Prosecutors seek more testimony from President

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The Independent Online
THE SENATE trial of President Clinton looked set to go into another week at least yesterday, as opinion hardened in favour of calling witnesses.

In a surprise move, the Republican House prosecutors also angered the White House by naming Mr Clinton - at that moment greeting the Pope in St Louis - as one of the four individuals they wished to question.

In a formal motion submitted to the Senate, the House prosecutors sought approval to take a further sworn deposition from Mr Clinton, and named three other people they wished to subpoena in connection with the obstruction of justice charge against the President: Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan and Sidney Blumenthal.

Mr Jordan, the prominent black businessman and Clinton friend, who was instrumental in finding Ms Lewinsky a job in New York last year, reacted furiously to news that he might be questioned again, saying he had testified five times and told the truth each time. Mr Blumenthal, a Clinton adviser who has been accused of disseminating negative information about Ms Lewinsky, did not respond.

Ms Lewinsky herself was already preparing to leave again. "Her state of mind," said her lawyer, Plato Cacheris, "is she wants to get out of town, and I endorse that."

He expressed the hope that she would not be called to testify, but added: "If she's needed and they issue a proper document to get her back here, she will return."

The constitutional right of the Senate to call the President for questioning is uncertain, so the motion as tabled said that he should be "invited" to be deposed (i.e. questioned by lawyers under oath).

There seemed little prospect that he would agree, however, and his spokesman, Joe Lockhart described the request as "a political play". The House prosecutors, he said, "have clearly failed to make an effective case to the Senate. Now they're falling back on their old habit of playing politics".

Presenting the arguments against witnesses in the Senate, Mr Clinton's personal lawyer, David Kendall, said that there was already 60,000 pages of testimony on the record and no useful purpose would be served by asking more questions.

He also warned that if witnesses were called, the White House would insist on a long a period of "discovery" as "you do not know what you do not know".

The House prosecutors insisted, however, that there were outstanding questions that only the key players could answer, and the leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate, Tom Daschle, said he thought it was now "inevitable" that witnesses would be heard.

Arguing the case for witnesses, Bill McCollum for the House prosecutors, said that preliminary questioning need take only a few days, and the proposed witness list had been pared down from the original dozen names in the hope that a majority of the Senate would approve it.

One name unexpectedly absent, however, was that of Betty Currie, the President's personal secretary, whose at times hesitant testimony to the grand jury last year appeared to make her a prime candidate for further questioning.