Justice Dept. asked to investigate Clemens

February 28, 2008 12:12:36 PM PST
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman and ranking Republican Tom Davis sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, urging more scrutiny of Clemens' statements in a Feb. 5 sworn deposition and at a Feb. 13 public hearing where he said he "never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormone.""That testimony is directly contradicted by the sworn testimony of Brian McNamee, who testified that he personally injected Mr. Clemens with anabolic steroids and human growth hormone," the congressmen wrote.

"Mr. Clemens's testimony is also contradicted by the sworn deposition testimony and affidavit submitted to the committee by Andrew Pettitte, a former teammate of Mr. Clemens, whose testimony and affidavit reported that Mr. Clemens had admitted to him in 1999 or 2000 that he had taken human growth hormone," the letter said.

Clemens declined to comment Wednesday when approached by reporters at the Houston Astros' spring training camp in Kissimmee, Fla. Pettitte, with the New York Yankees in Florida, declined comment through a team spokesman.

"Now we are done with the circus of public opinion, and we are moving to the courtroom," Clemens' lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "Thankfully, we are now about to enter an arena where there are rules and people can be held properly accountable for outrageous statements."

McNamee, Clemens' former personal trainer, told federal prosecutors, baseball investigator George Mitchell and Congress that he injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner at least 16 times with human growth hormone and steroids from 1998 to 2001. Clemens repeatedly and vigorously denied the allegations.

Congress turned its attention to the matter because Clemens' denials questioned the legitimacy of the Mitchell Report, prepared by the former Senate majority leader and released in December.

After both men stuck to their stories under oath, first separately in closed-door depositions and then while sitting a few feet from each other at this month's hearing, it was expected that one or the other - or perhaps both - would be referred to the Justice Department for a criminal inquiry.

Instead, only Clemens faces a possible perjury investigation, after the committee decided not to refer McNamee.

Waxman sent committee Democrats an 18-page memo prepared by his staff outlining reasons for the criminal referral. The memo summarizes "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 then-teammate Jose Canseco's home from June 8-10, 1998, and that he was "never told" about Mitchell's request to speak.

Davis, who was the chairman of the committee when it held its 2005 hearing with Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, said the referral focuses on the core question of whether Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs.

"Some may want to `help' the Department of Justice by characterizing evidence or packaging apparently contradictory quotes on other questions to help make a case for perjury. I don't think that's necessary," Davis said. "The record speaks for itself, and it tells me the question of Mr. Clemens' truthfulness demands further analysis by law enforcement."

Neither Waxman nor Davis responded to interview requests.

"Roger has known since December that if he publicly took the position he has taken, this would be the result. The good news is we are now going to be on a level playing field," Hardin told the AP. "These matters are now going to be decided in court and by the ultimate lie detector - a jury. I am comfortable that when a jury hears this case ... they will conclude that Roger did not use steroids or growth hormone and he is telling the truth and that McNamee's allegations are totally false."

Clemens' prominent place in the Mitchell Report tainted the legacy of a man who ranks eighth in major league history with 354 wins.

"It's what we expected, but Brian is not joyful about this. No one is celebrating," said McNamee's lead lawyer, Earl Ward. "We think it's a sad and unfortunate situation that one of baseball's greatest pitchers now has the potential of being a defendant in a criminal case."

The Feb. 13 hearing divided along party lines, with Democrats giving Clemens a rougher time, and Republicans reserving their toughest questions for McNamee.

"Given the letter that the committee has sent out, the Republicans who attacked him owe him an apology because of the manner in which they went after him, calling him a 'drug dealer,' a `liar,"' Ward said. "The decision to send out a referral letter says quite clearly that Brian McNamee told the truth."

The committee's majority staff drew up a letter of referral to the Justice Department, then consulted with the minority side.

"We are not in a position to reach a definitive judgment as to whether Mr. Clemens lied to the committee," Waxman and Davis wrote to Mukasey. "Our only conclusion is that significant questions have been raised about Mr. Clemens's truthfulness and that further investigation by the Department of Justice is warranted. We ask that you initiate such an investigation."

Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department "is reviewing the letter and has no further comment at this time." If an inquiry is opened, it likely would be by federal investigators in Washington.

"Roger knew all along that if he told what he knew to be the truth, he would be getting a criminal referral, yet he still chose to testify both by deposition under oath and in public under oath," Hardin said. "That should tell you something about how deeply he believes in what he is saying."

Just last month, Waxman and Davis asked for an investigation into whether 2002 American League MVP Miguel Tejada lied when he told committee investigators in 2005 that he never took performance enhancers and had no knowledge of other players using or talking about steroids. The FBI did open a preliminary inquiry into that case.

The committee pointed to evidence in the Mitchell Report that it said contradicted statements given by Tejada, now with the Astros.

Clemens released a statement through his lawyer:

The committee¹s decision is unwarranted and not supported by the facts. Fortunately, we now move from the court of public opinion, where there are no rules, to the court of law where the rules very specifically level the playing field. Whether it is in a criminal investigation or the upcoming civil trial, what has been a frenzied rush to judgment will be replaced by a careful and unbiased review of all of the evidence.

Roger Clemens has known from the beginning that if he chose to speak publicly and challenge what the Mitchell report said about him, he would one day face a criminal referral from Congress. The fact that he chose to testify twice under oath while knowing the short-term consequences is clear proof of how strongly he believes he has done nothing wrong.

Roger will continue to fight these false allegations with every ounce of strength he has.