Clemens' lawyer hedging Congress' deposition request

After saying repeatedly that Roger Clemens will answer any questions Congress wants to ask him, a source familiar with the inquiry said Saturday night that attorney Rusty Hardin is hedging over the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's request to depose Clemens under oath next week because it might interfere with his defamation lawsuit against personal trainer Brian McNamee.

The source said Hardin is also making "noises" about not turning over a taped conversation between McNamee and two investigators for Hardin's office recorded Dec. 12, the day before the Mitchell report was released.

A segment of the tape was detailed in Clemens' complaint, describing McNamee as saying he was pressured into naming Clemens as a steroid user to federal investigators. Unlike the Jan. 5 phone conversation between Clemens and McNamee that was made public, however, Hardin has refused to release that tape and said it would come out in the discovery process of Clemens' lawsuit.

McNamee's lawyers said the Hardin's investigators tried to get McNamee to recant his story, a charge Hardin denies.

The source said that nothing has been decided and it's premature to say whether the committee will be forced to subpoena Clemens to testify before the committee. The source said all the issues will be raised Monday when Hardin meets with committee staffers in Washington, D.C., to discuss Clemens' cooperation.

On Sunday, Hardin released a statement reiterating Clemens' willingness to testify before Congress in February.

"I want to make very clear that there has been absolutely no change in Roger's willingness and indeed desire to testify under oath before Congress in a public hearing at a date of the Oversight Committee's choosing," Hardin said in the statement. "Any suggestion that he or we are having any second thoughts about that is absolutely false. All other pre-appearance issues and scheduling we will discuss privately with the committee and do not think it is appropriate to discuss those matters publicly."

Clemens, former Astros teammate Andy Pettitte and Houston-area resident Chuck Knoblauch have been asked to testify Feb. 13 before the congressional committee. The much-anticipated hearing was postponed from Jan. 16 so lawmakers can gather evidence and coordinate their investigation with the Justice Department.

Asked Saturday night whether Clemens will agree to a deposition or whether he will seek to limit the scope of committee investigators' questions, Hardin said in an e-mail response, "Great questions, and all appropriate things to discuss with the committee staff if they desire. We will be there to listen and address their concerns. The agenda is totally up to them."

Hardin's hesitation is the first hiccup in his no-holds-barred defense of Clemens. Hardin and Clemens have said categorically that Clemens never used steroids and that McNamee is lying. They filed a defamation lawsuit against Clemens' longtime trainer Jan. 6, but Hardin said at the time the lawsuit would not prevent Clemens from testifying before Congress in an open hearing.

T. J. Quinn is a reporter for ESPN and can be reached at tjquinn31@yahoo.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.