One of Brian McNamee's lawyers predicted that if Roger Clemens is convicted in connection with the baseball steroids scandal, he'd be pardoned by President Bush. Lawyer Richard Emery also said some Republicans treated his client harshly because of the pitcher's friendship with the Bush family.
Emery made the claims Thursday, a day after a congressional hearing broke down along party lines. Many Democrats were skeptical of Clemens' denials he used performance-enhancing drugs and Republicans questioned the character of McNamee, the personal trainer who made the accusations against the seven-time Cy Young Award winner.
"It would be the easiest thing in the world for George W. Bush, given the corrupt proclivities of his administration, to say Roger Clemens is an American hero, Roger Clemens helped children," Emery said in a telephone interview. "It's my belief they have some reason to believe they can get a pardon."
During Wednesday's session before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Clemens repeated his denials under oath, which could lead to criminal charges if federal prosecutors conclude he made false statements or obstructed Congress.
"I'm not aware of Mr. Clemens having been charged with anything," White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said after being told of Emery's remarks.
Emery cited Bush's decision last year to commute the 2 1/2-year prison sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, his vice president's former top aide. Libby was convicted in the case of the leaked identity of a CIA operative.
During the hearing, Clemens cited his friendship with Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, a baseball fan who regularly attends Houston Astros' games. Clemens said he was on a recent hunting trip when the elder Bush called with words of support.
"When all this happened, the former president of the United States found me in a deer blind in south Texas and expressed his concerns that this was unbelievable, and stay strong and hold your head up high," Clemens testified.
Emery said as he thought about the testimony overnight, Clemens' reference to the call from the elder Bush convinced him the questioning by Republicans was a concerted effort.
"All the pieces fell into place given his friendship, his personal friendship with the Bush family," Emery said. "They have some belief that even if he's prosecuted, he will never have to serve jail time or face a trail. This is a charade we're going through."
IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky attended the hearing and watched from the second row. Novitzky has been a part of the BALCO prosecution team that secured an indictment against Barry Bonds on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Bonds testified before a grand jury in 2003 and denied that he knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.
Emery praised Clemens' lawyers, Rusty Hardin and Lanny Breuer, as knowledgeable and said the prospect of a pardon was the only explanation that allowed the pitcher to repeat his denials under oath.
"It's the only reason lawyers worth their salt would allow their client to run into the buzzsaw of Jeff Novitzky and the potential prosecution, tampering and lying to a federal official," Emery said.
Joe Householder, Clemens' spokesman, said he would attempt to reach Hardin or Breuer for comment. Republicans on the committee did not immediately return telephone calls.
Emery had harsh criticism for Republican Reps. Dan Burton of Indiana, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Darrell Issa of California and Christopher Shays of Connecticut. Shays called McNamee a "drug dealer" and Burton accused McNamee of telling "lie after lie after lie after lie."
"It was disgusting and despicable behavior," Emery said. "It was clear to me they were carrying someone's water."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat who said he believed McNamee, was concerned about the apparent Republican-Democratic divide.
"Of all the things to become partisan over, this was the wrong one," Cummings said. "What we needed to be doing was to be in search of truth. And I think that when you are truly in search of truth, we need to put the partisan shoes at the door and walk in without them."