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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

White House says Starr has no case

Clinton's legal team issues a second, shorter rebuttal

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sept. 12) -- In its second response in two days, President Bill Clinton's legal team argued Saturday that Independent Counsel Ken Starr's large, lurid report on the Monica Lewinsky investigation contains no evidence that any of the president's actions would justify impeachment.

Working through the night and into Saturday afternoon, White House lawyers released a 42-page, point-by-point rebuttal that argues Starr failed to make his case and criticizes the report for "overreaching" and focusing on sex solely to humiliate the president.

Also in this story:

"Now that the independent counsel report is public it is plain that sex is precisely what this 4 1/2 year investigation has boiled down to," the latest rebuttal says.

Starr's grounds for impeachment fall so short of the standard for impeachment, according to the White House lawyers, that "their very allegation demeans the constitutional process. The document is at bottom overreaching in an extravagant effort to find a case where there is none."

Clinton attorney David Kendall  

An initial 78-page rebuttal was prepared by White House lawyers David Kendall and Charles Ruff and was distributed Friday even before the release of the first 445 pages of Starr's summary of his sex-and-perjury investigation.

The second White House report attempts to specifically refute each of the Starr report's 11 possible grounds for impeachment, in which the independent counsel alleges perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power by the president.

"Spectacularly absent" from Starr's version of events, the White House response says, is any "contradictory or exculpatory evidence" that Clinton's lawyers think exists. They also criticize the independent counsel for not allowing them access to the information on which Starr's report is based.

White House Counsel
Charles Ruff

The White House response continues the two-pronged defense strategy Clinton has recently adopted: Admit to personal wrongdoing but defend the legality of the his actions.

"Trying to keep such a relationship private -- while understandable -- is wrong," Clinton's lawyers wrote. "But such acts do not even approach the constitutional test of impeachment -- treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

White House's point-by-point rebuttal

While acknowledging misleading statements, the report says the president's sworn testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case does not meet the legal test for perjury.

"Literally true statements cannot be the basis for a perjury prosecution, even if a witness intends to mislead the questioner," the White House response says. "Likewise, answers to an inherently ambiguous question cannot constitute perjury. And normally, a perjury prosecution may not rest on the testimony of a single witness."

The attorneys also take issue with Starr's conclusion that Clinton lied because "it is 'not credible' that the President believed oral sex fell outside the definition" of sex that Clinton was given by Jones' lawyers. "It plainly did," the response says.

The charge of obstruction of justice, stemming from the alleged concealment of gifts exchanged by Clinton and Lewinsky, is also disputed by the president's lawyers. They argue that the grand jury testimony of the president's secretary, Betty Currie, supports the president's version of events, not Lewinsky's.

"Trying to discount Ms. Currie's testimony on this point is a prime example of the dangers of relying on the OIC's development and presentation of evidence," the rebuttal reads.

The White House also disputes the characterization of Clinton's job search help for Lewinsky as obstruction of justice because the president's intent was not to keep Lewinsky silent.

White House, Gore criticize Starr

Because Clinton has apologized for engaging in a sexual relationship with the former White House intern, the latest rebuttal argues there was no need for Starr to have included such "ugly detail."

"The referral is so loaded with irrelevant and unnecessary graphic and salacious allegations that only one conclusion is possible: it's principal purpose is to damage the president."

Accusing Starr of playing politics, White House lawyers say, "The referral quickly emerges as a portrait of biased recounting, skewed analysis and unconscionable overreaching."

Clinton's lawyers claim Starr has come up with nothing despite his four-year, $40 million investigation, saying: "It comes to this. After four years, scores of FBI agents, hundreds of subpoenas, thousands of documents, and tens of millions of dollars. After hiring lawyers, accountants, IRS agents, outside consultants, law professors, personal counsel, ethics advisers, and a professional public relations expert. After impaneling grand juries and leasing office space in three jurisdictions, and investigating virtually every aspect of the President's business, financial, political, official and, ultimately, personal life, the Office of the Independent Counsel has presented to the House a referral that no prosecutor would present to any jury."

While the White House was ripping into Starr's report, Vice President Al Gore did the same thing from the West Coast Saturday.

"I do not believe that this report serves as the basis for overturning the judgment of the American people," Gore told CNN during a stop in Portland, Ore.

In his weekly radio address on Saturday morning, the president spoke of a "long and exhausting week" in Washington, but made no direct mention of the Starr report.

Investigating the President


Saturday September 12, 1998

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