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Lewinsky report: No one above the law

By MICHAEL KIRKLAND, UPI Legal Affairs Correspondent   |   March 6, 2002 at 7:19 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) -- Independent counsel Robert Ray released his final report on the Monica Lewinsky matter Wednesday, saying there was sufficient evidence to prosecute former President Bill Clinton.

The independent counsel cut a deal with Clinton in January after deciding not to prosecute.

Jennifer Palmieri, a former Clinton spokeswoman who is now a press officer with Democratic National Committee, said the report was nothing new. "It's not clear what the purpose of the report is," Palmieri was quoted as saying by CBS News, "other than to promote Robert Ray's Senate campaign, Monica Lewinsky's HBO special and the Paula Jones vs. Tonya Harding boxing match."

Ray's report, released with the permission of the three-judge panel that appointed him, recounts much of the facts in the Lewinsky investigation.

But in a section on the conclusions reached in the investigation, Ray tries to convey what he sees are the larger implications of the events that divided the nation.

"In the search for meaning from this episode in American history," Ray said in his final Lewinsky report, "two observations of former Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski have special resonance: 'From Watergate we have learned what

generations before us have known: Our Constitution works.' And as Jaworski said, we have reaffirmed the principle and the spirit of the law that 'no one is above the law.'

"A generation later, let it be said here."

Ray's office also issued a statement along with the report.

"In the independent counsel's judgment, there was sufficient evidence to prosecute President Clinton for violating federal criminal laws within this office's jurisdiction," the statement said. "Nonetheless, the independent counsel concluded, consistent with the Principles of Federal Prosecution, that further proceedings against President Clinton for his conduct should not be

initiated."

By agreeing in January to publicly admit he gave "misleading and evasive" testimony in the Paula Jones case about his sexual relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern, and agreeing to a 5-year suspension of his Arkansas law license,

Clinton avoided what might have been years in court, and millions more dollars added to his already multimillion-dollar legal expenses.

Clinton also agreed not to seek reimbursement of attorneys' fees, something that only that a special three-judge panel could have granted in an independent counsel's probe.

That panel gave Ray permission to release the final Lewinsky report Wednesday.

By agreeing to drop any possible prosecution against the president, Ray also avoided what might have been years in court on a case that even Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he couldn't possibly win.

In defending Ray's decision not to seek prosecution, his office said Wednesday that judgment was supported by:

"(1) President Clinton's admission of providing false testimony that was knowingly misleading, evasive, and prejudicial to the administration of justice before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas;

"(2) his acknowledgement that his conduct violated the Rules of Professional Conduct of the Arkansas Supreme Court;

"(3) the five-year suspension of his license to practice law and $25,000 fine imposed on him by the Circuit Court of Pulaski

County, Arkansas;

"(4) the civil contempt penalty of more than $90,000 imposed on President Clinton by the federal court for violating its orders;

"(5) the payment of more than $850,000 in settlement to Paula Jones;

"(6) the express finding by the federal court that President Clinton had engaged in contemptuous conduct; and

"(7) the substantial public condemnation of President Clinton arising from his impeachment."

The office statement also complained about its treatment by Clinton and others.

"Over the course of this investigation, this office faced numerous challenges to its professional integrity and the lawful exercise of its authority," the statement said. "These allegations of professional and other misconduct and the claims of a right to withhold evidence ultimately were rejected. These allegations and other tactics had a substantial impact on the prompt completion of this office's work, delaying in some cases for months access to available evidence.

"Responding to these allegations and claims also increased substantially the expense of this investigation" -- the final tab for the taxpayers will be $70 million for all phases of the probe, the office said in a footnote -- "but it was essential to do so in order for the independent counsel to fulfill the mandates sought by the attorney general and conferred by the Special Division (the three judges panel)."

In 1994, Clinton and then-Attorney General Janet Reno pushed hard for congressional re-enactment of the Independent Counsel Act, over the opposition of Republicans led by then-Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan.

Clinton and Reno said they were convinced an independent counsel would clear him quickly of any impropriety in an Arkansas land deal popularly known as "Whitewater," and do so in a manner that had credibility.

Instead, the independent counsel's probe stretched on for six years on a variety of matters and came to be identified in the minds of a significant portion of the public as partisan effort, one with unlimited time and unlimited taxpayer funds to investigate

the president in a never-ending series of accusations.

In Wednesday's statement, Ray's office said a final report on Clinton's Arkansas business dealings was filed with the three-judge panel, but that remains under seal.

However, Ray issued his preliminary findings in September 2000, saying there was not enough evidence to accuse the president and Hillary Rodham Clinton of wrongdoing in the Whitewater matter.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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