Republicans in final effort to nail Clinton

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The Independent Online
DETERMINED NOT to drop impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton without a fight, the Republican majority on the House of Representatives judiciary committee has scheduled an additional public session next week to debate the definition and consequences of perjury.

Those expected to testify include judges, convicted perjurers and members of the military versed in cases of sexual misconduct. The aim is to present perjury as a serious crime and compare the behaviour and treatment of ordinary citizens with the behaviour and treatment of President Clinton.

Resentment has been voiced in military quarters about what is seen as leniency towards the President for failings that would have any member of the military court-martialled.

Mr Clinton's high-profile meetings with US troops, in South Korea and Guam, during his recent visit to Asia were seen in part as an attempt to improve a deteriorating relationship between the Commander-in-Chief and his troops.

The Attorney-General, Janet Reno, meanwhile faced a deadline yesterday for a decision on whether to seek an independent counsel to investigate the Vice-President, Al Gore.

The outside prosecutor would look into allegations that Mr Gore lied to FBI agents about telephone fund-raising calls from his office during the 1996 presidential election campaign.

With Mr Clinton edging ahead in the battle to put the Monica Lewinsky affair behind him, the appointment of new prosecutors to investigate White House fund-raising would be an unwelcome development.

The New York Times on Tuesday said it was "obvious" that Ms Reno should approve an investigation of "the reckless fund-raising practices involving her boss and other highly-placed administration figures".

The announcement of next Tuesday's special hearing into Mr Clinton came amid a flurry of pre-Thanksgiving visits to Capitol Hill by White House staff and administration officials.

Officially, they were said to be paying their respects to the Speaker- designate of the House, Bob Livingston. The assumption was that they were also broaching the possibility of a settlement that would halt the impeachment process.

Among the envoys was the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and the new White House chief of staff, John Podesta.

Their meetings seemed unlikely to produce any immediate relaxing of the Republican position. But the news that at least one Democrat on the judiciary committee was prepared to support some formal sanction against President Clinton, short of impeachment, was seen as heralding an eventual compromise forged within the judiciary committee.

According to the Boston Globe newspaper, William Delahunt of Massachusetts was preparing to table a motion recommending an alternative to impeachment.

"I'm considering putting forth an alternative in the committee," he said. "Whether it's described as a rebuke, a condemnation or a censure, it would be short of impeachment."

The chairman of the committee, Henry Hyde, had earlier reiterated his desire to see House proceedings completed before the new year. He predicted that his committee's work could be over by the week of 7 December.

If the committee decides against a deal and recommends impeachment, this would have to be endorsed by a vote of the full House before being passed to the Senate.

Current thinking is that a sufficient number of House Republicans would vote with the Democrats, or abstain, to halt proceedings there.