Monica scandal returns to haunt Democrats

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The Independent US

Just hours before Al Gore was due to speak to the Democrats last night, to his consternation a familiar name re-emerged: Monica Lewinsky.

Just hours before Al Gore was due to speak to the Democrats last night, to his consternation a familiar name re-emerged: Monica Lewinsky.

A new probe has been launched into allegations that President Bill Clinton broke the law during an investigation of his relationship with the young intern. The timing of its announcement left little doubt that someone wanted to remind voters of precisely those things that the Democrats have struggled to help them forget.

Robert Ray, the independent counsel who took over from prosecutor Kenneth Starr, has set up a grand jury to look at the charges against Mr Clinton.

The President was impeached by the US Congress and found not guilty in the Senate trial which followed. But Mr Ray, and Mr Starr before him, have both investigated the possibility that the President might face criminal charges once he leaves office. The main allegations against Mr Clinton are perjury and obstruction of justice. He could, in theory, be indicted on those charges as soon as the next president is sworn in next year.

Politically, the announcement - leaked to news agencies last night - is a bombshell. Mr Gore has tried very hard to erase the memory of Mr Clinton's misdeeds, while not distancing himself too far from a man who is more popular.

"The timing of this leak reeks to high heaven, but given the record of the office of the independent counsel, it's not surprising," said a White House spokesman.

"There is - as the public is well aware - a matter involving the President of the United States in connection with the Lewinsky investigation,'' Mr Ray said in March. "It is my task as a prosecutor to determine whether crimes have been committed and whether it is appropriate to bring charges."

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