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Mood on Hill businesslike as prosecutors begin case against Clinton

By Candy Crowley/CNN

January 14, 1999
Web posted at: 4:47 p.m. EST (2147 GMT)

Wellstone
Sen. Paul Wellstone  

WASHINGTON (January 14) -- The United States Senate looked like nothing so much as a room full of school children as lawmakers listened to the opening statements of House Managers Henry Hyde (R-Illinois) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin).

Several lawmakers quietly made requests of various Senate pages (for paper, water, etc.), but no senator so much as whispered to another during the first hour or so of the proceedings. Everyone appeared to be listening with varying degrees of intensity. The room seemed largely lifeless. The mood seems businesslike.

Seated at their desks -- Republicans on one side, Democrats on the other -- some lawmakers took notes, others fidgeted, others were perfectly still. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) was up and down several times, moving to the back of the room where he leaned against the wall and listened. Wellstone has severe back problems.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who also suffers back problems, noted as the proceedings began that he would periodically stand to stretch his back. He said he did not intend to interrupt the proceedings.

Kerrey
Sen. Bob Kerrey  

Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Nebraska) was the first to leave the chamber, but returned almost immediately.

During the second hour several other senators, including Sens. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), left the chamber but quickly returned.

The gallery overlooking the chamber was packed, largely with well-dressed, highly-coiffed, invited guests. Still, there is a section set aside for tourists who moved in and out on a rotating 15-20 minute basis. There is also a special section set aside for journalists who are issued a limited number of daily tickets for the trial.

Prior to the convening of Thursday's proceedings, what looked to be pleasantries were passed between parties and sides. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) kissed White House Counsel Cheryl Mills. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Bob Smith (R-New Hampshire) were among those who shook hands with presidential lawyer David Kendall and the president's legal team. All 13 House managers and seven White House lawyers were in attendance, seated at separate tables at the front of the chamber.

When Chief Justice William Rehnquist opened the proceedings, all but three senators were in their seats. Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D- West Virginia), Robert Torricelli (D-New Jersey) and Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) made it to their desks within the first five minutes. Spotted in the back of the chamber, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) a member of the Judiciary Committee.


Investigating the President

MORE STORIES:

Thursday January 14, 1999

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