Here is the text of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I welcome this opportunity to appear before the committee and to provide information relating to the committee's inquiry into possible impeachable offenses by the president of the United States. This is my first opportunity to publicly report on certain issues related to our investigation. I look forward to doing so and assisting the committee.
I appreciate both the seriousness of the committee's work and the gravity of its assignment. I have reviewed the statements made by the 37 committee members in the Oct. 5 hearing. Any citizen who watched that hearing would have been impressed by the depth and breadth of the discussion that day, and proud of the diligence with which members of this committee are approaching this extraordinarily difficult and unwelcome task. I appear before you today, therefore, fully recognizing the solemnity and importance of this process.
As you know, in January of this year, Attorney General Reno petitioned the three-judge panel that oversees independent counsels to authorize our office to investigate whether Monica Lewinsky or others committed federal crimes relating to the sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Paula Jones against President Clinton. Our office conducted a swift yet thorough investigation. We completed the primary factual investigation in under eight months, notwithstanding a number of obstacles in our path.
The law requires an independent counsel to report to the House of Representatives substantial and credible information that may constitute grounds for an impeachment. On Sept. 9, pursuant to our statutory duty, we submitted a referral and backup documentation to the House. I am here today at your invitation in furtherance of our statutory obligation.
I recognize that the House of Representatives not an independent counsel has the sole power to impeach. My role here today is to discuss our referral and our investigation.
II. Lewinsky Investigation
Let me begin with an overview. As our referral explains, the evidence suggests that the president made false statements under oath and otherwise thwarted the search for truth in the Jones v. Clinton case. The evidence further suggests that the president made false statements under oath to the grand jury on Aug. 17.
That same night, the president publicly acknowledged an inappropriate relationship, but maintained that his testimony had been legally accurate. The president also declared that all inquiries into the matter should end because, he said, it was private.
Shortly after the president's Aug. 17 speech, Sens. Lieberman, Kerrey, and Moynihan stated that the president's actions were not a private matter. In our view, they were correct. Indeed, the evidence suggests that the president repeatedl tried to thwart the legal process in the Jones case and the grand jury investigation. That is not a private matter. 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.
The evidence suggests that the misuse of presidential authority occurred in the following 10 ways:
First. The evidence suggests that the president made a series of premeditated false statements under oath in his civil deposition on Jan. 17, 1998. The president had taken an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. By making false statements under oath, the president, the chief executive of our nation, failed to adhere to that oath and to his presidential oath to faithfully execute the laws.
Second. The evidence suggests that, apart from making false statements under oath, the president engaged in a pattern of behavior during the Jones litigation to thwart the judicial process. The president reached an agreement with Ms. Lewinsky that each would make false statements under oath. He provided job assistance to Ms. Lewinsky at a time when the Jones case was proceeding and Ms. Lewinsky's truthful testimony would have been harmful. He engaged in an apparent scheme to conceal gifts that had been subpoenaed from Ms. Lewinsky. He coached a potential witness, his own secretary Betty Currie, with a false account of relevant events.
Those acts constitute a pattern of obstruction that is fundamentally inconsistent with the president's duty to faithfully execute the laws.
Third. The evidence suggests that the president participated in a scheme at his deposition in which his attorney, in his presence, deceived a United States district judge in an effort to cut off questioning about Ms. Lewinsky. The president did not correct his attorney's false statement. A false statement to a federal judge in order to prevent relevant questioning is an obstruction of the judicial process.
Fourth. The evidence suggests that on Jan. 23, 1998, after the criminal investigation had become public, the president made false statements to his Cabinet and used his Cabinet as unwitting surrogates to publicly support the president's false story.
Fifth. The evidence suggests that the president, acting in a premeditated and calculated fashion, deceived the American people on Jan. 26 and on other occasions when he denied a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.
Sixth. The evidence suggests that the president, after the criminal investigation became public, made false statements to his aides and concocted false alibis that these government employees repeated to the grand jury. As a result, the grand jury received inaccurate information.
Seventh. Having promised the American people to cooperate with the investigation, the president refused six invitations to testify to the grand ury. Refusing to cooperate with a duly authorized federal criminal investigation is inconsistent with the general statutory duty imposed on all executive branch employees to cooperate with criminal investigations. It also is inconsistent with the president's duty to faithfully execute the laws.
Eighth. The president and his administration asserted three different governmental privileges to conceal relevant information from the federal grand jury. The privilege assertions were legally baseless in these circumstances. They were inconsistent with the actions of Presidents Carter and Reagan in similar circumstances. And they delayed and impeded the investigation.
Ninth. The president made false statements under oath to the grand jury on Aug. 17, 1998. The president again took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The evidence demonstrates that the president failed to adhere to that oath and thus to his presidential oath to faithfully execute the laws.
Tenth. The evidence suggests that the president deceived the American people in his speech on Aug. 17 by stating that his testimony had been legally accurate.
In addition to those 10 points, it bears mention that well before January 1998, the president used government resources and prerogatives to pursue his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The evidence suggests that the president used his secretary Betty Currie, a government employee, to facilitate and conceal the relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The president used White House aides and the United States ambassador to the United Nations in his effort to find Ms. Lewinsky a job at a time when it was foreseeable, even likely that she would be a witness in the Jones case. And the president used a government attorney Bruce Lindsey to assist his personal legal defense during the Jones case.
In short, the evidence suggests that 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.
B. Sexual Harassment Law
Let me turn, then, to the legal context in which the Lewinsky issues first arose. At the outset, I want to emphasize that our referral never suggests that the relationship between the president and Ms. Lewinsky in and of itself could be a high crime or misdemeanor. Indeed, the referral never passes judgment on the president's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. The propriety of a relationship is not the concern of our office.
The referral is instead about obstruction of justice, lying under oath, tampering with witnesses, and misuse of power. The referral cannot be understood without appreciating this vital distinction.
This case raises the following initial question: Is a plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit entitled to obtain truthful evidence from the defendant, and froassociates of the defendant, in order to support her claim? That should be easy to answer. No citizen who finds himself accused in a sexual harassment case, or in any other kind of case, can lie under oath or otherwise obstruct justice and thereby prevent the plaintiff from discovering evidence and proving her case.
Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, filed a federal sexual harassment suit against President Clinton in 1994. The president denied those allegations. We will never know whether a jury would have credited Ms. Jones' allegations. We also will never know whether the ultimate decision-maker would have found that the alleged facts, if true, constitute sexual harassment. When the president and Ms. Jones settled the case last week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals was still considering the preliminary legal question whether the facts as alleged could constitute sexual harassment.
After the suit was first filed in 1994, the president attempted to delay the trial until his presidency was over. The president claimed a temporary presidential immunity from civil suit. The case proceeded to the Supreme Court. At oral argument, the president's attorney specifically warned our nation's highest court that if Ms. Jones won, her lawyers would be able to investigate the president's relationships with other women, as is common in sexual harassment cases. The Supreme Court rejected the president's constitutional claim and did so by a nine to zero vote. The court concluded that the Constitution did not provide such a temporary immunity from suit.
The idea was simple and powerful: No one is above the law. The Supreme Court sent the case back for trial with words that warrant emphasis: "Like every other citizen who invokes" the District Court's jurisdiction, Ms. Jones "has a right to an orderly disposition of her claims."
After the Supreme Court's decision, the parties started to gather the facts. The parties questioned relevant witnesses in depositions. They submitted written questions. They made requests for documents.
Sexual harassment cases are often "he said-she said" disputes. Evidence reflecting the behavior of both parties can be critical including the defendant's relationships with other employees in the workplace.
Such questions can be uncomfortable, but they occur every day in courts and law offices around the country. Individuals take an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And no one is entitled to lie under oath simply because he or she does not like the questions or because he believes the case is frivolous or financially motivated or politically motivated. The Supreme Court has emphatically and repeatedly rejected the notion that there is ever a privilege to lie. The court has stated that there are ways to object to questions; lying under oath is not one of them.
During the fact-gathering process, Judge Susan Webber Wright folowed the standard principles of sexual harassment cases.
Over repeated objection from the president's attorneys, the judge permitted inquiries into the president's relationships with government employees. On Jan. 8, 1998, for example, Judge Wright stated that questions as to the president's relationships with other employees "are within the scope of the issues in this case."
In making these rulings, Judge Wright recognized that the questions might prove embarrassing. She stated that "I have never had a sexual harassment case where there was not some embarrassment." She also stated that she could not protect the parties from embarrassment.
Let me summarize the five points that explain how the president's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky what was otherwise private conduct became a matter of concern to the courts. This is critical to fully understand the nature of the committee's inquiry.
One. The president was sued for sexual harassment, and the Supreme Court ruled that the case should go forward.
Two. The law of sexual harassment and the law of evidence allow the plaintiff to inquire into the defendant's relationships with other women in the workplace, which in this case included President Clinton's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.
Three. Applying those settled legal principles, Judge Susan Webber Wright repeatedly rejected the president's objections to such inquiries. The judge, instead, ordered the president to answer the questions.
Four. It is a federal crime to commit perjury and obstruct justice in civil cases, including sexual harassment cases. Violators are subject to a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment for obstruction and up to five years for perjury.
Five. The evidence suggests that the president and Ms. Lewinsky made false statements under oath and obstructed the judicial process in the Jones case by preventing the court from obtaining the truth about their relationship.
At his grand jury appearance, the president invoked a Supreme Court justice's confirmation hearings as a comparison to his current situation. The president's use of the analogy did not fit the facts in the Monica Lewinsky matter, however. The president's having raised the analogy, let me make it more fitting to the case here.
Suppose that there is a nominee for a high government position. Assume that there is an allegation of sexual harassment. Suppose that several women other than the accuser who have worked with the nominee testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Suppose that the nominee confers with one of those women ahead of time, and that they agree that they will both lie to the Judiciary Committee about their relationship. Assume further that they both do lie under oath about their relationship. And suppose further that a criminal investigation develops and the nominee again lies under oath to the grand jury. If that were proved to have happened, what would the SenatJudiciary Committee do?
Suppose that the lying under oath and obstruction of justice occurs in a sexual harassment suit brought against the nominee. Suppose further that the false statements and obstruction continue into a subsequent criminal investigation. What would this committee do with compelling evidence of perjury and obstruction of justice committed by, for example, a justice of the Supreme Court in a sexual harassment suit in which he was the defendant?
Those hypotheticals which track the facts of this case put in relief the issue before the Committee. Let me again stress that the House, not an independent counsel, has the sole power to impeach. I am suggesting that consideration of our referral be focused on the issues actually presented by the referral.
C. The President's Actions: Dec. 5 - Jan. 17
I will next turn to some of the essentials of the referral. That will include the specifics of Ms. Lewinsky's involvement in the Jones case and the president's actions in response to that involvement.
The key point about the president's conduct is this. On at least six different occasions from Dec. 17, 1997, through Aug. 17, 1998
the president had to make a decision. He could choose truth, or he could choose deception. On all six occasions, the president chose deception a pattern of calculated behavior over a span of months.
On Dec. 5, 1997, Ms. Jones's attorneys identified Ms. Lewinsky as a potential witness. Within a day, the president learned that Ms. Lewinsky's name was on the witness list.
After learning this, the president faced his first critical decision. Would he and Monica Lewinsky tell the truth about their relationship? Or would they provide false information not just to a spouse or to loved ones but under oath in a court of law?
Eleven months ago, the president made his decision. At approximately 2 a.m. on Dec. 17, 1997, he called Ms. Lewinsky at her Watergate apartment and told her that she was on the witness list. This was news to Ms. Lewinsky. And it bears noting that the president not his lawyer made this call to the witness.
During this 2 a.m. conversation, which lasted approximately half an hour, the president could have told Ms. Lewinsky that they must tell the truth under oath. The president could have explained that they might face embarrassment but that, as a citizen and as president, he could not lie under oath and he could not sit by while Monica did so. The president did not say anything like that.
On the contrary, according to Ms. Lewinsky, the president suggested that she could sign an affidavit and use under oath deceptive cover stories that they had devised long ago to explain why Ms. Lewinsky had visited the Oval Office area. The president did not explicitly instruct Ms. Lewinsky to lie. He did not have to. Ms. Lewinsky testified that the president's suggestion that they use the pre-existing cover stories amounted to a cotinuation of their pattern of concealing their intimate relationship. Starting with this conversation, the president and Ms. Lewinsky understood, according to Ms. Lewinsky, that they were both going to make false statements under oath.