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September 24, 1998 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-09-24

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 24, 1998

NATION/WORLD

Perjury is
usually
hard to
prove
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON - Last year, feder-
al prosecutors launched nearly 50,000
criminal cases. Eighty-seven of them
were perjury cases.
Lying, and what the law should do
about it, are among the core issues in
the case against President Clinton.
Perjury allegations are central to five of
the i grounds for impeachment in
Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's
report to Congress.
In the eyes of the law, lying is any-
thing but simple.
Lying to a D.C. police officer, for
example, is not a crime. Lying to an
FBI agent is. (Lying to the officer is
still not the best idea; it could lead to
various charges, including obstruction
of justice.)
'The crime of perjury is more compli-
cated than making a statement that is
not true. "Perjury is really hard to
prove," said Jim Cole, a veteran
Washington public integrity lawyer now
in private practice. "When you try a
perjury case, you are splitting legal
hairs. They are very technical cases. It
conmes down to what the person said,
what they understood themselves to be
sAying, and what they understood the
question to be'
A good chunk of the legal arguments
betiveen Starr and the White Ilouse is
deVoted to debates over when a spotty

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus listen to President Clinton speak an a dinner in Washington last night.

memory turns into perjury. Both sides
cite dozens of cases to support their
contentions - an argument that could
stretch back to the British Perjury
Statute of 1563, when perjury was
defined as a deliberate lie.
Whatever the legal arguments, in
practice, prosecutors go after only cer-
tain kinds of liars - chiefly public otTi-
cials and bad police officers.
"As prosecutors, we encounter people
who lie under oath all the time,"
acknowledged S. Randolph Sengel, the
commonwealth's attorney in Alexandria,

Va. "I don't mean to sound cynical, but a
day doesn't go by when somebody does-
n't come to court and bend it a little. If
you were determined to prosecute every
falsehood people made in court, that is
all you would be doing"
If perjury is rarely prosecuted, prose-
cutors do goafter other, lesser fibs. Lies
told in hopes of snaring extra Social
Security benefits generated four times
as many criminal cases as perjury last
year. And there were nearly 10 times as
many prosecutions for income tax fraud
as for perjury.

Perjury often is a way for prosecu-
tors to boost other charges - especial-
ly in public corruption cases. Federal
prosecutors said they have no set rules
or formulas about when to charge per-
jury, but they acknowledged that the
threshold is lower for lies by public
officials and police officers and for
sustained lying that impedes a major
investigation.
"We tend to be particularly per-
turbed if it's high public officials," said
an assistant US. attorney in the District
who asked not to be identified.

Clinton cr
misled joi
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON It began, like
many Washington scandals, with a leak.
It's fitting, perhaps, that the original
leak of Starr 's probe of the Lewinsky
affair was itself leaked - to Internet gos-
sip Matt Drudge. The sources of these
leaks are usually partisans, and some
reporters were red-faced Monday for
having bought the line that Clinton blew
his top during his grand jury testimony.
"I felt pretty comfortable with the
story, and it was wrong," said CBS's
Bob Schietfer, one of those who report-
ed that the president was profane, lost
his temper and at one point stormed out
of the room. "I got hooked."
Tom Rosenstiel, director of the
Project for Excellence in Journalism,
put it this way: "We were spun -
totally spun -- whether by people who
didn't know what they were talking
about or as a conscious strategy. We're
at our weakest as journalists when we
try to report what will happen in the
future. "
The furious finger-pointing that has
enveloped Washington during the
Monica Lewinsky melodrama is in part
about who leaked what to whom.
Independent counsel Kenneth Starr is
himself under investigation by a federal
judge for alleged improper leaks. The
firestorm over last week's Salon maga-
zine report that Rep. Henry Hyde (R-
Ill.) had a 30-year-old affair prompted
Republicans to demand an FBI probe of
possible White House leaks (even
though they have no evidence of such
leaks and Salon's source, a Florida
retiree, has always been on the record).
Not that there isn't some reason to be
suspicious of the Clinton crowd. The
White House recently apologized to Rep.
Paul McHale (D-Pa.), a critic of Clinton,
after NBC's Geraldo Rivera reported a
SCANDAL
Continued from Page 1A
McLaughlin depicted the investigation
as a politically motivated witch hunt,
pointed to a conservative conspiracy at
its foundation and suggested billionaire
publisher Richard Scaifewas among the
people conspiring against the president.
Citing articles from foreign newspa-
pers, McLaughlin said the world sees the
possible impeachment proceedings as an
assault on democracy.
"In Europe and in Asia there have been
questions raised about the political stabil-
ity of America," McLaughlin said.
le said foreign media members' out-
side perspectives allows them to observe
the potential impeachment hearings as a
conflict between conservatism and liber-
alism, rather than a sexual, criminal or
partisan debate.
McLaughlin described a 25-year
process of a national drift toward ignor-
ing the voice of the working class.
He said there is a lack of representa-
tion for citizens who are not wealthy, and
that monetarily driven policy making has
led to a change in political outlook.

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I 1r

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1ii1i

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a

0
ase leaks
irnalists
filse charge about McHale's military
record that Rivera said came froma
"source very close to President Clinton
The shadowy world of Beltway leak-
ing is hardly new, the most mysterious
character in Watergate remains the lu-'
sive Deep "Throat. But the sheer veloci-
ty of the Lewinsky saga makes it hard
to follow the anonymous action without
a scorecard.
'The word "leak" is shorthand for the
delicate dance between reporters and
sources. Sensitive information generally
doesn't arrive gift-wrapped; journalists
often work the phones and piece togeth-
er a story from different people. But the
sources (invariably described as "knowl-
edgeable") get to keep their fingerprints
off the product.
One of Clinton's most passionate
moments in his Lewinsky testimony
was his denunciation of Paula Jones'
lawyers for leaking evidence in an
attempt "to hurt me ... to find any neg-
ative information they could on me,
whether or not it was true, get it in a
deposition, and then leak it."
Many of the signature elements of the
scandal -- the semen-stained dress, the
phone sex, the oral-sex-isn't-sex argu-
ment -- also were leaked early on,
prompting White House complaints that
Starr was illegally planting such stories.
"I have talked with reporters on
background on some occasions" Starr
later said, maintaining that no secret
grand jury information was revealed.
Fast-forward to last week, when sev-
eral reports popped up about how angry
Clinton appeared on the videotape.
Schieffer said his sources were on
Capitol Hill, not the White House. But,
he said, "I got it from Democrats who'd
been talking to the White House. I do
not believe the people I talked to would
deliberately mislead me," he said.
"The social polarization between the
wealthy and everybody else leads to
Congress' disregard for public opinion,"
McLaughlin said. "The current situation
is not possible in a politically healthy cli-
mate"
McLaughlin spoke against Starr, who
he said "is not a politically neutral figure.
He grew up selling Bibles." But
McLaughlin was quick to point out he
does not support Clinton.
McLaughlin's assault on the potential*
impeachment proceedings also targeted
the U.S. media.
"The media has played the role of an
active co-conspirator in the creation of a
'Banana Republic' where any minority
can be subject to an investigation,"
McLaughlin said.
Audience members said that although
the opinions spoken last night were
extreme, the concerns raised were valid,
and calls for an open discussion.
"I thought it was informative and
came from a different perspective," said
LSA first-year student Frank Giacola.
"It illuminated some of the right-wing
elements of the crisis, but I didn't buy
the whole thing"
CLINTON
Continued from Page 1A
showed that Clinton's approval rating
had risen six points, to 66 percent,
after Monday's broadcast of his video-
taped grand jury testimony, a new poll
by the Pew Research Center for the

People and the Press showed that 44
percent of respondents disapprove of
the GOP leadership in Congress. That
is the highest disapproval rating for
congressional Republicans registered
all year.
But Gingrich made it clear that
Republicans will not be guided solely
by public opinion.
"I don't think people want this
Congress to deal with a constitutional
issue based on the latest overnight
poll," he said.
"And I think people would be,
frankly, horrified if the Congress was
simply a polling institution that enacted
a grotesque version of justice based on
the latest poll or the latest talk show."
With both parties digging in on
increasingly polarized positions, White
House spokesperson Mike McCurry
said the investigation needs to= move
more quickly.
"This needs to come to some kind of
resolution,'he said in an interview. "The
House leadership ought to give us a road
map. Just tell us how to finish it. If you
want to impeach us, impeach us,' he 9
challenged. "But let's get on with it."
The speaker's lieutenants, mean-
while, said they would continue to
methodically review the Starr docu-
ments, with a plan of releasing most
everything by Monday. Discussions
would then begin on whether to launch

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