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White House says GOP's strategy is to get Clinton to resign

Hillary Clinton to visit Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, December 19) -- White House officials are resigned that a House vote to impeach President Bill Clinton will pass, but insist Republicans will not succeed in their "cynical, political strategy" aimed at removing Clinton from office.

The president is waving off calls for his resignation and seeking instead help in trying to strike a quick Senate plea bargain.

Two administration sources tell CNN that top Clinton deputies have sought advice in recent days from two former Senate majority leaders, Democrat George Mitchell and Republican Bob Dole. The White House is hoping for help in brokering a bipartisan compromise, the sources say.

A key step is shoring up Democratic support, and CNN has learned first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will go to Capitol Hill Saturday morning to cheer on her husband's defenders. Mrs. Clinton will meet with House Democrats to thank them for their efforts to prevent the president from being impeached.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

The first lady made rare public comments Friday on impeachment, voicing her support for the job her husband is doing and calling for reconciliation at this holiday time.

"I think that the vast majority of Americans share my approval and pride in the job that the president's been doing for our country," said Mrs. Clinton when asked about her feelings on the House debate. audio (484K wav audio file)

CNN has also learned the extended House Democratic leadership will go to the White House Saturday after the impeachment vote to participate in an event in the Rose Garden with Clinton.

In any public comments on the impeachment, the president is expected to urge a speedy resolution to the matter in the Senate, while leaving complaints of partisanship to the House Democrats.

White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said the GOP leadership has shifted tactics in recent days to a building drumbeat to try to force Clinton to resign.

To convince moderate Republicans to vote for impeachment, Lockhart said the GOP leadership made a "conscious effort" to "dumb down impeachment, to dumb down and say that this process wasn't important, that the real action was someplace else."

"And that having gone through it, turn 180 degrees in the other direction and say, it's so important, it's so important to this country and it's so damaging that the president should resign. I think, I think that that is a strategy that betrays partisanship and cynicism," Lockhart said.

Will the president resign? Vice President Al Gore said Friday, "People can forget about that."

The vice president, who has been taking the lead recently in the White House's anti-impeachment efforts, said in a radio interview with American Urban Radio Network that he was "fighting mad" about the Republicans' conduct in the impeachment debate.

Gore was asked if GOP leaders, particularly Speaker-elect Bob Livingston and Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, who both have confessed to extramarital affairs, were hypocrites for pursuing Clinton over his relationship with ex-intern Monica Lewinsky.

"Well, I'm not going to get into their personal lives, but I'll tell you this: I am fighting mad about the way they are carrying out this impeachment matter," Gore said. He accused the leadership of "cracking the whip and threatening the members of their party to fall into line" on the impeachment vote scheduled for Saturday.

Lockhart said the White House continued to believe the best outcome was a tough censure resolution and criticized the Republican leadership for not allowing that option to come to a vote. He said the GOP's goal was to force the president to resign, something Clinton has steadfastly refused even to consider.

Behind the scenes, senior administration officials scornfully cast the proceedings as a partisan vendetta against the president. "A disgusting display of raw politics," one senior adminstration official called the debate, "a stunning display that the Republican leadership is not interested in the views of the American people."

Other sources said Chief of Staff John Podesta urged administration aides Friday not to be discouraged by the House impeachment proceedings. According to one top aide present, Podesta said, "this is not about the president, this is about politics."

CNN's Marc Sklar and John King contributed to this report.

Investigating the President
IMPEACHMENT VOTE

Article I: Perjury before Grand Jury
Approved 228 - 206, roll call
For: 223 Republicans, 5 Democrats
Against: 200 Democrats, 5 Republicans, 1 Independent
1 Dem not voting

Article III: Obstruction of justice related to Jones case
Approved 221 - 212, roll call
For: 216 Republicans, 5 Democrats
Against: 199 Democrats, 12 Republicans, 1 Independent
2 Dems not voting

Article II: Perjury in Paula Jones case
Rejected 229 - 205, roll call
Against: 200 Democrats, 28 Republicans, 1 Independent
For: 200 Republicans, 5 Democrats
1 Dem not voting

Article IV: Abuse of high office
Rejected 285 - 148, roll call
Against: 203 Democrats, 81 Republicans, 1 Independent
For: 147 Republicans, 1 Democrats
2 Dems not voting



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Saturday, December 19, 1998

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