The Impeachment Of A President: The Evidence - The words that sank Clinton

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ON 26 JANUARY President Bill Clinton made his most celebrated, and flagrantly false, statement when he wagged his finger in front of the television cameras at the White House and said: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms Lewinsky". Seven months later, on 17 August, a chastened Mr Clinton was again before the cameras, in the White House where he had earlier given his grand jury testimony in the Monica Lewinsky case.

"Indeed, I did have a relationship with Ms Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong," he told shocked Americans.

While the contradiction between these two statements is clear, neither was made under oath and lying to the American people about an adulterous relationship is hardly an impeachable offence.

The question is whether what he said under oath about his relationship with Ms Lewinsky that day conflicted with what he had said under oath when he testified in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case in January. Any contradiction would make one statement or other demonstrably false.

Then, he denied having a "sexual affair" and particular forms of sexual contact listed in an agreed definition. His lawyer, Robert Bennett, also denied that there had been "sex in any shape or form" with Ms Lewinsky. But it is apparent from video clips and the transcript that there was considerable confusion about exactly what the President was admitting to. This has led to ridicule about Mr Clinton saying (under oath) that Ms Lewinsky had sex with him, but he did not have sex with her.

But some legal experts doubt whether the discrepancy is sufficient to prove perjury.