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White House offers a 184-page defense report

Defense case aimed at GOP moderates in the House

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, December 8) -- As part of its defense before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday, the White House provided a detailed 184-page defense report rebutting charges brought by Independent Counsel Ken Starr.

Clinton, Starr, Lewinsky

The point-by-point rebuttal by Clinton's attorneys of Starr's referral to Congress said Clinton was "profoundly sorry" for his "sinful" relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, but made a "distinction between immoral conduct and illegal or impeachable acts."

Also in this story:

"The president has not sugar-coated the reality of his wrongdoing," the president's legal team wrote. "Neither should the committee ignore the standards of the Constitution to overturn a national election and to impeach a president."

The White House document denies charges that the president lied under oath, obstructed justice or abused his powers.

While conceding the president may have been misleading while under oath, the defense report said, "a lie is not necessarily perjury."

Clinton's lawyers also accuse Starr of waging a biased investigation and deliberately omitting from his report evidence that might help the president.

"Mr. Starr's conduct in the Lewinsky investigation has betrayed a bias that helps to explain a lack of neutrality in the referral," the report said.

While White House aides concede the committee will likely approve at least one article of impeachment, the document is aimed at the moderate members of the House who may be convinced to vote against it in a floor vote.

Clinton's latest rebuttal sounds a more conciliatory note to Republicans angry over the president's legalistic answers to the 81 questions posed to him by the committee and who accuse the White House of avoiding the facts of the case in favor of attacking the independent counsel.

Exculpatory quote omitted from Starr report

Starr's referral implied that Clinton wanted his friend Vernon Jordan to help Lewinsky find a job as an incentive for her to stay silent about her affair with the president.

The defense report repeatedly criticizes Starr for not including in his referral a verbatim quote from Lewinsky's grand jury testimony in which she said, "No one ever asked me to lie and I was never promised a job for my silence."

Jordan and Clinton's personal secretary, Betty Currie, are both quoted as telling the grand jury that it was Currie, not Clinton, who came up with the idea of Jordan helping Lewinsky find a job in New York, the White House says.

The Clinton report blames Linda Tripp instead for prompting her onetime friend Lewinsky to hold out for help from Jordan before signing an affidavit in the Paula Jones case denying her relationship with the president.

The document argues that Clinton was not asking Lewinsky to lie when he suggested she deny in the affidavit that she had sex with Clinton. Clinton and Lewinsky both believed that the definition of sexual relations was sexual intercourse, not the kind of activities they engaged in, the defense report said.

Lawyers: Clinton misled, but did not lie

The report concedes that the president was misleading in his answers when deposed in the Jones case on January 17, but blames Jones' lawyers for not following up with precise questions about the details of Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky.

The president denied in the Jones deposition that he was ever alone in the Oval Office with Lewinsky. In fact, Clinton was alone with her in a room off of the Oval Office, but the Jones lawyers did not ask specifically about that, the Clinton report said.

The report points out that Clinton conceded, in the deposition, that it was possible he was alone with Lewinsky. It was not the president's fault the Jones lawyers did not ask additional questions, the defense report said.

While Clinton's responses were evasive, they do not amount to perjury, the Clinton lawyers wrote.

"A lie is not necessarily perjury," the document said. "Perjury requires proof that a defendant, while under oath, knowingly made a false statement as to material facts."

Denials of abuse of power, obstruction of justice

The report argues that the president did not abuse his power by attempting to invoke special privileges to shield Secret Service agents and his government lawyers from subpoenas in the Lewinsky investigation. The document said Clinton lawyers insisted he make those arguments to protect future presidents.

The White House also denies the charge of obstruction of justice and uses grand jury testimony from Lewinsky and Currie to argue that Clinton did not conspire with Lewinsky to hide gifts he had given her.

Starr suggested Clinton wanted Currie to get the gifts from Lewinsky so lawyers for Jones could not use them in her suit against the president.

The White House defense document was delivered to the committee after hours of nonstop testimony by legal experts, historians and political warriors from the Watergate era Tuesday.

Clinton's attorneys brought three panels of witnesses to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, which must vote on impeachment by week's end, including legal experts, historians and three Democrats who sat in judgment of Richard Nixon 24 years ago as members of the same congressional panel. (Full story)

New pressure to apologize; moderate Republicans targeted

Meanwhile, the renewed push for impeachment by congressional Republicans has prompted some nervous Democrats to urge that Clinton make a contrite public apology as part of his defense against impeachment.

Options being suggested by range from submitting a written statement to the House Judiciary Committee in the next two days to making another public apology about the Lewinsky affair, administration and Democratic sources say.

But the embattled commander in chief may be getting support from two moderate Republicans.

Maverick Republican Rep. Amo Houghton of New York is planning to publicly announce his opposition to impeachment on Wednesday, CNN has learned.

Two sources close to Houghton told CNN the moderate Republican will publish an opinion piece in The New York Times. These sources say Houghton will call for the president to be censured.

Houghton's announcement, coupled with plans by former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld to testify Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of the White House, could be significant as Democrats court two dozen moderate House Republicans to oppose impeachment.

The White House and Democratic allies are working off a list of 31 House Republicans as they court the lawmakers whose votes are critical if, as expected, the impeachment debate reaches the House floor.

The list, obtained by CNN, includes 24 GOP moderates and seven more House Republicans who are conservatives from Democratic-leaning districts, as additional prospects for the anti-impeachment lobbying effort.

A Democrat involved in the vote counting effort told CNN Democrats believe they need about 16 Republican "no" votes -- and say they have firm commitments so far from six or seven.

A handful of New York moderate Republicans are on the target list, and the White House and its allies are hoping Houghton's announcement gives their effort momentum.

Three Democrats have told their leadership they plan to support impeachment and the Democratic source said two or three other Democrats were possible impeachment supporters.

Also targeted are two Republican congressmen-elect, in the event the impeachment debate carries over into the next Congress: Paul Ryan and Steve Kuykendall from Wisconsin and California districts, respectively, that lean Democratic.

For now, Democratic sources tell CNN the courting of these Republicans is anchored on personal appeals from Democratic colleagues and others who oppose impeachment who enjoy good personal relations with each of the Republicans on the list.

These sources say Democrats believe they can make a substantive argument against impeachment but also point out to each Republican on the list that a vote in favor of impeachment could hurt them in the 2000 election campaign, a presidential election year when turnout tends to be higher.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer and John King contributed to this report.

Investigating the President

MORE STORIES:

Tuesday, December 8, 1998

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