Clinton may escape full trial

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The Independent Online
THE CHANCES are rising that President Bill Clinton will escape a full-scale impeachment trial. Despite furious protests from some Republicans, the most likely plansinvolve a motion of censure, which would end the saga in two weeks' time.

The US House of Representatives voted to impeach the President on two counts, but it is the other house of Congress, the Senate, that must try him. Senators, including Republicans, want to resolve the episode as rapidly as possible, given that it seems unlikely the two-thirds majority exists to oust Mr Clinton.

A deal is being thrashed out between Trent Lott, the Senate Majority Leader and chief Republican, and his opposite number from the Democrats, Tom Daschle.

"We're working on this in a way that meets both of our mutual objectives, which in large measure could be defined as doing it fairly and expeditiously," Mr Daschle said. When Mr Lott was asked if witnesses were required, he said: "I don't think so."

A preliminary motion being discussed will decide whether the Senate will ditch impeachment, over which House Republicans have laboured for months.

The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Henry Hyde, who ran the impeachment hearings and is one of the managers for the Senate trial, told Mr Lott in a letter that he was concerned the motion "would unwisely short-circuit the process.

"I agree that we must move with all deliberate speed to resolve this matter," he said. "However, we must not act so hastily that the President and the House of Representatives do not have a fair opportunity to present the case and the Senate does not have a fair opportunity to review a meaningful, factual record." It was important that at least a limited number of witnesses are called, he argued.

Some Republican senators are also unhappy. "The most important thing here is following the constitutional process and that constitutional process is a trial - hopefully, a fair and speedy trial - and the rendering of a judgment," said Senator Phil Gramm, an influential Texas Republican.

The timetable will become clear when Congress reconvenes on 6 January.

Despite his travails, Mr Clinton is the man most admired by Americans, according to a poll by CNN, USA Today and Gallup; 18 per cent put him at the top, up from 14 per cent last year. Perhaps it should worry him, though, that other presidents headed the list when things were worst for them: Richard Nixon in 1973 (he was impeached in 1975), Jimmy Carter in 1980 (defeated the same year), and Lyndon Johnson in 1968 (he decided not to run again). The next most admired people this year were the Pope, Billy Graham and Michael Jordan.

Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman, well ahead of Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Dole and Baroness Thatcher.