Impeachment diary

It was a busy week on Capitol Hill.

Published December 4, 1998 8:00PM (EST)

At the House Judiciary Committee hearings this week, it
looked at first as if the Republican majority was fishing for new ways to expand the scope of the impeachment inquiry by delving into possible campaign finance abuses as well as President Clinton's allegedly unsolicited frottage of Kathleen Willey.

Criticism of these moves came, predictably, from the Democrats, who alternately described the investigation as a "very strange proceeding," "wild goose chase" and a
"partisan witch hunt." Across the aisle, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., broke party ranks to attack the committee's leadership: "We have seven-year plans for a balanced
budget and five-year plans for a balanced budget," King told the New York Times, "but
there doesn't seem to be a three-week plan for impeachment."

As the week progressed, however, the word on Capitol Hill was that a committee vote on at least one article of impeachment could happen by a week from Saturday.

Here's a brief review of the
week's events, and a look ahead at what's expected in coming days.

Monday: Republican plans were announced to subpoena materials relating
to allegations that the president abused campaign finance laws.
Committee members said they would seek documents from FBI Director Louis
Freeh and senior Justice Department prosecutor Charles LaBella. A previous
subpoena of the memos -- which were said to contain information
indicating criminal activity by the president -- had been squelched
by District Court Judge Norma Holloway the previous week.

Committee chairman Henry Hyde released a statement in which he lashed out at Clinton's
responses to 81 questions the committee had given him. "Instead of
shedding new light on the key facts, the president chose to evade them.
He has made it very clear he is going to stick with his reliance on
bizarre technical definitions and legalistic defenses."

The White House
rejected an invitation for the president to appear before the committee,
but said his attorneys might appear on his behalf. Spokesman Joe
Lockhart said, "It won't add any new information and can be put in the
category of a stunt."
Democratic fund-raiser Nathan Landow, whom Kathleen
Willey accused of trying to sway her testimony, invoked the Fifth
Amendment and refused to answer questions at a committee deposition.

Tuesday: The consequences of perjury was the theme of the day's hearing.
Said Hyde: "If citizens are allowed to lie with impunity -- or
encourage others to tell false stories or hide evidence -- judges and
juries cannot reach just results." The committee heard from a decorated
retired Army general, federal judges, a former attorney general and two
women convicted of perjury whose seamy stories would be more at home on
a taping of "Jerry Springer" than the supposedly grave matter of impeachment of the president.

Former University of South Carolina basketball coach
Pam Parsons spent four months in prison after committing perjury under
oath in a libel suit she had filed against Sports Illustrated, which
portrayed her in an article as a predatory lesbian who had an affair
with a player and had "sex in mind" when recruiting players. Parsons
said she hadn't been to Puss 'n Boots, a Salt Lake City lesbian bar, but
she later confessed she had been. "Thank God, I could finally say I'm
guilty," Parsons told the committee.

Former Veterans Affairs psychiatrist
Barbara Battalino was convicted of perjury after she denied in a civil
deposition that she had a sexual relationship with a patient. "I am
condemned to a life sentence," testified Battalino, who is under house
arrest in Idaho. "I have lost my professional standing, my life as it
had been, and my cherished privacy."

The committee also voted along
party lines to call for depositions and copies of memorandums from Freeh and LaBella, who urged
Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the
president's alleged campaign finance abuses.

Wednesday: Federal District
Court Judge Norma Holloway ruled that one Democratic and one Republican
investigator from the Judiciary Committee could review the Freeh and LaBella memorandums. But Kevin Simpson and David Schippers were barred
from taking notes or making photocopies. Republicans were hushed about
the contents of the memo, but the committee's ranking Democrat, John
Conyers Jr., D-Mich., told reporters, "Nothing in these documents is in any way
relevant to this committee's consideration of possible impeachable
offenses by the president."

Thursday: Under lashing criticism from Democrats, House Speaker-elect Bob
Livingston, R-La., weighed in on the pace of the impeachment proceedings. "If
the Judiciary Committee could complete its work next week, it would be
my expectation that we could have a vote on the following week,"
Livingston said, emphasizing what seems to be the only goal both parties
share: to vote on articles of
impeachment before Christmas.

Despite reports that most Republicans do
not support anything less than a full impeachment vote, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., circulated the party's first censure proposal. The agreement
would call for a "strong condemnation of Clinton and require him to pay
a financial penalty and issue a statement acknowledging wrongdoing.''

Republicans also dropped the campaign finance leg of their inquiry,
according to news reports.

Next Week:

Tuesday: President Clinton's
lawyers are scheduled to present his case before the committee.

Wednesday: Republican and Democratic investigators will present their
findings to the committee.

Thursday-Saturday: The committee is scheduled
to debate and vote on articles of impeachment.

By Salon Staff

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