An "outraged" Sen. Orrin Hatch said he would nevertheless "extend the hand of friendship" to President Clinton provided there are no illegalities involving special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's investigation.
However, if Clinton is guilty of perjury, subornation of perjury, obstruction of justice or conspiracy, Hatch expects Congress would take action depending upon what is contained in Starr's report.The report is expected to be submitted to the House of Representatives in a few weeks.
"This is not just a private matter," Hatch said in Salt Lake City Tuesday. "If he lied to his family, that's immoral. If he lied to the American people, that's unethical. But if he lied under oath in a legal proceeding, that's a felony."
Hatch said that at this point he - and the American public - do not want efforts to remove Clinton from office with only two years left in his term. But Hatch did not rule out the possibility of impeachment proceedings should illegalities come to light.
"I am prepared to stand by the president and help him through this crisis if he hasn't lied to the grand jury," Hatch said.
But Hatch warned there could be a "constitutional crisis we still may have to go through because he (Clinton) refused to answer" certain questions posed by Starr and Starr's staff during the president's grand jury testimony on Monday.
Hatch said he would not have been happy but would not be so angry if Clinton had simply apologized during his Monday night television address. But Hatch was furious at Clinton's attacks on Starr and not especially satisfied by the tone of Clinton's apology.
Hatch described Starr as a deeply religious man with an impeccable personal reputation and professional standing good enough to have been on "the short list for the Supreme Court" several times.
"Because he (Starr) can't defend himself, they have bashed him into the ground," Hatch said.
Hatch also expressed disappointment at the overall tenor of Clinton's brief, nationally televised speech. "I accept the president's defiant apology, if you can call it that, but I would have liked to see a more humble and contrite president and a more humble and contrite apology."
The American people are very forgiving if they are given a sincere apology, but Hatch said Clinton owed the public the full truth and Hatch said he questioned whether the president provided that.
For example, Clinton admitted having "misled" the American public. Hatch said that is a tricky legal term that can be interpreted various ways and could provide a loophole for avoiding perjury charges. "I've called him a serial manipulator of legal terms," Hatch said.
Hatch also said he was offended that the situation involved the most powerful man in the world and a then-21-year-old intern. "I think that's abysmal," he said, adding that if his daughter had been in such a situation, "I can tell you I would not be mad at Judge Starr."
"It has been the president's treatment of women that has brought us to this point," Hatch said, adding that Clinton "used" his wife as well as his friends during "seven long, miserable months" when they publicly supported him.
"This is a sad day for the nation," Hatch said. "I feel sorry for Mrs. Clinton and their daughter. Believe me, I feel sorry for the president. I've always liked him. I still do. I don't relish anybody going through his problems."
Still, Hatch said he had urged the president on national television to tell the truth. "I'm not here to judge anybody's morality," the senator said. "I've seen people destroyed by weaknesses. We have to be compassionate, but we do ask people to ask forgiveness."