David Schippers, lawyer who helped bring impeachment charges against Bill Clinton, dies at 88
WASHINGTON — David Schippers, a onetime organized crime prosecutor from Chicago who reviewed the findings of independent counsel Kenneth Starr and determined that President Bill Clinton should be impeached and removed from office, died Sept. 28 at his home in Grayslake, Ill. He was 88.
His family announced his death in a notice placed in Chicago newspapers. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the cause was pancreatic cancer.
Mr. Schippers, often described as a blunt, bearish, and rumpled lawyer, was the Justice Department’s chief prosecutor of organized crime in Chicago during the early 1960s, under then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.
He won several high-profile cases, most notably against Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. Using a little-known ploy, Mr. Schippers offered immunity from prosecution to Giancana in return for his testimony to a grand jury. When Giancana refused to testify, a judge sent him to a jail for a year, dealing a serious blow to organized crime in Chicago.
Giancana later moved to Mexico to escape justice, and Mr. Schippers indicted Giancana’s successor, Sam Battaglia, who went to prison. Mr. Schippers later became a defense lawyer.
He had family members who were prominent in the city’s powerful Democratic Party machine, but he was also friendly with Henry Hyde, a Republican congressman who in the 1990s was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
In 1998, amid a highly polarized political climate in Washington, Hyde tapped Mr. Schippers as an impartial outsider to review the findings of independent counsel Starr. Starr’s team, which included US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, spent four years examining charges of wrongdoing against Clinton.
With the title of chief investigative counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Schippers hired eight other investigators — all from Chicago, and one of whom was his son — to determine if there was sufficient evidence to impeach Clinton.
‘‘I don’t want to be a household name,’’ Mr. Schippers said at the time. ‘‘I will do the job, I will fold my tent and go back to Chicago and pick up where I left off.’’
The most explosive charges to emerge from the Starr Report, as it was called after its release in September 1998, were that Clinton had lied under oath and obstructed justice to conceal his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinisky. Starr determined that there were 11 counts on which Clinton could possibly be impeached.
Mr. Schippers, who said he began his work by saying it ‘‘is not for me to say or even to give an opinion,’’ issued a blistering report to the Judiciary Committee in December 1998, concluding that Clinton had not committed 11 impeachable offenses, but 15.
‘‘The president,’’ he told the House committee, ‘‘has lied under oath in a civil deposition, lied under oath in a criminal grand jury. He lied to the people. He lied to his Cabinet. He lied to his top aides. And now he’s lied under oath to the Congress of the United States. There’s no one left to lie to.’’
As the House prepared to bring articles of impeachment against Clinton, the arguments for and against took a predictable partisan turn.
Mr. Schippers, who said he had voted for Clinton twice, remained adamant in his interpretation of the Starr Report.
‘‘If you don’t impeach as a consequence of the conduct that I’ve just portrayed,’’ he told the Judiciary Committee, ‘‘then no House of Representatives will ever be able to impeach again. The bar will be so high that only a felon or a traitor will need to be concerned.’’
Days after Mr. Schippers issued his report, the House voted to impeach Clinton on two charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, but rejected two other articles of impeachment.
In January 1999, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected the articles of impeachment, and Clinton served the remaining two years of his term.
David Philip Schippers Jr. was born Nov. 4, 1929, in Chicago. He grew up in a large Irish-American family and said his loyalties were to the Chicago White Sox, the Catholic Church, and the Democratic Party, ‘‘and not necessarily in that order.’’
After working for the telephone company, he attended Chicago’s Loyola University, graduating in 1955 and receiving a law degree in 1959. He became a federal prosecutor in the 1960s.
After entering private practice, Mr. Schippers handled several high-profile cases, including the defense of seven federal law enforcement officials accused of 42 counts of civil rights violations while making drug arrests in Illinois in 1973.
‘‘Every dope peddler in the United States will be listening to your verdict,’’ he told the jury in his closing argument. ‘‘Every cop and law enforcement officer will be listening, and our kids will be listening.’’
The jury returned 42 verdicts of not guilty.
Mr. Schippers leaves his wife of 66 years, the former Jacquelin Liautaud of Grayslake; 10 children; 26 grandchildren; and 29 great-grandchildren.