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Investigating The President

Legal analysts: Clinton rebuttal unconvincing

In this story:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As details of possibly impeachable offenses by President Clinton were being released, some legal analysts said they did not think that the immediate White House rebuttal would be convincing to Congress and the public.

Clinton, Lewinsky

"Regardless of what the president says, I think he was deceitful," said Greta Van Susteren, co-host of the CNN legal affairs program "Burden of Proof."

She said lawmakers who'll decide whether to bring impeachment charges against Clinton will have to ask themselves whether "deceit on this personal, sexual matter (will) inhibit his ability to perform as president."

The 73-page rebuttal written by Clinton's personal attorney David Kendall and White House Counsel Charles Ruff and their associates was released by the White House less than an hour after the House voted to make public the findings of Independent Counsel Ken Starr.

His report accuses Clinton of 11 impeachable offenses. Among them: perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and abuse of presidential power in his effort to conceal a sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

'Weaseling around'

Clinton publicly denied eight months ago that he had had sexual relations with Lewinsky but then in August admitted that he had had an improper relationship. But the White House rebuttal said the president did not commit perjury.

"These encounters did not consist of sexual intercourse, and they did not consist of 'sexual relations' as he understood that term to be defined" in his testimony last January in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against him, the White House rebuttal said.

But "Burden of Proof" co-host Roger Cossack rejected the fine legal line the White House was using in Clinton's defense.

"The part of this report that I've had the most difficulty with... is what I consider to be weaseling around about whether or not this was sexual intercourse or not sexual intercourse," said the CNN legal analyst.

The argument that Clinton didn't lie in January because his sexual involvement didn't involve intercourse won't be accepted by the public, Cossack said. "I don't think it's going to wash."

Sexual detail not necessary

Starr's report contains detailed descriptions of the president's sexual encounters but that information "doesn't add to the inquiry," Van Susteren said.

"The only issue is whether or not there are (impeachable offenses) and that will be up to Congress to decide."



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Friday September 11, 1998

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