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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Lewinsky denies Judiciary Committee request for interview

Clinton lawyers warn against calling witnesses

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, January 13) -- On the eve of opening statements in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, both the prosecution and defense are looking forward to the still unresolved issue of whether witnesses will testify before the Senate. While President Bill Clinton's latest defense filing Wednesday warned the Senate of delays if witnesses are called, CNN has learned that Monica Lewinsky's attorney has turned down a request from the House Judiciary Committee for an interview with the woman at the center of this sex-and perjury trial.

Transcript: Clinton answers questions about Senate impeachment trial

Over the past 24-hours there was initial contact between Lewinsky lawyer Plato Cacheris and the Judiciary Committee staff, asking for the former-White House intern to grant an interview with committee staffers and perhaps some committee members.

Also in this story:

The working assumption from the committee members is that they are "duty bound," according to committee sources, to "collect relevant evidence" to the case.

Plato Cacheris  

There is the possibility that the Judiciary Committee could subpoena Lewinsky under their independent subpoena rights, but there is no indication the committee will go ahead and exercise that right.

CNN has also learned two House prosecutors met face-to-face Monday with potential witness Kathleen Willey.

Two unidentified members of the House manager team had a meeting with former White House volunteer Willey and her attorney Dan Gecker on Monday, according to sources who were present at the meeting.

At the Washington meeting, they "talked about the possibility of her being a witness" in the Senate trial against the president, according to one source.

The managers were interested in discussing alleged efforts by the president's supporters to suppress Willey's claim that Clinton fondled her in a room off the Oval Office, said another source who was present at the meeting.

"Certainly no decision was reached at this time" about whether Willey would be a witness, said a source.

That is due, in no small measure, to the fact that the use of witnesses in the Senate trial has not yet been approved.

Clinton lawyers warn calling witnesses would delay proceedings

The president's defense brief, delivered to the Senate Wednesday, makes clear the White House will ask for a lengthy recess in the proceedings for "discovery" if the House prosecutors are granted permission to call even just one witness to testify.

"Trial by surprise obviously has no place in the Senate of the United States," the White House brief says.

The document complains that White House lawyers have not had access to the reams of information that were sent to the House Judiciary Committee, and if any witnesses are to be allowed, the White House would demand access to those documents to see if they had any relevance to the proposed testimony.

Joe Lockhart  

The president's defense team says it would also ask to depose any witnesses prior to their trial testimony, as well as to depose others who might have knowledge about the testimony the proposed witness would offer.

White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart reaffirmed the White House position Wednesday afternoon. "The problem isn't the time it takes to do the cross-examination and questioning, it's all of the work that has to get done before you can move forward with that point. You have issues of depositions and discovery, and that's going to take time," he said.

The document does not make clear how long a delay the White House might request, but says, "Fundamental fairness dictates that the president be given at least the same right as an ordinary litigant to obtain evidence necessary for his defense, particularly when a great deal of that evidence is presently in the hands of his accusers, the OIC (Office of the Independent Counsel) and the House managers."

White House's point-by-point rebuttal

The brief promises a vigorous and thorough defense of the president on the law and the facts of the perjury and obstruction of justice allegations.

As in an earlier response to a Senate summons, the White House argues the allegations against the president were not a threat to the U.S. system of government and therefore do not meet the standard the framers set for overturning national elections.

"The articles of impeachment that have been exhibited to the Senate fall far short of what the founding fathers had in mind when the placed in the hands of the Congress the power to impeach and remove a president from office. They fall far short of what the American people demand be shown and proven before their democratic choice is reversed, and they even fall short of what a prudent prosecutor would require before presenting a case to a judge or a jury," the brief reads.

The president's attorneys go point-by-point through House allegations, exploring Lewinsky's description of some of the touching that occurred between her and the president, the issue of the gifts, and obstruction of justice allegations that there was a conspiracy to get Lewinsky a job to keep her silent.

"Should the will of people be overruled and the president of the United States be removed from office because he used the phrase 'certain occasions' to describe 11 events over some 500 days?" asks the brief in a reference to his relationship with Lewinsky. "That is what the House of Representatives asks the Senate to do."

The brief labels the House vote to impeach Clinton as the most partisan vote for impeachment in the history of the United States, including judicial impeachments. It contends a conviction after such a partisan process would inevitably alter the balance of power and encourage future impeachment attempts.

The White House paints the situation as the president trying to conceal an inappropriate sexual relationship he had with Lewinsky, for which he has apologized.

"The Senate has an obligation to turn away an unwise and unwarranted misuse of the awesome power of impeachment. If the Senate removes this president for a wrongful relationship he hoped to keep private, for what will the House ask the Senate to remove the next president and the next. Our framers wisely gave us a constitutional system of checks and balances with three coequal branches," the brief states.

Lockhart described the 130-page document as very compelling and said it makes a strong legal case for the president's acquittal.

Lockhart said it was a "useful road map" to the actual arguments the president's lawyers will make during their opening statements.

White House lawyers delivered the document to the secretary of the Senate Wednesday morning, meeting a 10 a.m. ET deadline. Clinton reviewed and signed off on the brief Tuesday night.

At a meeting with labor leaders, Clinton told reporters he wants to focus on the nation's business, not the trial. "They have their job to do in the Senate and I have mine," Clinton said.

House prosecutors prepare opening statements

House prosecutors Wednesday turned over the record of the impeachment case they will argue to the Senate.

Rep. Henry Hyde  

House prosecutors also began distributing documents to senators which they said would help Senate members follow the presentation of the House case against Clinton.

First up Thursday will be the House managers; Hyde (R-Illinois) will lead off with introductory remarks.

Next, Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wisconsin), the second-ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, will provide an overview. He pledged without elaboration Monday that his argument will be "packed with all kinds of little nuggets, lots of stuff you haven't heard before."

In the brief the House filed with the Senate Monday, the managers laid out their case, repeating the same charges they made in their impeachment accusations.

"This case is not about sex or private conduct. It is about multiple obstructions of justice, of perjury, false and misleading statements and witness tampering, all committed and orchestrated by the president of the United States," the brief read.

The prosecution team said "the effect of the president's misconduct has been devastating."

"Indeed, how can anyone, in or out of our country, any longer believe anything he says?" the House prosecutors concluded.

Judiciary Committee sources say their entire presentation will take up much of the alloted 24 hours, spread over three days. That means they will probably finish their initial presentation Saturday.

Senators receive memo on decorum

In preparation for Thursday, the Senate leadership distributed a one-page memo to Republican senators outlining proper decorum for the impeachment trial.

The memo says senators should be in attendance at all times during the proceedings.

Other guidelines are more mundane, saying, "As we are all aware, senators will only have the opportunity for limited speech at the trial. We should also refrain from speaking to neighboring senators while the case is presented," the memo reads.

Also, senators cannot read while the trial is in session. "Our individual reading materials should be confined to only those readings which pertain to the matter before the Senate," the memo states.

Senators are also reminded in the memo to stand for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is presiding over the trial, and refer to him as "Mr. Chief Justice."

Senators must also stay out of the well of the Senate and turn off all cellular telephones and pagers.

Prior to distributing the memo, the Republican leadership asked Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) to approve it.

CNN's Bob Franken, Jonathan Karl and John King contributed to this report.

Investigating the President


Wednesday January 13, 1999

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