As Roger Clemens’ perjury trial resumed this week in Washington, an important, albeit unstated, question seems to have taken center stage for the defense – does lying to Congress really matter? Aside from questions of actual guilt or innocence, a distinctly cynical view has emerged that Capitol Hill is wasting its time – and our tax dollars – pursuing a celebrity athlete who may have lied to them to salvage his tattered reputation.
In cross-examination of House staffer Phil Barnett of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform (Clemens Opted to Testify) Clemens’ lawyer Rusty Hardin questioned the motives of Congress behind the 2008 hearings into steroid use in baseball.
When his questioning brought an objection, Hardin stated that the House’s steroid hearings were “nothing more than a show trial” designed to punish Clemens for fighting the accusations against him. “That is not a legitimate function of Congress,” Hardin stated. (Clemens Statements Played).
While it’s hard to fault Hardin for mounting this argument – a diversion like this may be appropriate since most observers feel the Feds have a strong factual case – this line of reasoning is both seriously flawed and potentially quite damaging.
Looking first at the assertion that Congress had no business looking into the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in professional sports, a pretty obvious question arises. Isn’t it the job of Congress to address through legislation issues like the impact of PEDs on public health? Given the devastating impact PEDs have had on so many young athletes, it’s ludicrous to suggest the issue is out-of-bounds for Congress.
As for dismissing or excusing the act of perjury before a Congressional committee, the thinking appears to be either, “Hey, this is Congress…these guys are all liars so it’s no big deal” or, “Well it’s just a Congressional committee, so it’s not like real perjury”.
The fact of the matter, of course, is that if Roger Clemens lied in his deposition and proceeded to lie during his direct testimony, he committed a federal crime. While the American way of life might not hinge on celebrity cases like this, there is an important principle at stake. If you lie to police officers, the FBI, or even Congressmen you have broken a law and will be brought to account…just ask Martha Stewart.
About the Author: Elizabeth Tice heads up Office Solutions Plus LLC, where we provide documents of record for all venues, including court reporting, depositions, and transcription. We understand the importance and value of accurate records. 617-471-3510. Try us out!