In the past few weeks the impeachment debate has centered on whether President Clinton committed perjury, and if so, whether it constitutes an impeachable offense. This week the House Judiciary Committee treated the nation to testimony by convicted perjurers and a panel of judicial, military and academic experts as to various issues related to perjury. In the midst of all the fanfare concerning perjury, many have been lulled to sleep about the equally serious charges of obstruction of justice.
Not long ago the staunchest defenders of the president conceded that obstruction of justice would be an impeachable offense, even if (according to them) perjury would not. Of course, this was well in advance of any notion that credible evidence would emerge implicating Bill Clinton of such an offense. That Congress institutionally regards obstruction as even more serious than perjury is demonstrated by the fact that the maximum punishment for obstruction is 10 years, while for perjury it is five. Perhaps one reason obstruction is considered so egregious is that it often involves the wrongdoer’s exploitation and corruption of other persons in the process. Clinton not only preyed on Monica sexually, he single-handedly turned her into a felon and one who attempted to drag others, such as Linda Tripp, into their felonious schemes. He also tried to corrupt his own personal secretary, Betty Currie.
Following Starr’s referral, which included multiple counts of obstruction, Democrats predictably changed their tune about the impeachability of this crime. But some Clinton defenders, in rare moments of unguarded candor born of their smugness in assuming that Henry Hyde has forgotten about these crimes, still admit that obstruction is impeachable. It is highly doubtful, though, that the tenacious chairman has lost his memory or resolve. And just as with perjury, Mr. Starr has Clinton dead to rights on multiple counts of obstruction as well.
Instead of relying on White House disinformation, let’s first take a look at the law itself and then examine whether the evidence of Clinton’s conduct falls within its purview. Despite Democratic obfuscation, this is not a complicated matter (even to non-lawyers), as a review of the statute will readily demonstrate.
The relevant federal obstruction statute, 18 U.S.C. 1512, provides in pertinent part:
(b) Whoever knowingly uses intimidation or physical force, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, with intent to –
- (1) influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding;
(2) cause or induce any person to –
(A) withhold testimony, or withhold a record, document, or other object, from an official proceeding;
(B) alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal an object with intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding;
(C) evade legal process summoning that person to appear as a witness, or to produce a record, document, or other object, in an official proceeding; or
(e) For the purposes of this section –
(1) an official proceeding need not be pending or about to be instituted at the time of the offense;
Of the 11 grounds of possible impeachable offenses contained in Starr’s referral, five of them — five, six, seven, nine and 10 — involve obstruction, though 10 may now have been dropped. Starr’s summary of these grounds shows how neatly the evidentiary facts fit within the four corners of this criminal statute, leading to the inescapable conclusion that Clinton is knee deep in culpability for obstruction. Concise columns do not permit exhaustive analyses, so please review these summary grounds for yourself and, if you have time, reread the complete “Grounds” section of the report pertaining to these items. If you have any doubt presently about Mr. Clinton’s commission of multiple counts of felonious obstruction of justice I daresay they will be removed on such an exercise.
The Summary of “Grounds” numbered five, six, seven and nine provide:
- During the Jones case, the President obstructed justice and had an understanding with Ms. Lewinsky to jointly conceal the truth about their relationship by concealing gifts subpoenaed by Ms. Jones’s attorneys [Relevant Statutes: (b) (2) (A) & (B)].
- During the Jones case, the President obstructed justice and had an understanding with Ms. Lewinsky to jointly conceal the truth of their relationship from the judicial process by a scheme that included the following means: (i) Both the President and Ms. Lewinsky understood that they would lie under oath in the Jones case about their sexual relationship [Relevant Statute: (b) (1)]; (ii) the President suggested to Ms. Lewinsky that she prepare an affidavit that, for the President’s purposes, would memorialize her testimony under oath and could be used to prevent questioning of both of them about their relationship [Relevant Statutes: (b) (1) & (2)(A)]; (iii) Ms. Lewinsky signed and filed the false affidavit [Relevant Statute: (b) (2) (C)]; (iv) the President used Ms. Lewinsky’s false affidavit at his deposition in an attempt to head off questions about Ms. Lewinsky [Relevant Statutes: (b) (2) (A) & (C)]; and (v) when that failed, the President lied under oath at his civil deposition about the relationship with Ms. Lewinsky [Perjury].
- President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice by helping Ms. Lewinsky obtain a job in New York at a time when she would have been a witness harmful to him were she to tell the truth in the Jones case [Relevant Statutes: (b) (1) & (2) (A) & (C)].
- The President improperly tampered with a potential witness by attempting to corruptly influence the testimony of his personal secretary, Betty Currie, in the days after his civil deposition [Relevant Statutes: (b) (1) & (2) (A)].
Mr. Starr is not the possessed lunatic that the president’s professional character assassins have portrayed him as being. An examination of the evidence and the law vindicates him and his scrupulously meticulous investigative and legal work. And just as emphatically, it implicates Pesident Clinton beyond any reasonable doubt. It is only because the evidence and law are so overwhelmingly against Mr. Clinton and that he has no defense on the merits that he and his thugs have resorted to guerrilla warfare against his accusers. For those congressmen who have the courage and conscience to own up to their constitutional duty, there is an abundance of evidence to support them on a smorgasbord of impeachable offenses.