No, not the Bill Clinton that won a second term. No, certainly not like the Bill Clinton that left office with a budget surplus. More like the Bill Clinton that was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice after his sexual dallies with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
After being elected President in 1992, investigations over Clinton’s involvement in the failed Whitewater Development Company and the suicide of White House lawyer Vince Foster got no where. But Paula Jones, a former Arkansas publicly employee had filed suit in 1994 accusing Clinton of sexual harassment while Governor of Arkansas.
Her lawyers made Clinton’s pattern of sexual behavior an issue and when Clinton was caught lying about sexual relations with Lewinsky during his testimony in the case, the Whitewater special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr submitted a report to Congress on possible grounds for impeachment.
In October, 1998, the Republican controlled House voted to impeach Clinton. When tried in the Senate, Clinton was acquitted when many Senators, including several Republicans didn’t think the crimes met the “high crimes and misdemeanor” standard in the Constitution.
Now it’s Trump facing legal challenges over his sexual conduct while a larger investigation by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller over his campaign’s connection to Russian interference in elections is underway.
A porn star, Stormy Daniels, is trying to break a non-disclosure agreement for which Trump’s lawyer paid her $130,000. A Playboy model, Karen McDougal, is talking of her 10-month affair and suing a media company for killing her “exclusive” story by not publishing it. And a former “The Apprentice” contestant, Summer Zevos, has turned Trump’s attacks on her and her allegation of inappropriate kissing and groping into a defamation suit.
For Trump the parallels are there. Clinton believed he was the victim of a witch hunt, attacked his accusers, and publicly vehemently denied any wrongdoing. The broad authority to look into “other matters” that Starr used to follow the Jones case is similar to the authority Mueller has been given in his investigation.
Clinton also set precedent Trump can’t avoid.
When Clinton argued he couldn’t be sued while President, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 1997 that a sitting President has no immunity from civil law litigation and there’s no temporary immunity delaying a case until the President leaves office. It’s the precedent the New York Supreme Court cited in denying Trump’s request to throw out the Zevos case because, he claimed, as President he was immune from such civil action.
This means, at least in the Zevos case, Trump doesn’t have a way out. He now has more to worry about than Mueller. As the Zevos case proceeds, he is now subject to discovery and to testifying. It means potential uncovering of information he’d rather not disclose. Zevo’s legal team has already asked for relevant Trump campaign documents.
It means Trump’s proclivity for lying and “pants-on-fire” assertions may be tested in a court of law, where, as Clinton found out, testimony in a civil proceeding can morph into criminal charges. We may finally see how well Trump’s belligerent, defensive, and quick release personality holds up under oath under interrogation by opposing counsel armed with facts Trump can’t suppress.
It means more will come out publicly and, because litigation can take years, it could be a drawn out process. It means more women might come forward to tell their tale.
It’s hard to tell how any court proceedings will effect public perception or future political and legal consequences. But Clinton found out these things don’t go well.
Even after the court ruled the Lewinsky scandal immaterial and threw out the Jones suit, Clinton ended up settling the case while on appeal with an out-of-court agreement to pay Jones $850,000 without admitting any wrongdoing.
It happens that Donald Trump may soon find himself in Bill Clinton’s shoes.