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Partisan fighting over impeachment continues

White House lawyers prepare for trial

December 24, 1998
Web posted at: 1:45 p.m. EST (1845 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, December 24) -- The war of words between House Republicans and the White House continues, even though the House of Representatives finished its formal duties in the impeachment proceeding against President Bill Clinton last Saturday.

White House Counsel Spokesman Jim Kennedy reacted angrily Thursday to comments House Majority Whip Tom DeLay issued Wednesday regarding how the full Senate should examine all of the potential evidence against the president before taking a vote on impeachment.

Rep. Tom DeLay  

"Having put the hammer to his colleagues in the House, he wants to do the same thing to the Senate. But, we think the Senate will reject the politics of personal destruction," Kennedy said.

On Wednesday, DeLay reacted strongly to reports that in the days and weeks ahead, more than a dozen House Republican moderates are expected to come forward and say the Senate should adopt a punishment short of Clinton's removal from office, even though they voted for impeachment.

Earlier this week, five GOP moderates publicly urged the Senate to consider censure, prompting impeachment critics to argue the GOP leadership had strong-armed the impeachment vote through the House by not allowing a vote on censure.

"I can tell you with great certainty that a censure resolution would have failed in the House," DeLay said in a written statement.

The Texas Republican, a leading advocate of the House taking an up or down vote on the articles of impeachment and not allowing a vote on a censure alternative, warned censure supports that if the Senate closely examines the evidence they may see the 67 Senate votes needed to remove Clinton from office "appear out of thin air."

"Before people look to cut a deal with the White House or their surrogates who will seek to influence the process, it is my hope that one would spend plenty of time in the evidence room," DeLay said, referring to the office where Independent Counsel Ken Starr's supporting evidence is available to legislators. "If you don't, you may wish you had before rushing to judgment."

Even as the president finishes his last minute Christmas shopping, White House officials say his lawyers are still working this Christmas Eve preparing for the trial in the Senate that could begin early next year. And according to sources, at least one Clinton lawyer cancelled his vacation to stay and work on preparations.

The House approve two article of impeachment on Saturday, charging Clinton with perjury in his August 17 grand jury testimony and obstruction of justice by trying to conceal evidence of his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern. After passing the article, the House handed the matter over to the Senate.

Two Senate sources told CNN Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) plans to form a bipartisan panel of senior senators to advise him once Chief Justice William Rehnquist is sworn in and the impeachment trial has officially begun.

But one senator, a Republican, told CNN that the group of advisers "could be the group that could broker a deal," meaning the panel would offer advice to Lott when and if the time comes to work out a censure plea bargain.

CNN's Carl Rochelle contributed to this report.

Investigating the President

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Thursday, December 24, 1998

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