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White House drops plans to use House Democrats in defense

By John King/CNN

January 19, 1999
Web posted at: 4:17 p.m. EDT (1617 GMT)

WASHINGTON (January 19) -- The White House is dropping its plans to use House Judiciary Democrats as part of its defense team in the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, because of objections by Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, CNN has learned.

The White House had hoped to bring several House Democrats before the Senate to make the case that the House impeachment process was unfair.

Byrd
Sen. Robert Byrd  

But as the plans were reported Monday and into Tuesday, Byrd -- a man known for his fierce defense of Senate rules and protocol -- objected, saying there was no Senate precedent for allowing House members opposed to the chamber's impeachment decisions to participate in the Senate defense.

A senior administration official said, "We wish it were different, and think they could have made a valuable contribution. But we are not going to let a procedural issue get in the way of our defense."

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) planned to issue a statement later outlining the dispute, administration and congressional sources said.

The White House will be allowed to have former Democratic Sen. Dale Bumpers of Arkansas participate in its defense on Thursday.

The White House had contacted three Judiciary Committee Democrats, Reps. John Conyers of Michigan, Thomas Barrett of Wisconsin and Rick Boucher of Virginia, about participating in the defense.

Boucher declined to participate, citing "other business, including the development of a legislative agenda for the Internet Caucus," but Conyers and Barrett were expected to make presentations to the Senate, sources said.

Daschle
Sen. Tom Daschle  

Adding House Democrats to the defense team could have alienated Senate Republicans, but the plan was to mesh with the overriding White House goal to solidify Senate Democratic support for the president in the week ahead.

The White House hopes to show by week's end that Democrats remain unified in their support of Clinton and that there will never be enough Democratic votes to convict the president and remove him from office. Republicans would need at least 12 Democrats to vote in favor of removal from office, if all 55 Senate Republicans were in favor of conviction.

White House counsel Charles Ruff made a solo presentation on Tuesday. He delivered a point-by-point rebuttal to the perjury and obstruction of justice allegations. Ruff limited his presentation to a few hours, so there was a several hour break between the end of the trial proceedings and the president's State of the Union address.


Investigating the President

MORE STORIES:

Tuesday January 19, 1999

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