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Judiciary Committee Asks Clinton to Answer Charges

By Juliet Eilperin
and Peter Baker
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

The House Judiciary Committee asked President Clinton Thursday to admit that he gave "false and misleading testimony under oath" about his relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky and that he tried to help her get a job at the same time she was being sought as a witness in the Paula Jones lawsuit.

As Judiciary Chairman Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill., unveiled plans for a scaled-back impeachment inquiry, his staff delivered to the White House a list of 81 specific "requests for admission" asking the president to confirm or dispute evidence collected by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr during his eight-month investigation into the Lewinsky matter.

The inquiries included in the 10-page questionnaire ranged from relatively straightforward matters, such as acknowledging telephone calls already documented by White House records, to more challenging requests that he "admit or deny" lying in a Jones deposition and subsequent appearance before Starr's grand jury. In a cover letter, Hyde said the answers would be under oath but would "not be considered to have any bearing or effect" on any other legal proceeding, an effort to assuage concerns that Clinton would be putting himself in jeopardy in the Jones case or any possible Starr prosecution.

The request was the first public fact-finding effort by the committee, although it came as some lawmakers in both parties were coming to the conclusion that the process may be moot following Democratic successes in Tuesday's midterm elections.

While some Clinton advisers privately have resisted the notion of stipulating to any facts in Starr's report to Congress, White House officials Thursday pledged to cooperate without making any specific commitments.

"There's a lot there that we could do," said special counsel Gregory B. Craig, who is heading the president's impeachment defense. "We'll get through this. We will make a varsity effort to get through this quickly and respond in a timely way and I think that's sooner rather than later."

Hyde issued a thinly veiled warning that refusing to answer questions would be held against the president. "When the Nixon White House failed to cooperate fully, the committee approved an article of impeachment against the president for usurping the authority of Congress," he told a Chicago news conference.

The questionnaire was delivered the same day Hyde announced plans for severely limited hearings that for now envisioned calling only one major witness - Starr himself. None of the central players, such as Lewinsky, presidential confidant Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Oval Office secretary Betty Currie or onetime Lewinsky friend Linda R. Tripp, would be subpoenaed because their sworn testimony is already available from the Starr investigation.

Aside from the Starr hearing on Nov. 19, Hyde announced that the Congressional Research Service will conduct a seminar on impeachment law and procedure next Thursday, following a subcommittee hearing Monday on the history of impeachment. While sources said Hyde privately told fellow committee members Wednesday that he hoped to have a vote on articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving, he dismissed that goal Thursday as "too abbreviated" and Republicans said they were aiming for early to mid-December.