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The focus of the impeachment inquiry so far has been limited largely to perjury and obstruction of justice issues — important, yet, the president’s defenders say, arguably impeachable offenses.
Yet, even in the Monica Lewinsky affair there exists a more serious high crime for which there is no debate about the propriety of impeachment. I’m talking about bribery.
No less a distinguished attorney and scholar than Jerome Zeifman, a Democrat and former chief counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings, sees at least three counts of bribery that should be leveled against Clinton. He has brought them to the attention of Rep. Bob Barr, R-GA, a member of the current House Judiciary Committee.
“In his conduct of the office of president of the United States, William J. Clinton has given or received bribes with respect to one of more of the following,” he writes in a memorandum of law and facts on bribery as an impeachable offense:
“(1) Approving, condoning or acquiescing in the surreptitious payment of bribes for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of Webster Hubbell as a witness or potential witness in criminal proceedings.”
“(2) Approving, condoning or acquiescing in the use of political influence by Vernon Jordan in obtaining employment for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of Monica Lewinsky as a witness or potential witness in civil or criminal proceedings; and
“(3) Approving, condoning or acquiescing in the receipt of bribes in connection with the issuance of an executive order which had the effect of giving Indonesia a monopoly on the sale of certain types of coal.”
Here’s the short version of the Hubbell case for those congressmen with attention deficit syndrome.
In early June 1994, Hubbell was set to begin cooperating with prosecutors. By the end of the month, he began withholding Whitewater documents and personal financial records. What changed his mind in that 30-day period?
Secret Service records show James Riady visited the White House every day from June 21 through June 25 and saw President Clinton at least twice during that period. On June 23, Riady had breakfast with Hubbell and then visited the White House. Later that day, Hubbell and Riady then had a midday luncheon meeting at Washington’s Hay-Adams Hotel.
On Monday, June 27, the first day of the new work week after Riady had visited Clinton, a Riady company, Hong Kong China Ltd., sent Hubbell $100,000. During the nine months between his resignation and his guilty plea on fraud and tax charges in December 1994, Hubbell received a total of more than $500,000 from a dozen enterprises, many of which were controlled by Clinton associates or major Democratic donors. In that period, White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty had talked to Truman Arnold, a leading fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee, about hiring Hubbell. According to The New York Times, Arnold paid Hubbell an undisclosed sum to help arrange a dinner party attended by President Clinton.
Hubbell got more money from Sprint, Pacific Telesis, an insurance executive, an appliance store owner, the Los Angeles Airport Commission, Time-Warner and a non-profit foundation that asked him to write essays about the ethics of public service.
All told, he received $1 million during that period before he went to jail. On the brink of being locked up, he suddenly became more employable and valuable than at any other time in his life. Of the $1 million, $300,000 came from the Riady family.
“That the solicitation of payments to Hubbell were the culmination of prolonged White House efforts to conceal evidence relating to Whitewater, provides even more compelling reasons for the impeachment of President Clinton,” writes Zeifman. “After the death of Foster, Hubbell was singularly in possession of evidence of wrongdoing by the president and Mrs. Clinton dating back to Arkansas; some of which still remains concealed.”
Bribery, pure and simple, says Zeifman. Likewise, Kenneth Starr’s referral to the Congress provides substantial evidence that Clinton used his influence to secure and solicit employment for Lewinsky. Count 2.
Count 3 may be the most interesting and least understood offense. The aforementioned Riady family, the single largest contributor to Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, owns mining rights to Indonesian deposits of clean-burning coal — the second-largest such deposit in the world. The coal has sufficiently low sulfur content to meet strict environmental standards established during the Clinton administration.
The world’s largest deposits of such coal are located in southern Utah and have a value of $1.2 trillion. On Sept. 16, 1996, six weeks before the presidential election, Clinton signed an executive order converting 1.7 million acres in southwestern Utah that contain the coal into a park the size of Connecticut.
“A few weeks after the signing of the executive order, a person inexplicably identified as an unemployed gardener gave the Clinton campaign $400,000. It was not until after the president’s re-election that the Democratic National Committee promised to refund the money, after it was revealed it had come from Arief Wiriadmata and his wife Soraya, whose father is an executive of the Riadys’ Lippo Group.
The only published report on that deal prior to the 1996 election was by the Western Journalism Center’s own Sarah Foster, who wrote: “With a stroke of the pen he wiped out the only significant competition to Indonesian coal interests in the world market.”
Zeifman calls that a “substantial circumstantial” case of bribery. For the record, bribery is one of the high crimes actually listed in Article 2 of the Constitution.