Lewinsky's evidence to be on video

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The Independent Online
THE ONE-TIME White House trainee, Monica Lewinsky, faces further questioning about her relationship with President Clinton on Monday, when she becomes the first of three witnesses called to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. Under the rules passed by the Senate late on Thursday, however, the interview will take the form of a "deposition" - questioning under oath in private.

Whether Ms Lewinsky or either of the other two named witnesses - Mr Clinton's businessman friend, Vernon Jordan, and his aide, Sidney Blumenthal - appear in the Senate in person will be decided only after the depositions have been taken and made available to senators. Although the interviews will be videotaped, there is no provision at present either for them to be viewed by the Senate or to be made public.

The outline arrangements for the continuation of the trial, which stuttered through a series of acrimonious stalemates this week, envisage final votes on the two Articles of Impeachment against Mr Clinton - the one alleging perjury, the other obstruction of justice - on or before 12 February, the day before a congressional holiday for Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Democrats' hopes of making that date definite failed, however, as did their attempt to limit the duration of the depositions and to prevent the tapes of the witnesses' testimony ever becoming public. All these highly contentious points will be subject to Senate votes once the depositions have been taken.

Each of the witnesses will be questioned by one of the House prosecutors, and two senators will preside. Defence lawyers for Mr Clinton will be able to cross-examine them. One day has been set aside for each, so the deposition stage should be over by next Thursday, when the Senate is set to reconvene.

While the Republicans were generally satisfied the trial would proceed, there was disappointment in the Senate and in wider political circles that the arrangements had had to be put to a vote and that the vote had been on party lines. Behind the scenes, the White House was also concerned about a plan for ending the trial that was gaining currency in the Senate. This would entail approval of a "finding of fact" statement, which would set out what senators believed to be the truth of the Lewinsky affair before they voted on whether to convict.