President should be tried, say charges

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The Independent Online
WITH AUDIO and video clips, high rhetoric and low cunning, lawyers for and against the impeachment of the President argued their case yesterday at the start of the House judiciary committee's formal debate on impeachment.

As the proceedings opened, the 435 members of the full House were told that they should prepare to return to Washington next Thursday for their own debate and vote - the ballot to determine whether Bill Clinton stands trial in the Senate for his conduct in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

The judiciary committee's debate focused on the formal articles of impeachment - tantamount to judicial charges - that Mr Clinton would face in the Senate. To the fury of the White House, the articles had been released by the committee's Republican majority on Wednesday evening, before the White House chief counsel had finished testifying in defence of the President.

Two of the articles accuse Mr Clinton of giving "perjurious, false and misleading testimony" in his sworn deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and in his grand jury testimony in the Lewinsky case.

One says he "prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice" by delaying testimony or covering up evidence, and the fourth maintains that he abused his office by lying to his staff in the expectation that they would unwittingly relay the falsehoods in their own sworn statements.

Couched in high-flown legal language, the articles conclude: "In all of this, William Jefferson Clinton has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute on the Presidency, has betrayed his trust as President and has acted in a manner subversive of the rule of law and justice. [He] warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States."

In tone, the articles recalled the last time, 24 years ago, when articles of impeachment were drawn up, against President Richard Nixon. But the atmosphere this time could hardly be more different.

Public concern is minimal and Mr Clinton's job approval rating still stands comfortably above 60 per cent.

The counsel for the Democratic minority, Abbe Lowell, was the first to argue his case yesterday, introducing sworn statements from Mr Clinton, Miss Lewinsky and others to argue that Mr Clinton's only aim in misleading the public and not being - in his words - "particularly helpful" to the prosecutors was to keep his liaison with Ms Lewinsky secret.

Later, David Schippers for the Republicans, was expected to argue the opposite, displaying for the first time excerpts from Mr Clinton's taped deposition in the Jones case, to illustrate his contention that the President repeatedly perjured himself to evade his responsibilities before the law.