Starr tells of Clinton catalogue of lies

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KENNETH STARR opened the third presidential impeachment inquiry in the history of the United States yesterday by alleging before a bitterly divided House Judiciary Committee that Bill Clinton had "misused his authority and power" to impede civil and criminal cases against him.

Presenting his case directly to the US public for the first time on national television, the independent prosecutor argued for the impeachment of Mr Clinton, setting out a damning catalogue of lying and obstruction in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Speaking in a relentless monotone, Mr Starr said Mr Clinton had broken his presidential oath. There was a "a pattern of obstruction that is fundamentally inconsistent with the President's duty to faithfully execute the law", he told the Committee. "The president had taken an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." he said. "By making false statements under oath, the President, the chief executive of our nation, failed to adhere to that oath and to his presidential oath to faithfully execute the laws."

The President, he said, had "repeatedly used the machinery of government and the powers of his office to conceal his relationship with Monica Lewinsky". On "at least six different occasions", Mr Starr said, "the President had to make a decision. He could chose truth, or he could choose deception. On all six occasions, the President chose deception - a pattern of calculated behaviour over a span of months."

Mr Starr's keenly awaited appearance before the judiciary committee occurred during the opening session of Congressional impeachment hearings, which were ordered last month by the House of Representatives on the basis of the special prosecutor's findings.

The proceedings were highly charged from the outset. Mr Starr's appearance was "a desperate effort to breathe new life into a dying inquiry", John Conyers, a Democrat, declared.

Mr Conyers attacked Mr Starr's ethics and Republican background and called him a "federally paid sex policeman spending millions of dollars to trap an unfaithful spouse".

The evidence presented against Mr Clinton by Mr Starr appeared damaging to the President, but the results of this month's mid-term Congressional elections have taken much of the pressure off Mr Clinton and have made impeachment less likely.

The strong showing by the Democrats was greeted both by the party and by the public as a vote of confidence in Mr Clinton, despite the evidence of illegality contained in the Starr report.