Clinton acquittal looms as Starr faces investigation

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The Independent Online
THE IMPEACHMENT trial of President Clinton, and with it the year- long White House sex scandal, entered its final stage yesterday with the presentation of closing arguments by both sides and a swift conclusion forecast by all concerned.

As the White House quietly embraced Mr Clinton's now inevitable acquittal, Kenneth Starr, the independent prosecutor who started it all, was told by the Justice Department that his handling of the Monica Lewinsky affair is to be investigated.

When the Senate reconveyed yesterday, there was already a pervasive weariness in the Chamber, a sense that the game was over.

The prosecutors from the House of Representatives, listed four "misleading" statements by the President in his August grand jury testimony which, they said, constituted perjury.

For the President, the White House chief counsel, Charles Ruff, ended with the coda that became his trademark through the trial: "William Jefferson Clinton is not guilty of the charges that have been brought against him. He did not commit perjury. He did not commit obstruction of justice. He must not be removed from office."

However, Senators were still divided on whether the final debate, when each Senator is expected to speak, should be held in open session or in camera and the proposal for a censure vote. The openness argument seemed to be lost when the leader of the Republican majority, Trent Lott, said that he would vote for the debate to remain closed. A formal censure, however, was still in contention. Some Democrats favour such a vote because it would allow them to signal their condemnation of Mr Clinton's behaviour. Republicans say that there is no constitutional provision for censure and that it would be "no more than a slap on the wrist".

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