Asa Hutchinson explains impeachment of Clinton
 by Michael R. Wickline of the Aakansas Democrat-Gazette

HOT SPRINGS -- U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson said Friday he was part of a small, bipartisan group of House Judiciary Committee members who tried but failed to find an alternative to impeaching President Clinton in 1998.

    In a speech to the Arkansas Bar Association at its annual meeting, the Fort Smith Republican shed light on behind-the-scenes activities during the impeachment debate. At one point, he contemplated subpoenaing a federal judge
from Little Rock to testify but dropped the idea after an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge told him there was
no way he would allow 8th Circuit judges to testify in an impeachment trial in the Senate.

    Hutchinson, who ended up being one of the 13 House managers prosecuting the first impeachment of a president since 1868, said the bipartisan group included Reps. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Howard Berman, D-Calif. They began meeting for breakfast at the start of the committee's impeachment proceedings, he said,
referring to them as "the breakfast club."

    "We tried to talk through what we could do to change the ... momentum of the committee," Hutchinson told the lawyers' group. "What we were all seeking was some level of accountability."

    But there were different views about how to do that and about what the United States Constitution allowed and required,
he said, " ... remedies were limited under the constitutional framework."
    The bid to forge an outcome other than approving articles of impeachment was impeded by the fact that it wasn't driven by the House leadership, he said. "This was started at the grassroots of the committee."

    The best idea discussed by the group was the possibility of referring the matter to U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright of Little Rock for contempt proceedings, Hutchinson said.
    In an interview after the speech, Hutchinson said the idea of referring the matter to Wright came up late in the discussions and might have proceeded if it had come up earlier. "I thought it was a good measure of accountability, but I don't know that my colleagues would agree with me on that subject," he said.

    In 1999, Wright, a Republican appointed to the bench by former President Bush, found Clinton in contempt of court in the Paula Corbin Jones sexual harassment case against Clinton for giving "intentionally false" testimony in a deposition about whether he had a sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Wright ordered Clinton to pay $90,686.05. She also referred the matter to the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct in a
proceeding that resulted in Clinton admitting he gave evasive and misleading answers in Jones' case, agreed to his
law license being suspended five years and agreed to pay a $25,000 fine.

    In his speech, Hutchinson said he informed Wright that she was on the witness list for the impeachment proceedings in the Senate. He said Wright told him that she would be helpful and do whatever she could. But he said he received a call five minutes later from Judge Pasco M. Bowman of Kansas City, Mo., of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Bowman indicated there was no way that he would let one of his judges testify in an impeachment trial in the Senate, Hutchinson said.

    He said he started thinking about who would decide what would happen if the judicial branch opposed a subpoena issued
by the legislative branch in the trial of the nation's chief executive officer in the Senate. He said he ultimately decided not to
issue the subpoena to avoid a constitutional clash between the judicial and legislative branches of government.
The Senate resolved the issue by severely limiting the number of witnesses called in the trial, Hutchinson said.

    "It was very difficult for the legislative branch to discuss sensitive issues with the judicial branch," he said.
"So [impeachment proceedings] was something that was started and simply had to continue on."
    The Associated Press reported that Wright was startled Friday to hear Hutchinson's account. "I didn't know anything
about that. This is the first that I've heard about it," the judge said. She declined further comment.

    Hutchinson said people still ask why there wasn't a way out of considering impeachment. He said it boiled down to
the fact that there were people with very strong convictions on the committee and in Congress who disagreed about
how the matter should proceed. "It was about two divergent viewpoints about what the Constitution requires that
resulted in a case that could not be settled."

    On Feb. 12, 1999, the Senate acquitted Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
    Hutchinson said Friday was the first time that he talked about the impeachment proceedings in a substantive way before a group of Arkansans. He had not done so earlier, he said, because Arkansans have been sensitive about the impeachment.
    Hutchinson has been nominated by President Bush to head the Drug Enforcement Administration. He said he will resign
from the House if confirmed by the Senate for the DEA job.

 Note: The Senate Democrats will vote to confirm this nasty cock hunter.

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