A day to misremember
Hearing room full of drama, short of answers
Posted: Wednesday February 13, 2008 5:57PM; Updated: Wednesday February 13, 2008 7:27PM
It was a day of misremembering, misunderstanding, and mystifying inconsistencies, and, in the end, committee members' conclusions about whether or not Roger Clemens used steroids and human growth hormone seemed to hang on how credible Andy Pettitte is, or how credible Brian McNamee isn't.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) opened the questioning with razor sharp questions and incredulity for Clemens. Cummings simply could not come to grips with the idea that Andy Pettitte was telling anything but the whole truth when he said he had talked with Clemens' about his drug use.
"Having a guy like [Pettite]" as an independent witness, Cummings says, "that makes a difference." Cummings said that he sees Pettitte as a "very religious" and moral man who "told us things [in his deposition] that we didn't even know," as opposed to just corroborating other peoples' accounts.
But as much as Pettitte's image fortified McNamee's statements, McNamee's own persona did not help. He was excoriated by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who painted McNamee as a creature of the lowest order: an officer of the law who apparently did not learn enough from his time on the beat to prevent him from becoming a lying "drug dealer." Following the hearing, Issa reiterated his feelings, calling McNamee a "fake PhD-cop-trainer."
"McNamee is still in denial that he was a drug dealer," says Issa. "I didn't find him credible because he told so many lies and he is still in denial...he acts as if he is the victim. That's what a drug dealer would say." And, in contrast to Cummings, Issa had his doubts about Pettitte's testimony, if not his character. "The problem is [Pettitte] said in some statements, '[Clemens] is my friend, I think this is what I heard,'" Issa says. "It's locker room talk, it's not actual evidence."
The actual evidence -- the syringes and gauze pads that McNamee stored in his basement -- is now in the hands of federal investigators, and committee staff members thought it more likely those syringes, as opposed to the suspicions of the committee members, will determine whether or not there is a Department of Justice investigation into either Clemens or McNamee.
Committee chief of staff Phil Schiliro said that the committee "hasn't even talked about" referring either of the men to the Justice Department. Keith Ausbrook, Republican general counsel for the committee pointed out that the need for the committee to make a referral to the Justice Department is not as pressing as it was in Miguel Tejada's case. In that situation, Tejada had spoken with congressional investigators unbeknownst to the Justice Department. In this case, federal investigators --- as evidenced by BALCO investigator Jeff Novitzky in the second row --- already know what's going on, and the Justice Department can decide for itself whether an investigation is warranted. If he so chooses, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) can draft a letter of referral to the Justice Department without the approval of any other committee members.
Even if a Justice Department investigation is not imminent, we may be in store for more Clemens vs. McNamee, as the defamation suit that Clemens' lawyers filed in Houston moves along. The potential value in that case of the syringes and gauze pads that McNamee turned over already seems to be the hottest point of contention between the lawyers.
Earl Ward, one of McNamee's lawyers, insisted that the evidence would be "absolutely admissible" in court. Richard Emery, McNamee's other lawyer denounced the idea that the evidence would be viewed as tainted by the fact that nobody knows what happened to it in the last eight years. "There's no chain of custody problem," Emery says. "[McNamee] took it and put it in his basement. That's it."
Rusty Hardin, Clemens attorney, was adamant that the syringes show "nothing." "It's the silliest poppycock I've ever seen," he says.
Hardin added that Clemens admits to having received injections from McNamee --- lidocaine and vitamin B-12, he claims -- which means his DNA may well be on the needles. Asked why Pettitte would say he spoke with Clemens about Clemens' HGH use, Lanny Breuer, Clemens' other lawyer, said he wasn't sure because Pettitte wasn't at the hearing to answer that question, but that "people are wrong...people make mistakes."
Clemens himself was terse after the hearing. He stopped briefly to address a crowd of reporters jammed in the lobby of the Rayburn House Office Building. "I'm glad for this opportunity, finally," he said. "I hope [in the future] I get to come to Washington on different terms." As he turned to leave, Clemens uttered, "that's it for me."