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Clinton supporters warn witnesses would drag out trial

Clintons
The Clintons leave church Sunday morning  

Republicans insist process can be controlled

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, January 17) -- Democratic supporters of President Bill Clinton took to the talk shows Sunday to warn that calling witnesses in his impeachment trial could drag out the proceedings for months and create a spectacle featuring players such as Linda Tripp and Ken Starr.

But some Republican senators and House impeachment managers disputed that assessment, saying that witnesses are necessary and that the process of calling and examining them can be limited and controlled.

The idea that Republicans would let the trial go on interminably when the nation wants a quick resolution "assumes that we Republicans are singularly stupid," said Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) on CNN's "Late Edition."

But Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) said assertions by Democrats that calling witnesses will drag out the trial are "not an exaggeration."

"If you go that route ... we may be talking May or June before we finish this trial," Dodd said on NBC's "Meet The Press."

"If it gets dragged on, it will be dragged on by the White House lawyers, because it can be handled in an expeditious way if they'll let us do it," Bennett said.

Dorgan says witnesses 'probably inevitable'

House impeachment managers concluded their opening case against Clinton on Saturday. On Tuesday, the White House begins its rebuttal case. Once that is completed, senators are expected to decide whether witnesses should be called.

Wellstone
Wellstone  

House managers insist witnesses are necessary to give senators the full flavor of the case. But the White House and Clinton's Democratic allies in the Senate are resisting that idea.

"If we go to witnesses, it will be a spectacle," said Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) on "Meet The Press." "It will go on and on, and the House members have nothing to lose. But the Senate has a lot to lose, and even more so, the country will have a lot to lose."

But even one opponent of hearing from live witnesses, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) said Sunday that he believes they will be called.

"I think it's probably inevitable that the votes are going to exist to call witnesses," Dorgan said on "Fox News Sunday. "I hope we don't do that, but I think that's where it's headed."

Democrats want to hear from Starr, Tripp

Though managers say no final decisions have been made on who to call as witnesses, the three people mentioned most often are former White House intern Monica Lewinsky; Clinton's personal secretary, Betty Currie; and presidential confidant Vernon Jordan. It will take an affirmative vote by 51 senators to call any of them.

But some Democratic senators indicated Sunday that if the process is opened to witnesses, they may want to call some other well-known faces in the impeachment drama.

"I'd be very interested in maybe having Linda Tripp, maybe having a whole host of people ... and (Independent Counsel) Ken Starr, all of whom might shed enormous light as to how it is we got here," said Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts).

"If I am any reader of the tea leaves, front and center is going to be Kenneth Starr, and we will go through prosecutorial abuse," said Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-New Jersey) on CBS's "Face The Nation."

Also speaking on CBS, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) pointed out that a majority vote would be required to accept those witnesses, and he vowed that "we are not going to let this spin out of control."

That prompted Torricelli to warn that if Republican senators approve the House managers' witnesses but reject those called by the White House, the impeachment trial would descend into a morass of partisanship.


Investigating the President

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Sunday January 17, 1999

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