An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton

By Richard A. Posner | Go to book overview

Introduction

The year-long political, legal, constitutional, and cultural struggle that began on January 21, 1998, when the world learned that Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr was investigating charges that President Clinton had committed perjury and other crimes of obstruction of justice (primarily subornation of perjury and witness tampering) in an effort to conceal a sexual affair with a young White House worker named Monica Lewinsky, is the most riveting chapter of recent American history. The investigation culminated on December 19, 1998, in the impeachment of President Clinton by the House of Representatives for perjury before a grand jury and for obstruction of justice.1 It was only the second impeachment of a U.S. President. The first was the impeachment of Andrew Johnson 130 years earlier, although in 1974 Richard Nixon would have been impeached and convicted had he not resigned after the House Judiciary Committee recommended his impeachment to the full House. On January 7, 1999, the Senate trial of President Clinton began.2 Truncated and anticlimactic--indeed, a parody of legal jus

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1
The vote to impeach him for perjury before the grand jury was 228 to 206, with one member of the House not voting. The vote to impeach him for obstruction of justice was 221 to 212, with two members not voting.
2
Although the trial nominally lasted more than a month, there was only one real day of trial--February 6, when the prosecution and defense presented the relevant portions of the videotaped depositions of the three witnesses ( Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan, and Sidney Blumenthal) whom the Senate had authorized the House managers (i.e., prosecutors) to call. (The transcript of the February 6 session is published at 145 Cong. Rec. S1290 [ Feb. 6, 1999].) There is a semantic problem here. The term "trial" is used in the impeachment context to refer to the entire proceeding in the Senate, embracing both pretrial proceedings (preliminary motions and pretrial discovery) and the evidentiary hearing, which corresponds to a conventional trial.

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