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Clinton Should Resign, GOP Rep. Armey Suggests

Politics: 'I believe he's a shameless person,' House majority leader says. Meanwhile, a friend of Kathleen E. Willey is questioned by grand jury.

April 08, 1998|DAVID WILLMAN and TOM SCHULTZ | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) suggested Tuesday that President Clinton should resign, while a friend of Kathleen E. Willey, who has accused Clinton of groping her, and a White House archivist were questioned before a federal grand jury here.

Army's implicit call for Clinton's resignation ranks as the most severe criticism leveled by a Republican leader since the controversy surrounding the president's relationship with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky erupted publicly three months ago.

The comments, first made Monday in an appearance at a Dallas-area school, provoked ridicule from presidential aides, who sought to lump the conservative lawmaker with independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.

Armey issued a statement Tuesday morning saying he stood behind the remarks, originally made to a high school class.

"I believe he's [Clinton] a shameless person," Armey told the students. "If it were me that had documented personal conduct along the lines of the president's, I would be so filled with shame that I would resign. This president won't do that. His basic credo in life is, 'I will do whatever I can get away with.' "

Asked about Armey's remarks while shaking hands at an event in Kansas City, Mo., Clinton quipped: "I hope he has a nice day."

At the White House, presidential strategist Paul Begala responded more derisively.

"Like we say in Texas, if goofy ideas ever go to $40 a barrel, I want the drilling rights to Dick Armey's head," he said.

Begala, who helped manage Clinton's first campaign for the presidency, added: "He [Armey] just comes up with these goofy notions and it's just a partisan attempt, I think, from the right-wing Republicans to form an alliance with Ken Starr in a very partisan investigation."

The rhetorical sparring ensued as the White House and House Republican leaders jockey for advantage in anticipation of a report from Starr. The independent counsel is investigating whether Clinton lied under oath about his dealings with Lewinsky or Willey or encouraged others to provide false testimony.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said Tuesday that he does not share Armey's viewpoint. But "the president should tell the country the truth . . . " Gingrich said on NBC's "Today" show. "I think that the rest of us ought to be patient and wait for [Starr] to report."

Federal law requires an independent counsel to advise the House of "any substantial and credible information . . . that may constitute grounds for an impeachment."

Meanwhile, at least two witnesses appeared Tuesday before the grand jury.

Janis Kearney, a White House archivist who keeps official records and composes a daily diary that includes personal observations, declined afterward to discuss her testimony. The other witness was Harolyn Cardozo, a former White House volunteer and friend of Willey's.

"I willingly responded to questions related to my relationship with Kathleen Willey, with whom I served as a volunteer in the White House social office," Cardozo told reporters. "I answered all questions to the best of my ability. I answered those questions truthfully and forthrightly."

Cardozo's family is prominent in national Democratic politics.

Her husband, Michael H. Cardozo, until recently headed a defense fund to help defray legal expenses incurred by the president and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her father is Nathan Landow, a major fund-raiser for Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

Starr is examining whether Landow tried to influence Willey's testimony on the alleged groping incident with Clinton, which Willey said occurred on Nov. 29, 1993, just outside the Oval Office. Willey said in a sworn statement in February that she discussed the encounter "extensively" with Landow.

Prosecutors are interested in whatever Willey may have said to Cardozo about the Clinton incident. The president has said that he did nothing more than hug Willey and kiss her on the forehead.

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