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Hyde wants witness list before agreeing to timetable for Clinton defense

Judiciary chairman says he's committed to voting next week

Hyde
Hyde  
December 5, 1998
Web posted at: 7:39 p.m. EST (0039 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, December 5) -- House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde has asked President Bill Clinton's attorneys to provide a list of witnesses they want to call before agreeing to a timetable for the presentation of the president's defense on impeachment charges.

And in a letter sent to the White House Saturday, Hyde also made it clear that he is committed to keeping to his timetable of getting to a committee vote on proposed articles of impeachment by the end of next week.

On Friday, Clinton's lawyers had asked for as many as four days, starting Tuesday, to present a defense and to call witnesses before the committee. Many Republicans saw that as a tactic to push any impeachment vote into the next Congress, when there will be five more Democrats in the House.

In his letter Saturday, Hyde said he was willing to grant Clinton's attorneys a reasonable period of time to present their defense. But he said that before he could commit to any specific timetable, he would need to see Clinton's witness list.

Hyde also wants the White House to explain why those witnesses are relevant to the impeachment debate.

Clinton's lawyers have said they want to call witnesses to discuss the constitutional standards for impeachment and standards for prosecution of perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power, as well as exploring prosecutorial misconduct and the impact of tainted evidence.

But Hyde pointed out that his committee has already heard from constitutional law experts, impeachment experts and White House experts on the question of whether anything Clinton did in the Monica Lewinsky affair rises to the level of an impeachable offense.

Republicans were described as angry at the request made late Friday by the White House for four days of defense testimony. However, GOP leaders were sensitive about doing anything that could be construed as restricting the president from putting on a defense.

Clinton
Clinton was in Arkansas Saturday to attend a funeral  

Sources tell CNN that Hyde will make more than one day available to the White House to put on its defense. In order to make that accommodation, the Republicans are considering beginning impeachment hearings on Monday, instead of Tuesday as originally scheduled. No final decision will be made until Hyde receives a response from the White House.

Sources familiar with the White House legal strategy say the goal of the expert testimony is to call into question the ethics and tactics of Independent Counsel Ken Starr and to challenge the seriousness of the process committee Republicans have used in pushing for impeachment.

There has so far been no indication that Clinton's lawyers will call witnesses to dispute the factual basis of allegations contained in the impeachment referral from Starr.

Clinton's private attorney, David Kendall, and White House counsels Charles Ruff and Gregory Craig will appear before the committee.

White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.

Investigating the President

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Saturday, December 5, 1998

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