House Judiciary Committee Republicans, sending a message that they're not shaken by election losses, are intensifying attacks on Democrats leading up to presidential impeachment inquiry hearings.
Republicans are even considering expanding impeachment hearings next week by calling President Clinton's closest White House adviser, Bruce Lindsey. This possibility arose after the Supreme Court on Monday refused to shield Lindsey from questioning by prosecutors on what conversations he had with Clinton regarding Monica Lewinsky.
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"We're talking about it, yes," said Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., less than a week after announcing that Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr would be the only major witness when hearings begin Nov. 19.
The White House renewed its call to end the impeachment inquiry quickly, saying the House leadership struggle could have an impact. "It could create a better environment for finishing up something that the country so much wants to get behind it," press secretary Joe Lockhart said.
Despite the loss of five House seats in last week's election and polls showing the public wants to put an end to the Lewinsky matter, Hyde said Monday his committee was duty-bound to proceed.
"I don't interpret the election as a veto of our efforts," Hyde said.
Added Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., "I did not see any change in mood" among committee Republicans.
Republicans and Democrats tested their divergent messages Monday at a grueling, 10-hour Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the history of impeachment. Both sides had their supporters among the 19 professors of history, political science, and law, who debated whether presidential lying over a sexual affair constituted an impeachable offense.
"If this is impeachable conduct we have now turned the precedents of impeachment on their head," said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, senior Democrat on the committee.
"What should we say" to parties in court for an adultery case? asked Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C. "Lie if you wish? Shall we say to them that the rule of law just doesn't matter in South Carolina, because they can lie in Washington?"
Stephen B. Presser, a professor of legal history at Northwestern University, agreed that "the law is a seamless web, and once you begin eroding it you begin to erode everything."
Countered historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.: "Lying about your sex life" was "the last thing, surely, that the framers of the Constitution had in mind" when giving Congress the power to impeach a president.
Hyde has said h wants the House to end its inquiry by year's end, but cautioned the timetable would depend on Clinton's cooperation in answering 81 questions submitted to the president about his actions regarding Ms. Lewinsky, a former White House intern.
- In other developments Monday:
- Clinton was interviewed by Justice Department investigators looking into whether he benefited illegally from Democratic Party issue ads during his 1996 re-election bid. Clinton's attorney, David Kendall, said the president was cooperating with the investigation voluntarily.
- Newly unsealed court documents revealed that U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, who oversaw Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton, signaled in January she believed Mrs. Jones had a weak case and offered to encourage her to accept a settlement.