Could Trump Be Impeached? Officials Considered 11 Possible Grounds of Impeachment for Bill Clinton

Kenneth Starr Sworn In
Independent counsel Kenneth Starr is sworn in before the House Judiciary Committee. Reuters Pictures

Newsweek published this story under the headline "Starr vs. Clinton: The Bottom Line" on September 21, 1998. In light of recent news involving President Donald Trump and his potential impeachment, however unlikely, Newsweek is republishing the story.

The independent counsel's report mapped out 11 possible grounds for the impeachment of the president. On Saturday, the president's lawyers fired back with an angry refutation of the charges. Following are Starr's allegations and a summary of the White House response.

LIED UNDER OATH

1 Starr: "President Clinton lied under oath in his civil case when he denied a sexual affair, a sexual relationship, or sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky." White House: The president's answers on these subjects do not fall within the legal definition of perjury because 1. they were "literally true" 2. Clinton did not "knowingly" make any false responses 3. "answers to inherently ambiguous questions cannot constitute perjury" and 4. "a perjury prosecution cannot rest on the testimony of a single witness."

2 Starr: "President Clinton lied under oath to the grand jury about his sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky." White House: Even if Clinton and Lewinsky's testimonies differ on the breadth of sexual contact or the duration of their relationship, that still does not prove that the president "knowingly and intentionally gave false testimony."

3 Starr: "In his civil deposition, to support his false statement about the sexual relationship, President Clinton also lied under oath about being alone with Ms. Lewinsky and about the many gifts exchanged between Ms. Lewinsky and him."

White House: Clinton "did not deny meeting alone" with Lewinsky, nor did he "deny that they exchanged gifts." His answers were legally accurate, and he was under no legal obligation to assist the prosecution by volunteering additional information.

4 Starr: "President Clinton lied under oath in his civil deposition about his discussions with Ms. Lewinsky concerning her involvement in the Jones case."

White House: The president recalled joking with Lewinsky about being subpoenaed in the Jones case before he ever saw a witness list. Just because Ms. Lewinsky testified to additional conversations on this subject after Clinton had seen the list "does not establish that the president's answer was in accurate."

OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

5 Starr: "During the Jones case, the President obstructed justice and had an understanding with Ms. Lewinsky to jointly conceal the truth about their relationship by concealing gifts subpoenaed by Ms. Jones's attorneys."

White House: Even Lewinsky's testimony that Clinton responded to her suggestion that she get rid of gifts with the words "hmm" or "I don't know" does not constitute obstruction of justice. Regardless, Clinton was not concerned with the gifts and did not instruct Betty Currie to pick them up.

6 Starr: "During the Jones case, the President obstructed justice and had an understanding with Ms. Lewinsky to jointly conceal the truth of their relationship from the judicial process by a scheme that included the following means: (i) Both the President and Ms. Lewinsky understood that they would lie under oath in the Jones case about their sexual relationship; (ii) the President suggested to Ms. Lewinsky that she prepare an affidavit that, for the President's purposes, would memorialize her testimony under oath and could be used to prevent questioning of both of them about their relationship; (iii) Ms. Lewinsky signed and filed the false affidavit; (iv) the President used Ms. Lewinsky's false affidavit at his deposition in an attempt to head off questions about Ms. Lewinsky; and (v) when that failed, the President lied under oath at his civil deposition about the relationship with Ms. Lewinsky."

White House: Clinton and Lewinsky did try to conceal the nature of their relationship, but this is not obstruction of justice. Also, Clinton was not legally obligated to verify that statements Lewinsky made in her deposition were accurate.

7 Starr: "President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice by helping Ms. Lewinsky obtain a job in New York at a time when she would have been a witness harmful to him were she to tell the truth in the Jones case."

White House: Obstruction of justice requires that a defendant knew of a "pending judicial process" and acted "corruptly with the specific intent to obstruct or interfere with the proceedings"; limited job assistance was never given on a conditional basis.

LIED UNDER OATH

8 Starr: President Clinton lied under oath in his civil deposition about his discussions with Vernon Jordan concerning Ms. Lewinsky's involvement in the Jones case.

White House: The OIC's [Office of the Independent Counsel's] "account of the question and answer is simply false." Portions of the president's testimony which does not rule out having ever spoken to Jordan on the matter were omitted from Starr's report.

WITNESS TAMPERING

9 Starr: "The President improperly tampered with a potential witness by attempting to corruptly influence the testimony of his personal secretary, Betty Currie, in the days after his civil deposition."

White House: Since Currie was never a witness for the Jones case and the OIC's probe had not yet been extended to cover the Lewinsky matter, any interactions Clinton might have had with her could not fall under the rubric of witness tampering or obstruction of justice.

OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

10 Starr: "President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice during the grand jury investigation by refusing to testify for seven months and lying to senior White House aides with knowledge that they would relay the President's false statements to the grand jury—and did thereby deceive, obstruct, and impede the grand jury."

White House: Clinton's "mere repetition of a public denial" to aides since January did not influence their subsequent testimony before the grand jury because they were not questioned as potential witnesses of sexual activity; the fact that he declined to testify "absent compulsion" was prudent and in no way illegal.

ABUSE OF POWER

11 Starr: President Clinton abused his constitutional authority by (i) lying to the public and the Congress in January 1998 about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky; (ii) promising at that time to cooperate fully with the grand jury investigation; (iii) later refusing six invitations to testify voluntarily to the grand jury; (iv) invoking Executive Privilege; (v) lying to the grand jury in August 1998; and (vi) lying again to the public and Congress on August 17, 1998—all as part of an effort to hinder, impede, and deflect possible inquiry by the Congress of the United States.

White House: Clinton invoked executive privilege and tried to prevent secret service agents from testifying to "protect the constitutional interests of the presidency,"" not to impede the grand jury proceedings. False denials and refusals to testify do not constitute abuse of power.