Republicans blamed for leak on Lewinsky trial

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The Independent US

Just when Bill Clinton might expect to be heading towards a quiet retirement, the spectre of another trial looms. The President could be charged with perjury, subornation of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice for his alleged efforts to head off a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against him by the former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones.

Just when Bill Clinton might expect to be heading towards a quiet retirement, the spectre of another trial looms. The President could be charged with perjury, subornation of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice for his alleged efforts to head off a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against him by the former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones.

Though it had always been speculated that Mr Clinton could face criminal charges once he left office, the fact that a grand jury has been set up to investigate means judicial action is a step closer.

Robert Ray, the special prosecutor who replaced Kenneth Starr, set up the panel in secret, and details were leaked to coincide with Al Gore's headline speech to the Democratic convention in Los Angeles.

The Democrats yesterday condemned the leak, blaming the Republicans. "Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are going to focus on America's future. Republicans are obsessed with the past," a Gore spokesman said.

"I think that most Americans are getting tired of all these scandals and investigations and are ready for it to go away. The best way to make that happen is to elect a new administration in November," said Mindy Tucker, spokeswoman for the campaign of George W Bush. Some Republicans, however, drew parallels with another scandal. "The timing was reminiscent of 1992, when, just four days before the presidential election, special prosecutor Lawrence E Walsh indicted Reagan administration defence secretary Caspar W Weinberger in the Iran-Contra affair," said the right-wing Washington Times.

"Charges flew that the indictment was politically motivated because Mr Walsh's law office had contributed $20,000 [£13,3000] to the Clinton-Gore campaign."

The existence of a grand jury is no guarantee of charges, but the spectre of more legal proceedings can only add to the pressures on Mr Clinton. He has had to pay $850,000 to settle Ms Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit, and a federal judge has found him in contempt and fined him $90,000. The many inquiries into Mr Clinton, sparked by a partisan Congress, have so far cost about $50m.

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