Live

Watch CBSN Live

Justice Lawyers Quiz Clinton

Justice Department lawyers questioned President Clinton for an hour and a half Monday on the subject of campaign finance, CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Scott Pelley reports.

The issue is whether Mr. Clinton violated federal law when he directed a $40 million TV campaign supporting his 1996 re-election.

Our Full Coverage
of this Ongoing Story

Clinton's testimony will help the Justice Department decide whether to appoint a new independent counsel to investigate. Attorney General Janet Reno has until early next month to decide whether to name a new independent counsel.

If she does, reports CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante, Mr. Clinton will be the only president to have the distinction of being investigated simultaneously by two independent counsels.

Federal auditors say the Clinton-Gore campaign spent millions of dollars more on advertising than the law allows. The audit suggests Mr. Clinton broke spending limits by purchasing the ads through the Democratic Party and claiming they were about issues, not about his re-election.

Mr. Clinton explained the idea to donors in 1995: "And then we realized we could run these ads through the Democratic Party, which meant we could raise money in $20,000 and $50,000 and $100,000 blocks. So we didn't have to do it all in $1,000 [blocks] and run down what I can spend, which is limited by law, so that is what we have done."

The White House says the ads were cleared by lawyers and there was no intent to deceive.

Even as Mr. Clinton testified, Congress opened impeachment hearings on the Lewinsky obstruction of justice case. This hearing considered whether Mr. Clinton's alleged acts are impeachable.

"If we were to establish as a basis for removing presidents, perjury, lying about your sex life, we would become the laughing stock of the world," said historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

"The conclusion is inescapable that perjury and subornation of perjury must certainly be included in high crimes and misdemeanors and thus impeachable offenses under the United States Constitution," countered impeachment scholar Gary McDowell.

The hearings continue next week. In a new development, the committee is now considering whether to call the president's closest adviser and in-house lawyer, Bruce Lindsey. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that as a government lawyer, Lindsey is not protected by the attorney-client privilege.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue