Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Top Republican's report questions inferences that Clemens lied
The Roger Clemens vs. Brian McNamee dispute over whether the seven-time Cy Young Award winner took performance-enhancing drugs has become a feud between Republicans and Democrats.
Reprising the partisan nature of last month's Clemens-McNamee congressional hearing, the leading Republican on that committee released a report Tuesday questioning some of the Democratic majority's conclusions about the investigation.
The 109-page report contains details Rep. Tom Davis believes could challenge the credibility of Brian McNamee, the personal trainer who testified under oath he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone from 1998-01.
Minority staff from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will pass along additional information to the Justice Department. The FBI is investigating whether Clemens testified truthfully to Congress.
"Did Roger Clemens lie to us?" Davis said in a release accompanying the report.
"Some of the evidence seems to say he did; other information suggests he told the truth," the Virginia Republican said. "It's a far more complicated picture than some may want to believe. Memories fade and recollections differ. That's human nature, not criminal conduct."
The report does not take issue with the basis for the criminal referral -- the core matter of whether Clemens lied to Congress about taking performance-enhancers. But it does question McNamee's versions of events on several points.
It includes portions of previously undisclosed interviews with new witnesses and addresses issues such as whether Clemens attended a party at then-teammate Jose Canseco's house in 1998; information about injections of vitamin B-12; and whether Clemens developed an abscess on his buttocks.
The report -- "Weighing the Committee Record: A Balanced Review of the Evidence Regarding Performance Enhancing Drugs in Baseball" -- stands as a counterpoint to the 18-page memo compiled by majority staff and released by chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, on Feb. 27.
That was the day Waxman and Davis jointly asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to open an investigation into whether Clemens committed perjury in his statements at a Feb. 5 deposition or the Feb. 13 hearing. There was no criminal referral of McNamee.
"We believe the Democratic memorandum does not fully represent the investigative work of the committee or the evidentiary record," Tuesday's report said.
Clemens' lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin, called the Republican's findings "a welcome attempt to balance the scales a little bit."
"I'm glad that somebody has independently looked at it and said, 'There's another side to this story that did not come through in the majority report,'" Hardin said. "Waxman's attempt to channel this to one conclusion and one conclusion only has been shameful, quite frankly."
The report criticizes Democrats for taking witnesses' quotations out of context, for going "far afield into Clemens's recollections about inconsequential matters," and for waiting until "63 minutes before the committee hearing" to let Republicans know about a medical expert the majority had contacted.
During that hearing, McNamee repeated his accusations, while Clemens repeated his denials -- under oath and under questioning from lawmakers that often broke down along party lines. Democrats were tougher on Clemens; Republicans gave McNamee a harder time.
"Clemens and McNamee told two spectacularly conflicting stories. The differing testimony leads to an obvious conclusion -- one committed perjury and made materially false statements to Congress. Both are serious crimes. The ultimate question for the Justice Department is whether Clemens knowingly provided materially false testimony about using anabolic steroids and human growth hormone," the Republican report read. "If Clemens is not lying on that subject, McNamee is."
Waxman's Feb. 27 memo outlined the reasons for the criminal referral, summarizing "seven sets of assertions made by Mr. Clemens in his testimony that appear to be contradicted by other evidence before the committee or implausible."
Those areas involve Clemens' testimony that he has "never taken steroids or HGH"; that McNamee injected him with the painkiller lidocaine; that team trainers gave him pain injections; that he received many vitamin B-12 injections; that he never discussed HGH with McNamee; that he was not at Canseco's home from June 8-10, 1998, when their Toronto Blue Jays played a series at the Florida Marlins; and that he was "never told" about baseball investigator George Mitchell's request to speak to Clemens before issuing the report containing McNamee's allegations.
"The Democratic staff memorandum's characterizations and conclusions regarding these other matters is simply not relevant to the core question of whether Clemens knowingly lied about using anabolic steroids and human growth hormone," Tuesday's report said.
It continued: "More concerning, however, the Democratic memorandum reads like an advocate's brief or prosecutorial indictment of Roger Clemens."
The report includes new witnesses, including three who say Clemens was not at Canseco's 1998 party. In the Mitchell report, McNamee said he saw Clemens and Canseco speaking at that party -- and that shortly thereafter Clemens first approached the trainer about using performance-enhancing drugs.
One of McNamee's lawyers, Richard Emery, called the Republican report "an obvious attempt to spin" and "a surprising, partisan flailing action that says little or nothing about the core issue of Roger's use of steroids and HGH and nitpicks a lot of collateral issues in the vein of what occurred at the hearing."
"It continues to make me suspect that this kind of Republican investment in attempting to support Roger and undermine Brian is coming from somewhere else, namely the Bushes," Emery said.