The following is from dday at Hullabaloo.
Transcript (provided by interviewing blogger):
Me: Rep. Barr, do you believe the impeachment of President Clinton was a good deterrent to the expansion of executive power and the establishment of the rule of law for the executive branch?
Barr: (chuckling) Good Lord no!
Me: So do you regret your role in the impeachment of President Clinton as House manager?
Barr: No, having public officials adhere to and be answerable to the rule of law is very, very important. What distresses me greatly is that Congress has not done, in the case of this President, what they should have done. And that is to inquire into what this Administration has done with regard to breaking the laws, on the electronic surveillance of people without warrants, the improper use of US Attorneys, etc.
Me: Would you have endorsed the impeachment articles that were referred to the House Judiciary Committee last week?
Barr: I’m testifying this Thursday before the House on some of these issues, not in the context of impeachment, but in the context of the rule of law and the separation of powers. So we will be getting into some of these things. But I think it would make no sense at this point to do impeachment–
Me: At what point would it have made sense? What year would it have made sense?
Barr: You’re not going to let me answer a question!
Me: I’m sorry, I’m just trying to follow up.
Barr: Go ahead, ask your question.
Me: Well, you’re talking about a timeline, that it wouldn’t make sense 6 months before the end of the President’s term to begin an impeachment inquiry…
Barr: We’re getting into the heart of a Presidential campaign. Anything that Congress would do at this point would be seen as totally political, and probably from their standpoint be counter-productive, because the other side would rally around the President, and possibly hurt the other side in the election.
Me: I have one final question. Do you feel that the impeachment of President Clinton, in effect, poisoned the well of the practice of impeachment, and always made it a political act, so that the current executive can always count on the fact that it would be seen as political to call for accountability in this fashion?
Barr: Impeachment is always going to be somewhat political, you are never going to get away from that. One of the things that I learned, and what I wrote about in my book, is that when I filed in November of 1997, the very first inquiry of impeachment, none of us knew anything about Monica Lewinsky. That didn’t come up until three or four months later. The basis of which I believed it was necessary and appropriate had nothing to do with that, it had to do with national security matters, improper campaign donations from foreign sources and so forth. But even had we moved in that direction, the Republicans didn’t want to, that would have been seen as political. You’re never going to get away from that. That’s why it’s so important in any impeachment to lay your groundwork, marshal your evidence, have those Congressional hearings first, rather than reaching your conclusion first.