Rep. Lindsey Graham Questions White House Counsel Charles Ruff
POSTED: December 9, 1998
The following is excerpted from White House Counsel Charles Ruff’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee. During this series of exchanges, Rep. Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.] enters into a line of questioning regarding Sidney Blumenthal’s testimony while before Kenneth Starr’s grand jury.
Rep. Graham was particularly interested in Blumenthal’s testimony indicating that the president met with him soon after the Lewinsky story broke in the press, and characterized Monica Lewinsky as a stalker and said that she had “threatened” him.
Soon after the meeting between Clinton and Blumenthal, reports began appearing in the media suggesting that Monica Lewinsky was known to stalk the president.
REP. HYDE: The distinguished gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Graham.
REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM [R-S.C.]: Thank you. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ruff, I agree with you; if it comes down to who touched who, we’re not going to overturn the will of the people.
My quarrel is not with you, Mr. Ruff; I think you’re a fine lawyer and have done a good job. My quarrel is with your client. My quarrel goes sort of like this:
We’re bastardizing the English language. I can only believe your defense if I check my common sense at the door, and I forget the way the world really works. I’m singularly unimpressed with this defense. This defense is a rehashing of facts already in our presence, except the quote about in Africa. I do appreciate you reinterpreting the facts.
The term “alone” is a “get out of jail free” card, according to your client, because when you ask him, “Were you ever alone with a woman,” he says, “Well, no, I wasn’t,” and he meant there were other people in the building. When you try to prosecute him for perjury based on a different version of how they related to each other, the defense says, “Well, you can’t corroborate it, because there were only two people there; there was nobody else there.” The term “alone” seems to be used in many ways, in an inconsistent way, and in an offensive way, to me. And if people in America follow Bill Clinton- speak, we’re going to ruin the rule of law, and he’s not worth that. No one person in America is worth trashing out the rule of law and creating a situation where you can’t rely on your common sense.
I’m not through yet. The biggest problem I got with your client is not about a consensual affair gone awry; grand jury perjury — no excuse anytime, anywhere. It’s not about how they touched. I believe your client lied when he said he wasn’t paying attention to the discussion that Mr. Bennett had with the judge. I’ve seen the videotaped deposition. He’s following it very closely, nodding his head. He knew it was a false affidavit because he colluded, in my opinion, with Miss Lewinsky to defraud Paula Jones from getting to a relevant material fact. I believe that. Nothing has changed in my opinion there.
But the most disturbing thing about your client to me goes like this. Do you know Sidney Blumenthal?
MR. RUFF: I do.
REP. GRAHAM: Right after January the 18th, your client, for the first time, in my opinion, got wind of the fact that there may have been something known about Miss Lewinsky that his little collusion with her would not protect. They knew something he didn’t know. This is a statement he makes to Mr. Blumenthal after Dick Morris — who’s a real character, but a pretty smart guy — tells the president that if he’d just come clean, it may save him, because it might have saved Richard Nixon. And here’s Blumenthal’s discussion, according to Blumenthal’s testimony — are they close friends, by the way?
MR. RUFF: Who is close friends?
REP. GRAHAM: Blumenthal and the president.
MR. RUFF: I truly do not know the answer to that.
REP. GRAHAM: Okay. Well, let’s — we’ll find out about that later.
“And I said to the president, ‘What have you done wrong?’ And he said, ‘Nothing. I haven’t done anything wrong.’
“I said, ‘Well, then, that’s one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard’ — the idea being confessing. ‘Why would you do that if you’ve done nothing wrong?’
“And it was at this point that he gave his account of what happened to me. And he said that Monica — and it came very fast” — listen, female members of this committee” — he said, `Monica Lewinsky came at me and made a sexual demand on me.’ He rebuffed her. He said, `I’ve gone down that road before, I’ve caused pain for a lot of people and I’m not going to do that again. She threatened me.’ She said that she would tell people they had an affair and that she was known as `the stalker’ among her peers and that she hated it, and that if she had an affair or said she had an affair then she wouldn’t be `the stalker’ anymore.
“And I repeated to the president that he really needed never to be near people who were troubled like this, that it was just — he needed not to be near troubled people like this. And I said, `You need to find some sure footing here, some solid ground.’ And he said, `I feel like a character in a novel. I feel like somebody who’s surrounded by an oppressive force that’s creating a lie about me and I can’t get the truth out. I feel like the character in the novel, The Darkness at Noon.'”
Do you agree with me that the president of the United States is telling an operative — for lack of a better word — that Monica Lewinsky was a sexual predator coming on to him?
MR. RUFF: I take it that the implication in your use of the word “operative,” Congressman, is that —
REP. GRAHAM: Ever who he — ever what relationship Blumenthal had with him, he was passing on a story about Monica Lewinsky, giving this individual an impression that he was having to fight Monica Lewinsky off. Is that true or not?
MR. RUFF: You read the language, and I take it we can all understand it.
REP. GRAHAM: Thank you.
MR. RUFF: But the one thing I want to be absolutely certain of, because I think your implication is that this was somehow a directive to go out and trash Ms. Lewinsky or otherwise to denigrate her, and if that’s true, let me tell you from someone who was involved I think from day one through today in what the White House was doing and not doing, didn’t happen; never was thought of.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman’s time has expired.
The gentlelady from California, Ms. Bono.
REP. BONO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’ll be happy to yield to Congressman Graham for the amount of time that he needs.
REP. GRAHAM: Let’s continue that thought. Is it your testimony that no one in the White House has ever planted a story in the press that Monica Lewinsky is a stalker, unreliable, a troubled young lady, shouldn’t be believed? Is that your testimony?
MR. RUFF: Congressman, obviously I wouldn’t know whether there was ever anybody in the White House, but I will tell you this, that —
REP. GRAHAM: There was no organized effort.
MR. RUFF: There was no authorized effort —
REP. GRAHAM: Authorized effort.
MR. RUFF: — because we thought long and hard about how to defend this president and how to deal with the very proceedings going on today and —
REP. GRAHAM: I want to re-thank you.
Thank you very much, you’ve answered my question.
MR. RUFF: And let me — no, I have not, Mr. Congressman.
REP. GRAHAM: Please! Please let me continue. You’re saying there’s no organized effort. I have got a mountain of press stories — January the 31st, 1998 — “Should they paint her as a friendly fantacist (sic) or a malicious stalker? ‘That poor child has serious emotional problems,’ Representative Charlie Rangel said Tuesday night before the State of the Union. ‘She’s fantasizing and I haven’t heard that she played with a full deck in other experiences.’ One the most respected members of this House who was passing along something told to him by somebody. Charlie Rangel is a good man, but he was of the belief that this is a disturbed young lady.
I will read to you other press accounts shortly after — “One White House aide called reporters to offer information about Monica Lewinsky’s past, her weight problems and what they said was her nickname, the Stalker. Junior staff members speaking on the condition that they not be identified said she was known as a flirt who wore skirts too short and was a little bit weird.” I can go on and on. “The troubled girl defense, the one White House aides have been quietly testing out on reporters is the troubled girl defense, the great feeler of all pain who also bears the scars of a turbulent upbringing was just being kind to Lewinsky because she was the child of a difficult divorce, because Bernard Lewinsky’s parents were German Jews who escaped to El Salvador. The White House even speculated about family Holocaust scars.”
I have tons of press reports linked back to the White House saying this girl is unreliable, that she is basically crazy and weird and I’m telling you, I believe your client left that deposition, planted a story in Blumenthal’s mind and tried to get Betty Currie to believe, “she wanted to have sex with me and I couldn’t do that –“
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman — Mr. Chairman, a point of order.
REP. GRAHAM: He was trying to tell Betty Currie that she was coming on to him and that the president of the United States —
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman —
REP. GRAHAM: — his state of mind is established based on what he told two people close to him and shortly after that — and shortly after that —
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman, a point of order!
REP. GRAHAM: — the press operation in the White House turns on this young lady. They were calling her unbelievably vile names, questioning her sanity, and if it had not been for that blue dress, they would have tore her to pieces.
MR. RUFF: Congressman, may I now —
REP. CONYERS: Mr. Chairman — Mr. Chairman, a point of order. Charlie Rangel’s name has been mentioned as if he was working in connection with the White House —
REP. GRAHAM: No, sir — I — I —
REP. FRANK: (Inaudible due to cross talk) — order, the gentleman —
REP. : Regular order.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from Michigan.
REP. CONYERS: I really think the — (inaudible due to cross talk) — were more careful about the use of members — of integrity in the House and what their connection is with the narrative that my distinguished colleague —
REP. HYDE: Well, the chair will say he heard Mr. Graham read from a newspaper account.
REP. GRAHAM: Yes, can I please make this correct. I have no higher opinion of anybody than Charlie Rangel. He’s a Marine Corps veteran who served in Korea. Charlie Rangel was repeating something somebody told him.
REP. CONYERS: How do you know?
REP. GRAHAM: He had no reason to believe — I believe that’s what the newspaper account shows, that Mr. Rangel was passing on a thought planted in his mind, and he’s a very innocent victim of the spin machine, like maybe all of us are around here.
REP. WATERS: Mr. Rangel is — (inaudible due to cross talk) — speak his own words. He don’t need to have anybody plant — (cross talk) —
REP. HYDE: The gentlelady is not recognized. The gentleman’s time has almost expired, and —
REP. GRAHAM: I yield back the balance of my time, and I really will introduce —
REP. FRANK: Mr. Chairman, point of order — the witness was on the point of answering when —
REP. GRAHAM: Oh, all right —
REP. HYDE: Point of order —
REP. FRANK: — when — couldn’t the witness have a chance to answer?
REP. HYDE: He surely should. The gentleman may answer if he wishes.
MR. RUFF: I would only make two points, with all due respect, Congressman. Other than your speculation, you have no basis to suggest that the president of the United States ever directed any such sort of —
REP. GRAHAM: Mr. Ruff?
MR. RUFF: Let me —
REP. GRAHAM: How do you establish state of mind of a witness?
MR. RUFF: Let me — all right, I think out of all due courtesy, I’m entitled to 30 seconds to respond to a ten-minute question.
REP. GRAHAM: Okay.
MR. RUFF: You have no basis for making that allegation, and I will tell you that to the extent I have any personal knowledge, I will represent to you that to the contrary, a very careful and well- considered decision was made to do our damnedest to ensure that in fact no such personal attack was ever made.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman. Everybody is — Mr. Nadler?
REP. NADLER: I don’t know if this is a point of order or what, but I just ask that the chair would suggest to the witness he speak more closely to the microphone.
REP. HYDE: (Chuckles.) Thank you.
MR. RUFF: I apologize. It’s been a long afternoon, but I’ll try to stay close.
REP. JENKINS: Mr. Chairman?
REP. HYDE: Yes, Mr. Jenkins?
REP. JENKINS: Mr. Chairman, I have time remaining, and I yield it to the gentleman from South Carolina.
REP. GRAHAM: Mr. Ruff, I’ll —
REP. FRANK: Parliamentary inquiry!
REP. WATERS (?): Time? What time?
REP. HYDE: The gentleman may state a — just a moment, I’m about to entertain a parliamentary inquiry. What is your inquiry?
REP. FRANK: I’ve just a question — Mr. Jenkins hasn’t been called on at all before?
REP. HYDE: He reserved his time.
Mr. Graham has been yielded Mr. Jenkins’ time.
REP. GRAHAM: I suggest this solution to this problem — that I will get the press reports that I am referring to, and I will introduce them into the record, and every committee member will have a chance to look and see what was going on toward Ms. Lewinsky, what was coming out of the White House, and they can make their own decisions about how this started.
I also would like to point both — the committee members to the fact that we have statements from the president shortly after the deposition, where he is planting in the mind of Mr. Blumenthal a story that is patently false, a story that — if you believe — he was having to defend himself from Monica Lewinsky, the stalker, a term he used. Shortly after the president used the term “stalker,” we see press accounts where White House sources are calling her a stalker. He goes to his secretary the day after the deposition and runs a passage by her basically saying, “She wanted to have sex with me, and I couldn’t do that.” I’ve always wondered what that was about. Now I believe it’s not so much trying to influence her testimony as to plant into Ms. Currie’s mind or thought pattern that Monica Lewinsky was coming on to him.
Every member needs to look at this. This is something that is more than consensual sex; this is something, in my opinion, ladies and gentleman, where a high public official is using the trappings of his office, the White House, to go after a potential witness who, if that witness is called and gives testimony down the road in a sworn fashion, not just tapes, that what he is trying to do is set up a defense to make her not believable. That this witness possesses information that would hurt his political and legal interests, and the president of the United States, I believe, planted stories that were false.
And shortly after those stories were planted, the White House operation went into effect notifying the press that if you ever hear anything about this witness, you need to know she’s unreliable, she’s a stalker, she’s basically not a responsible person. That Bill Clinton did, in fact, like so many women in the past, so many women in the past — that Monica Lewinsky was going to go through hell. And that the only thing that stopped this was it was just maybe one too many women to trash out, or it became the blue dress. You can think what you want to about Linda Tripp, but I can tell you right now, I believe in the bottom of my heart, ladies and gentlemen, that if she didn’t have that blue dress proving a relationship, they would have cut her up.
And I’ve got evidence in the press reports coming out from the White House sources after the president plants in the minds of two people close to him that she was coming on to him. That was a false story, and I do believe for a moment in time the president of the United Stats used the full power and force of the White house to go after a young lady so that he (sic) couldn’t hurt him politically and legally.
And that is far more like Watergate than Peyton Place. And I’m going to believe that probably till I die. And I don’t ask you to accept my rendition of the facts. I do ask every member, especially the female members here — if you’ve ever done a rape trial, you know what comes women’s way sometimes; they wear their skirts too tight and they’re flirtatious, and you gotta watch out for these type ladies; they even called her Elvira at one time in one of the press reports — that this is serious. And I do wish the president would reconcile him with the law, Mr. Ruff — himself with the law.
REP. WATERS: Mr. Chairman.
REP. GRAHAM: I do wish he would quit saying “alone” means one thing one time and means something else. I do believe that the president of the United States was willing to use the weight of his office, take a consensual sex partner, a 22-year-old lady, and he was going to turn on her, and they were going to unleash stuff on her that she would never have been able to handle.
And that to me is far worse or as bad as anything that anybody has brought to my attention in this case, and I need to reconcile this in my mind, and I’ll try keep an open heart so we can bring this country together. But I will give the members of the committee the press reports, and you can read for yourself what they were about to do and what they were calling this young lady. And it was not going to be pretty.
And I will yield back the balance of my time.
REP. WATERS: Mr. Chairman.
REP. FRANK: Mr. Chairman, a unanimous consent request.
REP. GRAHAM: And I will apologize — I will apologize to this committee.
REP. FRANK: Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous consent request.
REP. GRAHAM: I was (being ?) upset because this —
REP. HYDE: If — if — if —
REP. WATERS: Mr. Chairman, personal privilege. Personal privilege. Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: If you will just please be quiet. Mr. Buyer has time that he wants to use now.
REP. FRANK: Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous consent request.
REP. HYDE: But I will be happy to entertain motions. Mr. Frank has a motion.
REP. FRANK: I would ask unanimous —
REP. WATERS: Point of personal privilege.
REP. HYDE: I’ll get to you next. Just a minute.
REP. FRANK: I would ask unanimous consent, after that loaded, filibustered question, that the gentleman be given a chance to respond. To put a question such as that, to use up the full five minutes deliberately so that there can be no chance to respond is inappropriate, and I would ask unanimous consent that the witness be given a couple of minutes to respond.
REP. HYDE: I would join in that unanimous consent to give Mr. Ruff time. But before we get to that, we have Ms. Watters to deal with. Ms. Waters. (Laughter.)
REP. WATERS: Point of personal privilege. I resent Mr. Lindsey’s (sic) reference —
REP. GOODLATTE (?): Mr. Chairman, regular order.
REP. : Regular order.
REP. HYDE: Ms. Waters, have you a point of order?
REP. WATERS: Yes, my point of personal privilege is the reference that he made to every woman on this committee.
REP. GRAHAM: Ma’am, I didn’t mean to —
REP. HYDE: Well, that certainly includes you. (Laughter.)
REP. GRAHAM: I didn’t mean to — I certainly didn’t mean to do anything disparaging. All I’m saying is I’ve been a prosecutor in these cases.
REP. WATERS: I know what you did not mean to do, but have a point of personal privilege —
REP. GRAHAM: Yes, ma’am.
REP. HYDE: Please state your point.
REP. WATERS: — which I’m (appealing ?) to — my point is that he made a reference to what every woman on this committee should do and how we should feel about the spin that he just put on wild allegations about the president of the United States.
I think, as one of the women of this committee, and every other woman should have an opportunity to respond since he is talking for us and about us.
REP. : Regular order, Mr. Chairman.
REP. : Order.
REP. : Regular order.
REP. HYDE: I think your point is you’ve taken offense, and you’ve expressed your resentment and —
REP. WATERS: No, I have not. I’m asking for permission to do such, Mr. Chairman.
REP. GRAHAM: I apologize if I’ve offended her.
REP. : Regular order, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: Well, it really isn’t a point of order. It is — I want you to express yourself, I think you have. Could you do it another minute maybe?
REP. WATERS: Yes. I would like to say that every member of this committee should be offended by the spin that was just — the wild spin that was just put on by Mr. Lindsey (referring to Rep. Graham) in attempting to somehow send a message to Monica Lewinsky that she’s been undermined by the president of the United States, and thus set her up to be angry at the president in case she’s called as a witness. We’re no fools.
REP. HYDE: Thank you very much.
Now Mr. Buyer is recognized —
REP. FRANK: Mr. Chairman, our unanimous consent request.
REP. HYDE: Who — I’m sorry. Mr. Ruff is recognized for three minutes.
MR. RUFF: I’ll try not to use all of that time, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your letting me respond. Congressman Graham, I have the greatest respect for you. I have to make two fundamental points. One, I absolutely reject the notion that the president of the United States, either explicitly or implicitly, authorized, directed, hinted at or caused any such attack of the sort you describe.
But second, I must say, even out of the greatest respect for members of this committee, that to be greeted at the end of a long day by the next-to-the-last speaker with a litany of charges never heard before, not even, I believe, included in whatever document it was that I was handed a few minutes ago, does not give us any reasonable opportunity for fair response. And I would ask the chair’s permission that if this is to be in any respect a factor in the consideration of this committee’s grave duties over the next few days, that we be given an opportunity first to have clear and explicit statements by the Congressman with whatever supporting information he believes he has; and second, a reasonable opportunity to respond.
REP. HYDE: Well, we have a schedule we are trying to adhere to.
Mr. Graham can put together a package of his documentation and get it to you immediately for your review and response. We are not going to be through with our business, I don’t think, until Saturday at the earliest. And anything you want to add by way of rebuttal or amplification or commentary would be received by the committee.
I guess this is kind of a wild-card situation, unanticipated. But —
REP. GRAHAM: Mr. Chairman, since I was — (referred to ?) — I’ll be glad to do that. And in terms of the timing, as I have said, this became clear to me after trying to figure out what he was saying to Betty Currie. And we’ll all have a chance to evaluate —
REP. WATERS: Regular order.
REP. GRAHAM: — if it makes any sense. And I will gladly give you the press releases —
REP. WATERS: Regular order, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: Well, I think we are trying to wind this up. And I am trying to get Mr. Graham — and he seems to be agreeing — to present his information to Mr. Ruff, whereupon Mr. Ruff can analyze it and respond in some appropriate way.
You just let me know how you want to do it, if you want to come back. But —
MR. RUFF: I will be glad to do that. I appreciate it, Mr. Chairman. We will work within your timelines.
REP. HYDE: Very good.
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WHITE HOUSE REBUTTAL | CLINTON GRAND JURY TRANSCRIPT | LEWINSKY GRAND JURY TRANSCRIPT | NEW STARR RELEASE | 81 QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | EXPERTS TESTIFY ON IMPEACHMENT | HEARING TRANSCRIPTS: 2-DAY CLINTON DEFENSE | 184-PAGE CLINTON DEFENSE REPORT | CLINTON’S POST-IMPEACHMENT ADDRESS TO NATION | BIOS OF SENATE TRIAL MANAGERS | LEWINSKY DEPOSITION | JORDAN DEPOSITION | BLUMENTHAL DEPOSITION | MANAGERS’ CLOSING ARGUMENTS | PRESIDENT’S CLOSING DEFENSE
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