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Clinton's team to file impeachment response Monday

Moderate Republicans say witnesses likely in trial

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WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, January 11) -- With opening arguments in President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial set for Thursday, the president's legal team faces a 12 noon ET deadline Monday to file a formal response to the perjury and obstruction of justice allegations in the two articles of impeachment approved by the House.

Clinton's lawyers are not expected to break any new ground in responding to the charges. They also face a 5 p.m. ET deadline to file any motions in case. They could enter a motion to dismiss the case, although the lawyers might also defer that until later.

Meanwhile, Republicans on both sides of the Capitol are making it clear that they want senators to hear from witnesses, including Monica Lewinsky.

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Last week, the Senate agreed unanimously on a plan that puts off the decision on calling witnesses until after House impeachment managers and the White House both present opening statements.

But House managers -- all Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee -- remain insistent that witnesses are necessary, and even some moderate Republicans indicated Sunday they think the calling of witnesses is likely.

"I don't know how I can make a decision without hearing from someone firsthand," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on "Fox News Sunday."

"Some witnesses will have to be called," said Sen. John Chafee (R-Rhode Island) on NBC's "Meet The Press." He also said he would be surprised if the Senate voted to simply dismiss the charges after the opening statements.

At least 6 witnesses on House wish list

House managers say they will ask for at least six witnesses, including Lewinsky, Clinton confidant Vernon Jordan and presidential secretary Betty Currie. They may also ask to call White House aide Sidney Blumenthal and Susan Webber Wright, the presiding judge in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton.

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Monica Lewinsky's words will be central to both sides' case

To prevent the calling of witnesses -- something the White House does not want -- Clinton's allies in the Senate would have to muster a majority of 51 votes. That makes the views of moderate Republicans, such as Collins and Chafee, key because Senate Democrats only have 45 votes, not enough to prevent witnesses from being called without Republican help.

One Democratic leader, Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana, warned Sunday the wrangle over witnesses could destroy the Senate's mood of cooperation.

"We are in a bipartisan mode for the opening kickoff. Halftime is questionable, and if we go into overtime, all bets are off," he said on ABC's "This Week."

Clinton team works on legal response

At the White House Sunday, Clinton's defense team worked through the day drafting its formal response to a summons issued by the Senate and a point-by- point rebuttal of the House case and arguments for acquittal or dismissal of the charges.

Lewinsky
Lewinsky  

White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said Clinton would deliver his State of the Union speech as scheduled January 19, even though the trial will be under way. Some in Congress have urged Clinton to reschedule, but the president is sticking to a strategy of proceeding with business as usual and staying above the fray.

"We have no intention of being diverted from addressing the issues that are important to the country," Kennedy said.

But even some Democrats are uncomfortable with the decision to go ahead with the annual address.

"I think when we're in the middle of this kind of fact-finding ... it's almost schizophrenic then to turn around and go that evening into a State of the Union," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D- California).

House managers make case for calling Lewinsky

On the Sunday talk shows, a number of the 13 House impeachment managers who were selected to present the case against Clinton made their case for calling witnesses.

Rep. James Rogan (R-California) said Lewinsky is the key witness. The charges of perjury and obstruction of justice against Clinton stem from his attempts to hide a sexual relationship with the one-time White House intern.

"She ought to be the one to present the story," Rogan said on "This Week."

Another House manager, Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), said senators would benefit from hearing from Lewinsky and other witnesses.

"We are alleging that the president turned the judicial system upside down for his political and legal gain, and you need witnesses to tell that story," Graham said on NBC's "Meet The Press."

"I think it would be helpful for the Senate to listen to (Lewinsky) tell how this story unfolded about the job search -- to hear her own words, rather than me tell you what she said and the president's lawyers tell you what they think is the truth here," he said.

Harkin calls House case 'pile of dung'

In an earlier interview on "Fox News Sunday," Graham charged that even some Republican senators don't want witnesses called because they fear it could harm the "dignity" of the Senate.

That drew a sharp response from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who called the House impeachment case a "sham, partisan action."

"I don't think there's any way that we can cloak with any dignity this reckless action taken by the House. All we can do is hope to cloak ourselves with some dignity in handling this pile of dung ... that the reckless partisan House has handed us," said Harkin, one of 100 senators who last week took an oath to administer impartial justice.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle also disagreed with the House managers' insistence that Lewinsky testify, saying, "We think we've seen enough of Monica Lewinsky."

More than just the calling of witnesses remains unresolved. House managers also don't know if they will be allowed to use videotape snippets of Clinton's grand jury testimony, as was done in the House.

That's because Senate rules now prohibit the use of video monitors, allowing only simple charts placed on an easel.

CNN's Chris Black and Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.


Investigating the President

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Sunday January 10, 1999



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