“The Clinton Impeachment, as Told by the People Who Lived It”
In 1998, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton on one charge of perjury and one charge of obstruction of justice. The articles of impeachment had their origin in a relationship between the president and a 22-year-old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. The intimate details, revealed by an independent counsel, had consumed the country for 11 months: part morality tale, part soap opera, part high-stakes knife fight. Politically, the country was divided—less so than now, but ferociously. We have been living with the consequences of the Clinton impeachment ever since. The political battle has stoked resentments, influenced elections, given rise to conspiracy theories, and prompted many to think about the nature of the relationship that lay at its core—one that Lewinsky has called consensual but has come to see as a “gross abuse of power.” With the anniversary approaching, The Atlantic set out to tell the story of that battle—fought by lawyers, politicians, and an assortment of hired guns—through the differing recollections of people who played a role in investigating, prosecuting, or defending Bill Clinton.
…ROBERT RAY: Around the holidays—Christmastime 2000—there was a meeting between myself, my chief of investigations, and my deputy, together with the president, David Kendall, Nicole Seligman [another Clinton lawyer], and the White House counsel, in the Map Room of the White House. It was done after hours, at night, after the last candlelight tour left the White House. It was after 10 o’clock.
The purpose of the meeting was for me to speak to the president without any filter and say, “Listen, in the best interests of the country, this is what I’m prepared to do so long as you’re prepared to do the following things that I ask. It’s not negotiable. If you do those things and you accomplish them all before you leave office, I am prepared to forgo prosecution.” The things I asked for included acknowledgment in writing of false testimony under oath; agreement to resolve matters with the Arkansas bar, which resulted in the suspension of his law license for five years; and agreement to forgo claiming legal fees in connection with the independent counsel’s investigations. And he did what I asked. That was the resolution that was announced on January 19, 2001.
When I was getting up to leave—everybody was kind of saying their goodbyes—I heard a voice. I wasn’t completely paying attention; I was distracted. Then I realized it was the president talking to me. He said, “Been out to play golf anytime recently?”