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Clinton's lawyers get 30 hours to make case against impeachment

Senators start talking about procedures for possible trial

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WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, December 6) -- President Bill Clinton's attorneys will have 30 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday to make their case to the House Judiciary Committee that he shouldn't be impeached for his role in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

On Sunday afternoon, the White House issued a statement accepting that schedule, which was put forward by the Judiciary Committee earlier in the day. But the statement made it clear that White House was not happy that the committee refused to give Clinton's lawyers four days to present his case, as they had requested Friday.

"The Independent Counsel (Ken Starr) spent four years and $40 million investigating the president. The committee is spending four months doing the same. Our request for just four days has now been cut in half," the statement said. "Nevertheless, we will work to defend the president despite these restrictions."

Lott says he now expects Senate trial

On Sunday, senators on both sides of the political aisle said the time has come for the Senate to consider what procedures it will use to try Clinton if the full House of Representatives approves any articles of impeachment.

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The Judiciary Committee is expected to approve at least one article by the end of the week. Whether the full House will go along appears to be too close to call.

"Two or three weeks ago, there was a real question whether the House would actually impeach the president," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on CNN's "Late Edition." "But in the intervening last couple of weeks, I think things have turned against the president and I think ... that it's a 50-50 chance the House will impeach."

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) also acknowledged that the impeachment process has gained steam and that the president may be in trouble, particularly regarding allegations that he committed perjury.

"There's no question ... that we are in a position today that we didn't think ... we'd be in two or three weeks ago, where it appears that at least one of these articles of impeachment may have a chance of being adopted by the full House," Lieberman said, also on "Late Edition." "That puts the Senate on notice."

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) also said he now believes the Senate will have to hold a trial.

"We will do our duty, and in our oath, we pledge impartial justice," he said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "We will hear the evidence, and we will act."

Clinton may need to peel off 14 Republican votes

If an impeachment vote comes up in the full House, three Democrats have indicated they would vote for it. That means that Clinton would need the votes of at least 14 Republicans to escape the indignity of becoming just the second president ever impeached by the House.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who is in charge of counting votes in the House, said on "Fox News Sunday" that "if we voted today, the president would be impeached."

Last week, a Republican opponent of impeachment, Rep. Peter King of New York, predicted that as many as 40 House Republicans would vote against it. This week, he backed off that number.

King supports censuring the president instead of impeaching him. "If there was a censure vote in the House, you would find 15 to 20 Republicans voting for it and then voting against impeachment," he said on Fox.

But King has had a hard time getting Republican support for the censure alternative, which is opposed by many conservatives and House GOP leaders, including DeLay. Vote counters in both parties now say the full House vote on impeachment could be decided by a single vote.

White House must submit witness list Monday

The House Judiciary Committee's chief of staff, Thomas Mooney, outlined the schedule the committee will use this week in a letter sent to the White House on Sunday.

He informed the White House it has a total of 30 hours -- on Tuesday and Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to midnight EST -- to present its testimony.

"The presentation by the White House must be completed on Wednesday night so that the committee can stay on its course to resolve this matter by the end of the year," Mooney said.

The letter added that Clinton's attorneys must submit a complete list of witnesses they plan to call by noon Monday. The White House statement indicated that the lawyers plan to issue a formal response to the letter Monday.

After Clinton's case is presented, the committee will hear from its chief minority counsel, Abbe Lowell, and chief investigative counsel, David Schippers, on Thursday, according to the letter.

"Opening statements on consideration of impeachment will begin Thursday night, and the debate will continue into Friday," Mooney said.

White House request seen by GOP as stalling tactic

Mooney added in the letter that he is concerned that "recent maneuvers (by the White House) may be little more than an attempt to delay the committee and turn attention away from the facts before it."

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. The White House denied that charge.

In a letter sent to the White House on Saturday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde made it clear that he is committed to keeping to his timetable of getting to a committee vote by Friday.

Hyde also said he wants Clinton's lawyers to explain why the witnesses they plan to call 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 rises to the level of an impeachable offense.

Republicans were described as angry at the White House's late request for more time to present witnesses. However, GOP leaders were sensitive about doing anything that could be construed as restricting the president from putting on a defense.

CNN Correspondents Carl Rochelle, Jonathan Karl and John King contributed to this report.


Investigating the President

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Sunday, December 6, 1998



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