It depends on what the definition of "prepared" is
                                   By James Higdon
                                   July 14, 2000 | Frankly, I've had enough. I've watched the
                                   situation go by for several years as an out-of-control
                                   Republican Congress, and an Office of the Independent
                                   Council dedicated to bringing down one of the most, if not
                                   the most effective, presidents in my lifetime, attempted
                                   everything from distortions of fact to distortions of law to
                                   discredit William Jefferson Clinton's superb eight years in

                                   After finding nothing in careless allegations and trumped
                                   charges surrounding Whitewater, Vince Foster, Filegate,
                                   Travelgate, and the most scurrilous defamation that the likes
                                   of Jerry Falwell could invent, the zealots of extremism finally
                                   pinned their hopes to the refuge of perjury, and attempted a
                                   failed coup by abusing the Constitution of the United States
                                   of America.

                                   After failing this coup for lack of votes (clever people, those
                                   Founding Fathers) they persist to this day. By suggesting that
                                   President Clinton may be tried for perjury after leaving office,
                                   and constantly repeating the phrase, "it depends on what
                                   the definition of 'is' is," or the word, "perjury," every time a
                                   Democrat walks into view, they believe that eventually the
                                   American people will buy the swill they're spewing. Because
                                   of the mainstream pundits' refusal to work for a living by so
                                   much as opening the Federal Code or a law book, instead
                                   taking information from the faxes sent by the GOP, the tactic
                                   seems to be having some success. Well, it's time that
                                   someone blew the lid off the old perjury myth. No one was
                                   ever going to prosecute Bill Clinton for perjury. They never
                                   were, and they never will. Anyone who says anything
                                   different is selling something.

                                   On January 10, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United
                                   States, through the eloquence of Chief Justice Burger
                                   delivered a unanimous decision (9-0) on a remarkably similar
                                   set of facts to the Clinton/Jones case involving a bankruptcy.
                                   Of course, assuming that any criminal charges filed against
                                   President Clinton, would be argued in Washington, DC, or
                                   Virginia, any conviction would first be appealed in either the
                                   DC Circuit or the 4th Circuit.  Well, guess what!  In 1995, a
                                   unanimous three-judge panel in the 4th Circuit Court of
                                   Appeals (penned by Senior Circuit Judge Butzner), cited
                                   Burger's reasoning involving events that were almost identical
                                   to the Clinton/Jones situation.  And in a DC Case in 1996,
                                   the Burger Court decision was again cited on similar facts.
                                   In all three of these cases, the defendants' perjury convictions
                                   were overturned.

                                   The first of these cases, Bronston v. United States, 409
                                   U.S. 352 (1973), is textbook law. This case and its progeny
                                   are frequently cited in texts about evidence and procedure. It
                                   should be well known to the likes of Kenneth Starr, and
                                   should be standard reading to any prosecutor conducting a
                                   grand jury investigation. It is certainly well known to many in
                                   congress by way of their common legal backgrounds.
                                   Particularly to the likes of Tom Campbell (R. California), a
                                   former law professor at Stanford University.

                                   You see, the courts do not much care for "perjury traps."
                                   The Burger Court, quoting a "leading 19th century
                                   commentator" on common law (the law handed down from
                                   our English forefathers) reported that the law "throws a fence
                                   round a person accused of perjury," because "the obligation
                                   of protecting witnesses from oppression, or annoyance, by
                                   charges, or threats of charges, of having borne false
                                   testimony, is far paramount to that of giving even perjury its
                                   deserts." In other words, the concept of getting a witness to
                                   say what a zealous prosecutor wants him/her to say by
                                   threatening to prosecute on every conceivable charge is as
                                   old as the common law itself. Having witnesses fear to make
                                   any unintentional misstatement is not a good engine for truth.
                                   "Prevention" of perjury is therefore "better than cure." "The
                                   burden is on the questioner to pin the witness down to the
                                   specific object of the questioner's inquiry." (United States v.
                                   Wall, 371 F.2d 398 (CA61967))

                                   Then, and only then, can the intent of the witness to mislead
                                   be determined beyond reasonable doubt. In order for
                                   President Clinton to be convicted of perjury, his questioners
                                   would have to have asked, "What is the definition of 'is?'"
                                   "Precise questioning is the imperative as a predicate for the
                                   offense of perjury." It is the questioning lawyer's duty "to
                                   bring the witness back to the mark, to flush out the whole
                                   truth with the tools of adversary examination."

                                   As Burger concluded, "It may well be that [the president's]
                                   answers were not guileless but were shrewdly calculated to
                                   evade. Nevertheless…any special problems arising from the
                                   literally true but unresponsive answer are to be remedied
                                   through the 'questioner's acuity' and not by a federal perjury

                                   In the 4th Circuit case, the defendant took advantage of the
                                   multiple definitions for the word "prepare" in providing
                                   misleading testimony, and the facts could not be more on
                                   point. The 4th Circuit did their duty in echoing the Burger
                                   Court by saying, "[a] perjury conviction cannot be based
                                   upon evasive answers or even upon misleading answers so
                                   long as they are literally true." (United States v. Hairston,
                                   46 F.3d 361 (4th Cir. 1995)) Finally, the D.C. Court quoted
                                   Mark Twain, "'[o]ften, the surest way to convey
                                   misinformation is to tell the strict truth,' a statement that is
                                   literally true cannot support a perjury conviction." (United
                                   States v. Dean, 55 F.3d 640 (D.C. Cir. 1996))

                                   Any skilled and learned litigator must be cognizant of these
                                   rulings, as well as many others. It is my belief that President
                                   Clinton's questioners were so informed. I believe, and it has
                                   been fairly well established, that they knew the truthful
                                   answers to their questions before they asked them.  They
                                   had already been in contact with Linda Tripp, and there is
                                   evidence to suggest that there was some collusion with the
                                   OIC.  Instead of pressing the issue home, as was their duty,
                                   they allowed the misleading answers to stand.

                                   They knew that the President of the United States could not
                                   be tried in a court of law, where such a prosecution would
                                   be quickly thrown out, or a conviction would be overturned
                                   on appeal. Instead, the president must be tried in the Senate
                                   where an impeachable offense is anything that can garner a
                                   two-thirds majority vote. With the pending mid-term
                                   elections, perhaps the Republicans could gain a two-thirds
                                   majority in the Senate if the public was sufficiently outraged
                                   by charges of presidential perjury. Perhaps they hoped that
                                   they could so embarrass President Clinton to the point of
                                   resignation. Perhaps their friends in the Senate and House
                                   could convince enough Democratic crossovers by their
                                   backroom displays of unproven, unverifiable, and scandalous
                                   accusations boxed neatly by Ken Starr's OIC. All of these
                                   alternatives were discussed widely in news reports and talk
                                   shows during the impeachment process.

                                   If Paula Jones' attorneys were more concerned about
                                   winning a case for their client than removing the President of
                                   the United States (and such was their sacred duty as
                                   attorneys at law), they would have exercised at least a
                                   minimal effort to elicit the truth at the time that President
                                   Clinton was questioned and deposed.

                                   In attempting to garner public sympathy, and to quell charges
                                   of an attempted coup, Republicans assured us that there was
                                   no attempt to overthrow the lawfully elected government.
                                   They assured us that even if the president were convicted, or
                                   resigned, Al Gore would carry on the mantle of government
                                   under the Constitution. But the process was underway, even
                                   then, to conduct the same kind of misinformation campaign
                                   against the vice president by the distortion of fact, and the
                                   misapplication of law. From there, it is a perilously small step
                                   to the complete subversion of the will of the people, and
                                   installing the Republican Speaker of the House as the world's
                                   most powerful leader. We the People have been put on fair
                                   notice that as long as there remains a Republican majority in
                                   Congress, and a Democratic president in the White House,
                                   the law and the Constitution of the United States are barriers
                                   that will be willingly torn down on the path to a bloodless

                                   In November we return to the polling booth. Despite eight
                                   years of national peace, prosperity, and the end of deficit
                                   spending, the Republicans are telling us that Clinton was
                                   never qualified to lead. They claim its obviousness in the
                                   exposed affair with a young woman who once served under
                                   him as an intern. In establishing that misdeed, they spent over
                                   a hundred million dollars on investigations (public and
                                   private), and "independent" counsels. They delayed judicial
                                   appointments, shut down the government, and turned our
                                   national discourse into a worldwide joke. Are the
                                   Republicans prepared to lead in November?  I guess that
                                   depends on what the definition of "prepared" is.


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