The White House said Wednesday that Republicans were making an "utterly ridiculous" attempt to model the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton after the House investigation of Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal a quarter-century ago.
"The notion that there is any parallel is laughable," presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said. "Look at the sorry and wrong list of crimes committed, Constitution subverted, that was Watergate. Come on. That is just nonsense."The White House attack came as details began emerging about soon-to-be-released testimony on Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, including transcripts of secret grand jury testimony from high-level Clinton aides and taped conversations between the former intern and Linda Tripp.
In one instance, White House adviser Sidney Blumenthal says he raised a question about Lewinsky with Hillary Rodham Clinton and was told not to worry, that the president was "ministering to a troubled young person."
McCurry, in a briefing with reporters, accused Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a member of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, of changing his tune dramatically about what constitutes an impeachable offense. Lott said Tuesday that even "bad conduct" could warrant impeachment.
Accusing Lott of a double standard, McCurry said, "In 1974, Trent Lott signed a minority report for the committee that was quite clear. It was the kinds of crimes that subvert the Constitution and damage the country. And the question before the House is: Does the president's conduct in this instance rise to that level. And we argue strenuously that it does not."
The 1974 minority report said the framers of the Constitution "intended that the president should be removable by the legislative branch only for serious misconduct dangerous to the system of government. . . . ."
McCurry said the Judiciary Committee's proceedings, run by Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., lack the focus and discipline of the 1974 proceedings. "They're just kind of running around," McCurry said. "They want to bring back (Rep.) Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and (Sen.) Al D'Amato (R-N.Y.) for a reprise of their greatest hits of the last several years." The two lawmakers led investigations of the Clinton administration.