WASHINGTON — The judge in the Roger Clemens perjury trial ruled Monday that defense lawyers can’t call Rep. Darrell Issa as a witness.
Issa is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the panel that Clemens allegedly lied to in 2008 when he denied taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Issa, a California Republican, wasn’t chairman at the time, and he had criticized the committee for holding the hearing on drugs in baseball. Defense lawyers hoped his testimony would help call into question the hearing’s legitimacy, and sent a subpoena to the committee to try to compel his appearance as a witness.
Lawyers for the committee filed a motion to quash the subpoena. They said his appearance at the trial should be barred under the Constitution’s speech or debate clause, which protects elected officials from being questioned in a lawsuit about their legislative work.
In granting that motion, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said he didn’t have to invoke the speech or debate clause. He said that relying on Issa to make such comments again on the stand amounted to speculation. The judge said that if he did allow Issa to testify, he would have to let the government call other lawmakers who supported the hearing — dragging out the trial that’s already in its eighth week.
“You’d end up with a swearing match,” Walton said.
Walton also said that Issa might not be that great a witness for the defense, after prosecutor Steve Durham pointed out Issa’s comment after the hearing that he didn’t doubt that Clemens had perjured himself.
Issa “might bury your client,” Walton warned Clemens’ lawyers. “If I was in your all shoes, I would be very loath to call him.”
Clemens lawyers were more interested in Issa because of his comments as a rank-and-file member of the committee in 2008 than because of his current post as chairman. Defense filings noted that back then, Issa was quoted as saying the hearings smacked of the tactics of the infamous former Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who hauled people before his committee looking for Communists.
Clemens was not in the courtroom for Monday’s motions hearing.