Clinton Impeachment: The President’s Lawyers

Five lawyers are to bear most of the burden of President Clinton’s defense: Charles F.C. Ruff, Gregory B. Craig, Cheryl D. Mills, David E. Kendall and Dale Bumpers.

Ruff handled the opening on Tuesday. On Wednesday, special White House counsel Craig will discuss the allegation that the president committed perjury before independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s grand jury last August. Deputy White House counsel Mills will rebut obstruction of justice charges related to the hiding of presidential gifts in the Paula Jones case and the alleged witness tampering of his secretary Betty Currie. And Kendall, the private attorney who has represented Clinton through most of the 4½-year Starr investigation starting with Whitewater, will handle the remaining obstruction allegations. Former Arkansas Senator Bumpers will then deliver closing remarks on Thursday.

Other lawyers expected to appear at the defense table include Bruce Lindsey, deputy White House counsel and the president’s discreet friend from Arkansas, Lanny A. Breuer from Ruff’s staff at the White House and private attorney Nicole K. Seligman.

A chief Watergate prosecutor, Ruff, 59, since then has rescued prominent politicians from political and legal peril, including Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-Va.), who was facing a grand jury investigation into his role in the illegal taping of a political rival’s telephone call. He also defended Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), who came under scrutiny during the 1980s during the savings and loan scandal involving Charles H. Keating Jr. He left his job as D.C. corporation counsel to succeed Jack Quinn as White House counsel. Afflicted long ago by a polio-like disease, Ruff uses a wheelchair.

For a quarter-century, Craig has served in Washington as a blue-chip lawyer, an influential Senate staff member and a key player in foreign policy. He left his post as the State Department’s director of policy planning last year to join Clinton’s defense team. He also served as the U.S. special coordinator on Tibet. While at Williams & Connolly, he guided his former boss, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), through televised testimony in the 1991 rape trial of nephew William Kennedy Smith.

Renowned for his reticence, Kendall initially labored in relative obscurity when he took the Clinton portfolio from another Williams & Connolly attorney in 1993. Only last year, after years of battling his nemesis, independent counsel Kenneth Starr, on Whitewater, did Kendall come out from behind the scenes to publicly defend the president. Kendall knows the president and Hillary Rodham Clinton from their Yale Law School days.

A deputy White House counsel, Mills has historically been a behind-the-scenes operator. Her appearance before the Senate is a public debut of sorts for the 33-year-old attorney who has earned the trust of the president and first lady by fiercely protecting their interests and keeping their secrets. Known for her intelligence and toughness, the media-wary Mills has usually been the advocate within the White House for releasing as little information as possible, sometimes in sharp disagreement with other aides. As an African American woman, Mills also will stand in contrast to the members of the House prosecution team – 13 white men.

A honey-throated, populist former country lawyer, Bumpers, 73, represented Arkansas in the U.S. Senate from 1975 until his retirement last year. Before that, he served as governor of Arkansas for four years. He is a longtime friend and supporter of Clinton.

Whenever President Clinton finds himself in trouble, Lindsey is on the job, the seemingly permanent commander-in-chief of the Clinton shovel brigade. An intense 50-year-old Arkansas lawyer, Lindsey is Clinton’s most trusted aide and was himself called to testify before Kenneth Starr’s grand jury.

White House special counsel Breuer coordinated much of the White House damage-control efforts related to the Lewinsky investigation. Like Lindsey, he was called to testify before Starr’s grand jury.

Seligman, 41, is the least-known member of Clinton’s private defense lawyers, a quiet presence at the side of her Williams & Connolly law partner, David E. Kendall. But she is one of few in Clinton’s inner circle.

Michigan Democrats Conyers, 69, was elected to the House in 1964. As as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, he led the failed battle to prevent the committee’s Republicans from passing articles of impeachment. He is the only member of the committee who served on the panel in 1974 that approved three articles of impeachment against President Nixon.

Rep. Boucher of Virginia, 52, is a policy wonk more at home on the trails of his native Appalachia than in the trenches of bitter partisan battle. But the historically low-profile member of the Judiciary committee emerged as a key player in the impeachment debate as lead author of the Democratic censure alternative.

Wisconsin Democrat Barrett, 45, was the newest member of the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment hearings. He was named by Democratic leaders on Sept. 11, the same day the independent counsel’s explosive report became public.

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