical evidence, it’s a slam dunk.”
The Justice Department or U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco, which has filed charges or gained guilty pleas in performance-enhancing drug cases against Major League Baseball’s home run king Barry Bonds, former Olympic champion sprinter Marion Jones, and Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) figures, can also act by convening a grand jury without a House committee request.
Federal agents, including lead BALCO investigator Jeff Novitzky of the IRS, attended Wednesday’s hearing. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco declined to comment about the implications of Wednesday’s hearing.
Clemens, 45, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner with 354 career wins, found himself besieged by new public details Wednesday after telling Waxman and the committee that he “never asked [McNamee] nor did he ever give me steroids or human growth hormone.”
Most damaging to Clemens, Darmer said, was the deposition testimony of his longtime friend and teammate Andy Pettitte, who told committee investigators that Clemens told him in 1999 that he’d used human growth hormone.
“Roger had told me that he had taken HGH,” Pettitte told investigators under oath. " . . . I think it was just a normal conversation, we were just talking. . . . He had just heard that it helped, like helped your body recover and stuff like that.”
Clemens told the committee he believes Pettitte “misheard” him and “misremembers” the conversation.
Dodgers Manager Joe Torre, who managed the New York Yankees to World Series titles in 1999 and 2000 with Clemens and Pettitte in his starting rotation, watched the hearing.
“It’s just sad,” Torre said in Vero Beach, Fla. “What can I say? I know Roger, obviously, and I know what kind of competitor he was when he played for me. I’d just like to see baseball move on right now.
“I’m not surprised about Andy’s sensitivity to it, just knowing Andy. I’m sure it’s something that’s certainly taking its toll on him, just knowing him as a person. I don’t know what comment to make about what is and what isn’t. I’m more tied to the individual and I just feel bad about what’s going on.”
A more-detached Darmer said Pettitte “substantiates the charges. There’s no reason for this guy to lie.”
McNamee, a former strength and conditioning coach of the Toronto Blue Jays and Yankees who later worked privately for Clemens and Pettitte, has now told federal authorities about supplying performance-enhancing drugs to Clemens, Pettitte, former Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch and Clemens’ wife, Debbie. All but Roger Clemens have confirmed McNamee gave them drugs.
Also Wednesday, Waxman expressed disappointment in Clemens for asking his former nanny to visit him at his Katy, Texas, home, telling her he wasn’t at a lunch at former slugger Jose Canseco’s Miami home in 1998 -- an event that McNamee told Mitchell ignited Clemens’ request for McNamee to help him with injections.
The nanny provided the committee a deposition saying Clemens did appear at Canseco’s home in June 1998.
McNamee’s claims of Clemens’ drug use first became public in the December report by former Sen. George Mitchell on performance-enhancing drug use in Major League Baseball. He cooperated with the Mitchell investigation after being identified as a customer and possible sub-distributor of steroid-distributing former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski. McNamee was told by federal agents that when he spoke to Mitchell he was obligated to be truthful, or face being prosecuted for felony violations.
Raymond Shepherd, head of the congressional investigations practice at a Washington law firm, said while McNamee’s stories are being confirmed with the exception of his allegations about Clemens, the pitcher has strayed into an area where he could be investigated and charged with violations under a false statement statute, including perjury or obstruction of Congress.
“This was remarkable theater, and with the additional evidence today, I believe with a Republican buy-in, like from ranking committee member Rep. Tom Davis, there could be a majority conclusion from the committee that there was additional false testimony,” Shepherd said. “It won’t just come from Waxman.”
Some Republican members of the committee criticized McNamee, with Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) scolding the trainer for producing “lie after lie after lie,” regarding McNamee’s involvement in a 2001 sexual battery investigation in Florida.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), however, handed Clemens what Shepherd said was “a damning indictment,” when he told the pitcher, “If I walked in here even-steven, the person I believe most is Andy Pettitte. He swings the balance to Mr. McNamee.”
Said Shepherd: “Cummings is a thoughtful congressman, he pored over those documents, did his homework, and listened intently. For him to make that statement was real insightful as to what the other side of the dais was thinking.”
In the more informal court of public opinion, University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said, “I believe more people are subscribing to what McNamee is saying.”
Times staff writers Dylan Hernandez, Bill Shaikin and Ben DuBose contributed to this report.