DOJ Asked to Launch Perjury Probe of Clemens

Congress is asking the Justice Department to investigate whether pitcher Roger Clemens lied under oath when he testified about performance-enhancing drugs before a House committee two weeks ago.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Roger Clemens showed up at spring training in Florida this week to work with young baseball players. His message to the media horde following him around: it's time to move on from the stories about drug allegations. But yesterday Congress sent a message to Clemens: not so fast. The heads of the committee that heard Clemens testify two weeks announced they have asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Clemens lied to them about whether he used banned drugs.

NPR's Tom Goldman has more.

TOM GOLDMAN: Let's recap. Two weeks ago, Roger Clemens spent over four hours under oath in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The most significant thing he said took four seconds.

Mr. ROGER CLEMENS (Baseball Pitcher): Let me be clear, I have never taken steroids or HGH. Thank you.

GOLDMAN: Yesterday the committee said you're welcome with a letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Signed by committee chair Henry Waxman, a Democrat, and ranking Republican Tom Davis, the letter asks the Justice Department to investigate whether Clemens committed perjury and made knowingly false statements during the hearing and during a sworn deposition days before.

Waxman and Davis are careful to say they haven't reached a definitive judgment as to whether Clemens lied. But the fact is they're not asking for an investigation of Brian McNamee, the former personal trainer who says he injected Clemens with banned drugs.

The letter states that Clemens' denials directly contradict McNamee's sworn testimony and the testimony of pitcher Andy Pettitte. He said Clemens admitted using human growth hormone, now banned in baseball, in a conversation the two men had about ten years ago.

Beyond McNamee and Pettitte, the letter cites other parts of Clemens' testimony that might not be truthful. In the Mitchell Report on doping in baseball, McNamee says Clemens attended a party thrown by former big leaguer Jose Canseco where Canseco and Clemens allegedly discussed drugs.

Here's what Clemens said about that in exchange at the hearing with Congressman Davis.

Mr. CLEMENS: I don't remember his party.

Representative TOM DAVIS (Republican, Virginia): OK. Is it possible your wife and your kids could've gone without you?

Mr. CLEMENS: I believe my wife Debbie was in my golf foursome and the kids sure could've been.

Rep. DAVIS: But you don't remember being there at all.

Mr. CLEMENS: I don't.

GOLDMAN: The Justice Department is reviewing the letter from Waxman and Davis. Law professor Todd Peterson from George Washington University used to work in the department. He says Justice takes every referral from Congress quite seriously.

Professor TODD PETERSON (George Washington University): Particularly when it comes from the chair and ranking minority member of a committee. This is not an action that is taken lightly by the committee, and when the department receives it I think they give it very close attention.

GOLDMAN: Indeed, the committee asked the department to investigate major leaguer Miguel Tejada. And the FBI confirms it launched a preliminary inquiry into whether Tejada lied about drug use.

An investigation is one thing, a perjury indictment and trial is another. Perjury's tough to prove. There has to be intent, a person saying something they know to be false.

Rusty Hardin is Roger Clemens' lawyer.

Mr. RUSTY HARDIN (Lawyer): Right now, if Roger is wrong about certain things but he did not intentionally lie about them, then he hasn't committed perjury.

GOLDMAN: Legal analysts say, though, that Clemens has been so certain about his denials that perjury may be easier to prove than if he were more wishy-washy in his testimony.

Rusty Hardin calls the letter much ado about nothing. He says Clemens always knew there'd be a criminal referral if Clemens publicly disputed the allegations by McNamee. Hardin welcomes the chance to try the case in court if it goes that far. In court, he says, there won't be a rush to judgment about Roger Clemens.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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Congress Wants Perjury Probe of Roger Clemens

Congress on Wednesday asked the Justice Department to investigate whether baseball star Roger Clemens lied to a House committee about using performance enhancing drugs.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman and ranking Republican Tom Davis said Clemens' testimony that he never used anabolic steroids and human growth hormone contradicts the sworn testimony of former trainer Brian McNamee and former teammate Andy Pettitte.

"Mr. Clemens' 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."

McNamee told federal prosecutors that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone more than a dozen times from 1998 to 2001.

Pettitte, a close friend of Clemens, said in a sworn statement that Clemens told him in 1999 or 2000 that he had used human growth hormone.

Clemens has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Clemens could face up to five years in prison if he is found to have lied to Congress at a Feb. 13 hearing. Clemens and McNamee gave contridictory testimony at the hearing. Clemens insisted he had never used illegal performance-enhancing drugs and McNamee repeatedly said that he had.

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