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Haggling over impeachment witnesses continues

By Brooks Jackson/CNN

January 12, 1999
Web posted at: 11:15 a.m. EST (1615 GMT)

WASHINGTON (January 12) -- The Senate agreed last week on a road map for proceeding with President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, but its much touted bipartisan compromise merely put off a decision on the key point of disagreement: whether to call witnesses.

domenici
Sen. Pete Domenici  

The Senate won't actually decide whether or not there will be witnesses for two weeks. In the meantime, Democrats are still pushing for a short trial and censure. In contrast, many Republicans want to hear from a handful of witnesses during the Senate trial, but say calling witnesses does not have to mean a long trial.

"I'm convinced this case is not going to be a long case even if there are witnesses," Sen. Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) said. But Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota predicted a Senate trial with witnesses could stretch into April or May.

Republicans say a trial won't last past February 15 even with witnesses. Sen. John Chafee (R-Rhode Island) suggested Monday the Senate would move quicker than is being predicted. "I just think we're going to move through this thing in a lot better fashion than people are gloomily predicting today," Chafee said.

chafee
Sen. John Chafee  

Chafee, considered a moderate Republican, also agrees some witnesses should be called. "That doesn't mean an army of witnesses, but a limited number of witnesses I think is appropriate," he said.

House prosecutors are trimming their witness list. House manager Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Arkansas) said Sunday he expects the witness list would contain five or six names.

Democrats maintain calling any witnesses will mean a long trial and say there is nothing to be gained from them, especially former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) said, "We think we have seen enough of Monica Lewinsky."

While Lewinsky may be called as a witness, all sides agree it is not necessary for lurid details of her relationship with Clinton to spill out on the Senate floor. "The country does not, not at all, need to hear Monica Lewinsky's tale of sex," said Domenici.

gramm
Sen. Phil Gramm  

Sen Phil Gramm (R-Texas) agreed. "My mom is going to be watching this trial and I want it to be one that we won't be embarrassed about," he said.

If questioned, Lewinsky would likely be asked about the return of gifts, and what the president said to her about her testimony in the Paula Jones case. Republicans want to focus on alleged obstruction of justice and not on tawdry sex in the White House.

Other possible witnesses would likely include presidential secretary Betty Currie and Clinton friend Vernon Jordon.

The question of which witnesses may be called remains unanswered, but according to a recent CNN/TIME Poll, 66 percent of those polled would like to hear from Clinton. But no one considers it likely the president will be called to testify by the Senate.

In the same poll, 55 percent favored calling Curry, 53 percent favored calling Lewinsky and 51 percent favored calling Jordan. The Senate is more likely to summon one or all of them.

It is also clear the public wants a short trial. Nearly half, 49 percent, of those polled would like a trial to last less than a week. Another 20 percent want the trial over in two weeks and 11 percent favored a three-to-four week trial, about what it would take even without witnesses. Only 12 percent said they wanted a trial longer than four weeks.

The survey's results are based on interviews with 1,067 adults conducted January 7, and it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


Investigating the President

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Tuesday January 12, 1999

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