In a prelude to impeachment hearings, the Republican chairman of a House subcommittee on Monday declared President Clinton should be "called to account" for his conduct.
The comments by Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the Constitution, came as lawmakers sought the advice of historians and legal experts on what constitutes an impeachable offense.
Canady rejected arguments that conduct in a private lawsuit can't be grounds for impeachment.
"If it remains unrebutted ... the evidence before us clearly supports the conclusion that the president is guilty of multiple acts of lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and other offenses," Canady charged.
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The White House, meanwhile, said the Republican leadership struggle in the House could have an impact on the impeachment inquiry.
"It could create a better environment for finishing up something that the country so much wants to get behind it," presidential spokesman Joe Lockhart said. However, he said, "What's worrying is that somehow in the battle for votes, that commitments may be made that wouldn't be in the best interests of putting this behind us."
House Democrats continued their attacks on Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, whose allegations prompted the impeachment inquiry. Rep. John Conyers, senior Democrat on the full Judiciary Committee, said Starr's inquiry was based an "authoritarian, privacy-invading questions about sex."
"There is no crime of perjury arising out of questions the government doesn't have the legal authority to ask," Conyers, D-Mich., said.
At issue is whether Clinton's efforts to conceal his affair with Monica Lewinsky from the Paula Jones lawsuit and the public warrant his removal from office.
Monday's hearing was a prelude to formal impeachment hearings set to begin next week in the full Judiciary Committee chaired by Illinois Republican Henry Hyde. Hyde attended Monday's hearing, but passed up an initial chance to comment.
Away from the hearing, the Supreme Court handed Clinton a major defeat that could impact the impeachment inquiry. The high court rejected appeals from the Clinton administration that sought to keep Starr from asking certain questions of presidential confidant Bruce Lindsey and Secret Service employees.
Days befoe the hearing, the scholars clashed on paper over the standard for impeachment. In prepared remarks, one professor declared that the evidence set out against Clinton by Starr meets that standard.
"They are not trivial matters having to do with the private life of a president," Northwestern University law professor Stephen Presser said in prepared remarks. "They are fundamental refusals to carry out constitutionally mandated duties and are thus impeachable offenses."
Law professors Susan Low Bloch and Robert Drinan of Georgetown and Laurence Tribe of Harvard were among more than 400 academicians who signed a letter to House and committee leaders opposing Clinton's impeachment. Such action, they said in the letter, would weaken the presidency by allowing Congress to impeach anyone holding that office whose behavior they disapprove.
All three testified Monday. Others who spoke at the hearing on the definition of impeachment were:
- Gary L. McDowell, director of the Institute for U.S. Studies, University of London
- Michael J. Gerhardt, professor of law at College of William & Mary School of Law
- Matthew Holden, Jr., the Henry L. and Grace M. Doherty professor of government and foreign affairs at the University of Virginia
- John C. Harrison, professor of law at the University of Virginia
- Cass R. Sunstein, the Karl N. Llewellyn professor of law at University of Chicago Law School
- Richard D. Parker, Williams professor of law at Harvard School of Law
- Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., professor of history, City University of New York
- John O. McGinnis, professor of law at Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University
- Charles J. Cooper, of Cooper Carvin & Rosenthal, Washington DC
- Forrest McDonald, distinguished university research professor at University of Alabama
- Daniel H. Pollitt, Kenan professor of law emeritus at the University. of North Carolina Law School
- Griffin Bell of King & Spalding, Atlanta, Georgia
- Lawrence H. Tribe, Tyler professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School
- William Van Alstyne, professor of law at Duke School of Law
- Jack N. Rakove, Coe professor of history and American studies at Stanford University
- Jonathan Turley, Shapiro, professor of public interest law, George Washington University Law School.