Independent Counsel Robert Ray has empaneled a new grand jury to hear evidence against President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, ABCNEWS has confirmed.
ABCNEWS.com Aug. 17
— Independent Counsel Robert Ray has empaneled a new grand jury to take another look at evidence against President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, sources tell ABCNEWS.
The jury was convened several weeks ago, sources say. The Associated Press reported the date was July 11.
In the past, Ray has said he intended to weigh whether the president should be indicted on criminal charges after he steps down. Clinton was impeached by the House in December 1998 and then acquitted by the Senate two months later, allowing him to serve out the remainder of his term.
The timing of the announcement — on the day Vice President Al Gore is set to give his speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination at the party’s convention — angered the White House.
“The timing of this leak reeks to high heaven,” White House spokesman Jake Siewert said, who added the White House would have no further comment today.
One White House official said the move supports the notion that the independent counsel’s office is an arm of the Republican Party. Ray replaced former Independent Counsel Ken Starr last year.
Perjury, Obstruction of Justice?
The new panel is considering evidence on whether Clinton committed perjury or obstructed justice when he denied an affair in sworn testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.
A judge has already ruled the president gave false testimony and fined him $90,000 for civil contempt of court, a first for a sitting president. The disciplinary committee of the Arkansas Supreme Court has also moved to revoke Clinton’s law license.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel said it would allow Ray to continue his investigation even though the independent counsel law expired last year. The judges ruled that termination of the office “is not currently appropriate” and still applies to Ray’s office under a grandfather clause.
Keith Ausbrook, senior counsel to Ray, declined comment about any grand jury activity, which is kept secret by law. But in response to the judges’ order, Ausbrook noted that “we’ve made public that the Lewinsky investigation remains open and that the e-mail investigation remains open.”
The e-mail probe focuses on whether the White House concealed thousands of electronic messages sought by investigators. Presidential aides deny wrongdoing.
Ray’s office recently closed the books on two other Clinton-era controversies — the White House gathering of secret FBI files on Republicans and the firings of White House travel office employees. The prosecutor declined to bring criminal charges in either case.
Majority Oppose Charges
An expert cautioned that empaneling a new grand jury is no guarantee that Ray will seek an indictment.
“It’s merely a step in an investigation, not an indication an indictment would ever be approved by a grand jury or even presented to the grand jury,” said John Douglass, a former prosecutor in the Iran-Contra scandal and an expert in criminal law and criminal procedure at the University of Richmond.
Ray, however, has made no secret he intends to weigh whether Clinton should be indicted.