Clinton to face trial by video

Click to follow
The Independent Online
BILL CLINTON'S own party began to turn on him yesterday, as the United States Congress prepared to release a damaging video of his testimony to the Starr inquiry.

The President testified to the grand jury investigating him using a video link last month. That evidence has now been turned over to Congress with the report compiled by the independent prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, and Republicans want to make it public. The House Judiciary Committee may decide today to release it, despite opposition from Democrats.

The video shows the President by turns evasive, angry and defensive, according to those who have seen it. It once more underlines that, although he may have a legal defence against the charge of perjury, he has lied to the grand jury and to the American people.

Republicans reportedly burst into applause at a party meeting yesterday when the Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, said that all material should be released.

They also said that a decision on holding impeachment hearings is unlikely until next month, with the hearings themselves starting after the November elections.

At a joint news conference with visiting Czech President, Vaclav Havel, Mr Clinton was soft-spoken and looked weary when he was asked whether he foresaw any circumstances under which he would consider resigning.

"They want me to go on and do my job and that's what I intend to do," he said. The President said he was feeling better about his future after confessing to the affair with Ms Lewinsky, seeking forgiveness and trying to get on with his job.

Mr Clinton gave no ground in facing his first questioning about the affair since the publication of the Starr report and refused to discuss details of the relationship.

Mr Clinton said that he was not worried about the video. "It's not of so much concern to me," he said.

The President's future is still on a knife edge, with growing anger among Democrats threatening to tip the balance. Although opinion polls show Mr Clinton's approval ratings have actually improved during the six months of Kenneth Starr's investigation into his alleged perjury and obstruction of justice over the Lewinsky affair, the public's support is fragile.

One poll suggests that the President's ratings have risen since January, from 60 to 62 per cent. But the polls also indicate that more people find his behaviour distasteful, and verdicts differ as to whether there is a majority for holding impeachment hearings.

The President's own party is starting to turn against him, and two conservative Democrats broke ranks yesterday and called for the President to go.

White House aides emerged shaken from meetings with senior Democratic Congressmen on Tuesday after reportedly being told that the party would be better off in the autumn elections if Mr Clinton resigned. At the same time, Republican sentiment is hardening against any lesser punishment than impeachment.

Meanwhile, the President's troubles may have removed the most likely Republican presidential candidate from the 2000 elections. George W Bush, Governor of Texas and son of the former president, has said that events had made him think very carefully about running for the job. "Is this something I want to put my family through?" he asked.