The Starr Report: Damning evidence that shames the President

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The Independent Online
A SENSATIONAL list of allegations against President Bill Clinton, with hundreds of pages of supporting detail, were at last made public last night. It is a tale of sex, lies and cover-ups that makes a damning read. The report by the independent counsel Kenneth Starr threatens to end Clinton's career.

Starr's report is compelling, convincing and highly detailed. It contains graphic details of their sexual encounters, but also of what are alleged to be repeated attempts to conceal the President's relationship. It shines a harsh light on Bill Clinton's tortured inner life and bizarre sexual preferences.

The report outlines 11 grounds on which the President could be impeached. "The President has pursued a strategy of deceiving the American people and Congress since January 1998, delaying and impeding the criminal investigation for seven months and deceiving the American people and Congress in August 1998," it says. He "engaged in a pattern of conduct that was inconsistent with his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws."

The White House strategy for handling the torrent of revelations was overwhelmed by the sheer weight of evidence spilling from the Starr report, all 445 pages of it. The details - legal, political, and many toe-curlingly personal - will dominate the news around the world for days and weeks to come.

The report confirms that the semen found on Ms Lewinsky's blue dress was almost certainly the President's. It discloses she called him "handsome" and he called her "sweetie, baby or sometimes dear". He told her he did not expect his marriage to survive; she imagined herself his wife.

One of the key elements to emerge is the precise detail of their sexual acts, and what Mr Clinton has said about them. She performed oral sex on him while he spoke to a Congressman on the telephone; they shared a cigar in an unusual way. The President initially denied sexual relations with Ms Lewinsky, but later claimed that this was because the acts between them had not met a rather over-legal definition which was used in court. According to Ms Lewinsky, at least, their intimacies seem to have been well within this definition on several occasions.

But the key allegations, those that may doom the President and consign him to history, are the eleven acts which the report says may constitute impeachable offences. Eight of them concern alleged lies by the President to the court investigating a claim of sexual harassment brought by the former Arkansas employee Paula Jones, or attempts to conceal evidence to it. Three cover the President's activities since then, including his alleged efforts to stymie the Starr inquiry itself. The most serious is that the President abused his constitutional authority.

It will be for the Congress to decide whether these constitute high crimes and misdemeanours, for which the Constitution mandates impeachment. There is no clear, legal definition.

Both the sexual revelations and the allegations of perjury will horrify Americans; especially the episodes that took place in the inner sanctum of the White House.

As the President made his umpteenth public apology at a prayer meeting yesterday morning, his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, sat impassively by his side. She has issued statements supporting him politically as a good president, but has yet to bare her soul or reveal her true feelings about his betrayal of their marriage. Her friends say that she feels humiliated.

Last night Mr Clinton received tumultuous applause from Irish-American politicians at a reception in the White House . A beaming Hillary Clinton once again praised her husband's achievements and acted as though nothing had happened.

Mr Clinton last night spent half an hour on the telephone with Tony Blair talking about the Irish peace process, the economic crisis in Russia, and the collapsing world economy. Downing Street refused to say whether they discussed Starr's accusations. "What they discussed in private remains private," a spokesman said.

The mood of Americans remains unclear but the latest polls show growing moral revulsion. The President's approval ratings are holding at 60 per cent, but the proportion of those who say Mr Clinton shares their values has dropped to 20 per cent.

The White House rebuttal was hampered yesterday by lack of prior access to Starr's report. "The president has acknowledged a serious mistake - an inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky," the rebuttal said. But "this private mistake does not amount to an impeachable action.

"This is personal, and not impeachable," said David Kendall, the President's lawyer.

During yesterday's prayer meeting, the President made a misty-eyed apology. "I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned," he said.

In his first public apology to Ms Lewinsky, he said: "It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine - first and most important my family, also my friends, my staff, my cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people. I have asked all for their forgiveness."

Pressure is now growing for Mr Clinton to resign rather than inflict further damage on the office of the presidency. A resolution tabled in the House of Representatives last night said: "Given the president's admitted actions, he has destroyed the integrity of his office and should resign."

Starr's 11 Charges

Against Clinton

1 Perjury in Paula Jones case about Lewinsky relationship.

2 Perjury to grand jury about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

3 Lied in Jones case deposition about gifts to Lewinsky.

4 Lied in his deposition concerning conversations with Lewinsky.

5 Obstruction of justice by trying to conceal evidence about his relationship with Lewinsky.

6 Conspired with Lewinsky that they would lie in the Jones case.

7 Tried to obstruct justice by helping Lewinsky obtain a job.

8 Perjury in conversation with Vernon Jordan about Lewinsky.

9 Tried to obstruct justice by attempting to influence the testimony of his secretary.

10 Tried to obstruct justice by refusing to testify for seven months while simultaneously lying to potential grand jury witnesses.

11 Committed acts "inconsistent with the president's constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws".

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