Sunday, May 3, 2009

Why is Congress Treating Karl Rove and Roger Clemens Differently?

I can't even read Sports Illustrated these days without being reminded about our screwed-up justice system.

Consider the April 27 issue of SI, which includes "Fall From Grace," a story about the looming legal woes of baseball great Roger Clemens. I've never been a Clemens fan. While the big Texan is unquestionably one of baseball's all-time great pitchers, he has long come across as an arrogant jackass who cheated the game by using performance-enhancing drugs.

But SI now reveals that Congress treated Clemens in a much tougher way than it apparently plans to treat former Bush White House strategist Karl Rove. Suddenly, Clemens seems like a sympathetic character.

We've known for weeks that Congress plans to let Rove testify unsworn, in a private setting, about apparent politicization of the Justice Department under Bush.

SI makes it clear that Clemens was offered no such accommodations when he testified before Congress in February 2008 about baseball's steroid problems.

Consider this passage from "Fall From Grace":

Flanked by his lawyers, Rusty Hardin and Lanny Breuer, Clemens entered room 2157 of the Rayburn Building, took the oath and promptly declared, "I have not used steroids or growth hormone." He repeated this denial, in various formulations, six times in the first 30 minutes of the exceedingly awkward meeting.

These were probably the most important sentences Clemens had ever uttered. The sworn statements were direct and unequivocal, and they were recorded verbatim. From that moment forward, if it were ever proved that Clemens had used steroids or HGH, he could be prosecuted for lying to Congress. For much of the deposition he sat silently while his lawyers spoke to the investigators, clarifying the pitcher's answers and bashing the methodology of the Mitchell Report. Clemens had eagerly looked forward to testifying. It was his chance to demonstrate resolve and, it seemed, to blow off steam.

We learn that the statements were sworn. And that's why Clemens is in such hot water now--because "he could be prosecuted for lying to Congress."

Congressional aides have tried to convince us that any testimony before Congress is de facto sworn testimony, meaning that Rove could face charges of lying to Congress. But that doesn't seem to square with SI's reporting on the Clemens case.

It also adds credence to Alabama lawyer (and Siegelman-case whistleblower) Jill Simpson and her contentions that Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig is trying to protect Rove.

After all, Rove is one of several former Bush officials who have been represented by Williams & Connolly, Craig's former law firm.

Clemens was represented by a couple of big hitters--Rusty Hardin, of Houston, and Lanny Breuer, of the D.C. firm Covington & Burling. President Obama has named Breuer to head the criminal division of the U.S. Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder.

Breuer clearly has clout, but he's not a Williams & Connolly guy. Maybe that's where Clemens went wrong.


Matt Osborne said...

Will it ever end?? Will these cockroaches ever be forced to endure the daylight so we can squish them with finality???

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