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Kenneth Starr, report arrives at Congress as Clinton offers apologies


WASHINGTON (BP)–Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr sent a long-awaited report including what his office called “substantial and credible information that may constitute grounds for impeachment” of President Clinton on the same day the president expressed remorse publicly and privately to members of his own political party.
Starr’s report, which was delivered to the House of Representatives with little warning the afternoon of Sept. 9, overshadowed what began as an important day in Clinton’s efforts to salvage his presidency. The Independent Counsel’s submission grabbed the attention from the president’s private apology to House Democratic Party leaders and a public request for forgiveness at a fund-raising event in Florida.
The 445-page report focuses on allegations of perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Clinton in an attempt to cover up his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, according to sources cited by The Washington Post. After arrival on Capitol Hill, the report, plus 36 boxes of evidence, was placed in a guarded, locked room at a House office building.
The president did not comment on the delivery of the report, but David Kendall, his personal lawyer, said in a brief statement, according to a transcript on The Post’s Internet site, “People should keep in mind that the documents delivered to Congress today represent only the prosecutor’s allegations — allegations that we have been denied a chance to review. But we do know this: There is no basis for impeachment.”
The House is expected to approve release of the 445-page report to members of Congress and the public Sept. 11, according to news reports. When the release is approved, the report is expected to be made available immediately on the Internet.
The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Hyde, R.-Ill., will review the report and other material, then vote on whether to send it to the House for an impeachment vote. If a majority of the House were to vote for impeachment, the Senate would hold the equivalent of a trial requiring a two-thirds vote to remove Clinton from office.
“I think that we certainly ought to be in prayer for our nation,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, on his Sept. 10 radio broadcast. “We need to pray for our nation’s leaders, starting with President Clinton and all of our leaders in Congress, and we need to pray that they will do their duty.”
Clinton began the day with a White House meeting with House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri and other Democratic representatives. Participants told reporters afterward the president apologized.
“It was an emotional meeting,” Gephardt said, according to a transcript on the The Post’s Internet site. “And he apologized to us directly for what had happened.”
The Democrats told the president he needed to do the same thing publicly in a way he did not Aug. 17 in what many of his allies even said was an inadequate televised confession to the country.
“I advised him that the president needs to make it clear to the American people, in a way that he did to us today, his contrition, his sorrow for his actions,” said Minority Whip David Bonior of Michigan, according to The Post. “And he needs to do that not just once; he needs to understand that this is a process that will be ongoing — this issue will be raised time and again throughout the weeks, perhaps even months.”
Later at a fund-raiser in Orlando, Fla., Clinton told the Democrats present he had failed them. “And I let my family down, and I let this country down,” he said. “But I’m trying to make it right. And I’m determined never to let anything like that happen again.
“So I ask for your understanding, for your forgiveness on this journey we’re on. I hope this will be a time of reconciliation and healing, and I hope that millions of families all over America are in a way growing stronger because of this.”
The president said “these have been the toughest days of my life” but he has “no one to blame but myself for my self-inflicted wounds.”
He warned the Democrats not to let the election focus on what is going on in Washington. “(It) doesn’t take away from whether we’re right or wrong on the issues or what we’ve done for the last six years or what this election is about,” Clinton said.
The president told the crowd of meeting a boy earlier in the day at an Orlando school. Clinton said, “(He) said, ‘Mr. President, I want to grow up to be president. I want to be a president like you.’ I thought, I want to be able to conduct my life and my presidency so that all the parents of the country could feel good if their children were able to say that again. I’ll never forget that little boy, and it’s a big guide for me.”
Commenting on the anecdote on his radio show Sept. 10, Land said, “Mr. President, the time to have thought that was before you engaged in these actions and before you lied about them. I mean I don’t know too many parents who want their children to grow up to be even reformed philanderers and even to be repentant liars. The president, by saying this, doesn’t seem to understand that even though there can be forgiveness, trust is not something you ask for; trust is something you earn.”
At an evening fund-raiser Sept. 9 in Coral Gables, Fla., the president said, according to The Post, “I’ve tried to do a good job taking care of this country even when I haven’t take such good care of myself and my family and my obligations. I hope you and others I have injured will forgive me for the mistakes I have made.”
Land repeated his earlier call for Clinton to resign.
“I still believe that if the president were truly contrite and truly understood the enormity of what he has done to himself and to his office and to the nation,” Land said “he would put an end to this all and he would go before the American people, issue a clear apology, ask for their forgiveness, ask for their prayers and resign in favor of his hand-picked vice president, Al Gore.”
Although Clinton said in a Sept. 2 news conference in Russia he had asked for forgiveness, his speech at the Orlando fund-raiser was the first time he had requested forgiveness publicly.
After the delivery of Starr’s report, a moderate Southern Baptist leader called upon religious and political leaders to be “healing and constructive forces.” C. Welton Gaddy, executive director of The Interfaith Alliance, said in a written release, “All of us should refrain from quick judgment absent full information and abstain from using this national tragedy as a platform for promoting sectarian and partisan agendas.
“Unfortunately, in recent days, many religious leaders, asserting moral authority, have used divisive and at times uncivil rhetoric that implies a lack of confidence in our judicial process.”
When asked whom Gaddy was referring to, Amber Khan, an Interfaith Alliance spokesperson, cited conservative evangelical leaders Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer, Pat Robertson and James Dobson.
Gaddy serves in leadership capacities for The Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, organizations started in response to the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. The Interfaith Alliance was founded in 1994 as an alternative to Christian Coalition and other conservative religious organizations.
In his latest monthly letter, Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, addressed the White House scandal for what he said was the first time since allegations of Clinton’s adultery with Lewinsky broke in January. He concluded, “We are facing a profound moral crisis — not only because one man has disgraced us — but because our people no longer recognize the nature of evil. And when a national reaches that state of depravity — judgment is a certainty.”
SBC President Paige Patterson recently joined Land in calling for the president to resign. Other Southern Baptists supporting a presidential resignation are David Gushee, ethics professor at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and Wayne Ward, retired theology professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky and a personal friend of the Clintons.
Clinton is a member of Immanuel Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Little Rock, Ark., but he regularly attends Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington.
In response to Patterson’s Sept. 6 call for Clinton to resign, Philip Wogaman, Foundry’s pastor, said those who disagree should speak out. “Taking the sum of what I know about the situation into consideration, I feel it would be a tragedy for his presidency to end over this matter,” Wogaman told United Press International. “I think it would be very good for the nation to rise to the level of forgiveness now.”
Bob Reccord, president of Southern Baptists’ North American Mission Board, added his call for Clinton’s resignation Sept. 9, noting:
“Solid and healthy leadership is based on integrity. Webster’s defines integrity as ‘complete honesty and straightforwardness; the quality of being undivided.’ Integrity and leadership was forfeited when President Clinton knowingly and willfully lied to the nation, his own leadership team and those investigating the sad circumstances. Due to the immorality involved, the moral authority upon which his leadership must stand has been eroded and washed away, and his lack of forthright quick repentant apology exacerbated the entire issue. If Mr. Clinton chooses not to resign or to very openly address the issues with the nation, Congress must move forward to determine if there has been an impeachable offense through perjury or obstruction of a witness and move forward to do the difficult job they are entrusted to uphold.”
Meanwhile, allies of Clinton continue to criticize his actions. Sen. Robert Byrd, D.-W.Va., said in a Senate speech the president is “reaping the whirlwind” of his own behavior, but Byrd cautioned there should not be a “rush to judgment,” according to The Post.
Byrd joined Democratic Sens. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Daniel Moynihan of New York, Bob Kerry of Nebraska, Patty Murray of Washington, Barbara Boxer of California and Ernest Hollings of South Carolina who have condemned the president’s behavior.
On Sept. 9, a dissident chapter of the National Organization for Women called for Clinton to resign. The Dulles, Va., area NOW cited his “public abuse of women” by allowing White House spokesman to attack women who had told the truth about the president.