Clinton opens his defence

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The Independent Online
THE PRESIDENT of the United States yesterday delivered the annual report on the presidency in the same building as lawyers were desperately fighting to prevent his removal from office.

Bill Clinton gave his State of the Union speech to Congress, the landmark event of the political year, just hours after the White House had begun the case against impeachment in the Senate trial.

In an attempt to rise above the political fray, President Clinton was expected to avoid any mention of impeachment, trying to give the impression of normality in Washington.

For the first time, the President was to lay out plans to rescue the pension system, threatened with bankruptcy by the country's ageing population, by injecting cash from the booming US budget surplus. He was also expected to propose $112bn (pounds 70bn) extra in defence spending, including a new missile defence modelled on former president Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" system.

But what is the reality of his situation? Impeachment, or the end of office in 2000 and a Congress controlled by the Republicans, has not deterred the White House from putting forward sweeping policy proposals. Many Republicans did not believe the State of Union address should even proceed while Mr Clinton was on trial, and some said that they would not turn up - a snub that the White House brushed off.

Earlier, Charles Ruff, the White House counsel, began the President's defence in the Senate impeachment trial, rebutting the case for the prosecution put by Republican trial managers last week.

It now appears almost certain that witnesses will be called, perhaps including Mr Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern whose affair with the President began the saga that has paralysed government for months.

Clinton paves way for

Gore, page 12

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