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Saturday Night Spectacle: Fight Over Lewinsky

The attempts by House Managers to interview Monica Lewinsky caused uproar in the Capitol on Saturday, January 23, 1999.

US District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ordered Lewinsky to appear before the House managers or lose her immunity from prosecution.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin unsuccessfully attempted to delay the adjournment of the Senate trial. Harkin also requested Chief Justice Rehnquist to overturn Holloway’s ruling.

The involvement of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr was seen by Democrats as outside his jurisdiction.


Text of the order by U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ordering Monica Lewinsky to appear before House managers.

“Upon consideration of the Emergency Motion of the United States of America for Enforcement of Immunity Agreement, it is hereby by ordered that the motion is granted. It is further ordered that Monica S. Lewinsky allow herself to be debriefed by the House Managers, to be conducted by the Office of The Independent Counsel if she so requests, or forfeit her protections under the Immunity Agreement between Ms. Lewinsky and the OIC.”

Letter to the Chief Justice from Senator Tom Harkin.

Dear Mr. Chief Justice:

I am writing you on a matter of significant constitutional consequence. I ask you, as presiding officer of this Court of Impeachment, to issue an order in protection of this court’s “sole power to try impeachment” to prohibit any questioning by or on behalf of the House Managers of any witness pursuant to the January 23, 1999, order of the District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson.

Such questioning would violate the Senate’s sole authority under Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution to try impeachments and would be a clear violation of the procedures adopted unanimously by this Senate for the conduct of this trial. It is up to the Senate, not the Independent Counsel or any Article III district judge, to determine the procedures under which the House Managers or White House Counsel may interview witnesses.

In support of my request, I cite the Supreme Court’s opinion in U.S. v. Nixon, wherein the Supreme Court held, and I quote: “The first sentence in Article I, Section 3 is a grant of authority to the Senate, and the word ‘sole’ indicates that this authority is reposed in the Senate and nowhere else. …Judicial involvement in impeachment proceedings, even if only for purposes of judicial review, is counterintuitive because it would eviscerate the ‘important constitutional check’ placed on the Judiciary by the Framers.”

As the Independent Counsel may be interviewing Ms. Lewinsky as early as tomorrow morning, I ask that you give prompt consideration of this matter. Thank you for your consideration of my request.


Tom Harkin
United States Senator

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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