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

Senate Dems: Defense presentation was 'powerful'

January 19, 1999
Web posted at: 7:11 p.m. EDT (1911 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, January 19) -- Democratic senators had high praise for White House Counsel Charles Ruff's opening statement in his defense of President Bill Clinton Tuesday, but most senators from both sides of the aisle remain reluctant to discuss their impressions of the facts presented in the case.

Ruff opened the defense portion of the Senate impeachment trial of Clinton with a 2 1/2 hour presentation in which he rebutted the prosecution's perjury and obstruction of justice allegations. The White House's turn follows the House managers' three-day opening presentation.

Sen. John Kerry  

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) said Tuesday he thinks it's halftime, and though he hasn't come to any conclusions, he believes Ruff effectively "stopped momentum" for witnesses.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) also felt Ruff's presentation made witnesses much less necessary.

"He really presented the reality of what might or might not be learned by having any additional witness. And so I think as each area of contest is presented in the next day or two, the reality may sink in even more to people that there's not a lot of room here to find or learn anything more from a witness. In fact, in the case of a number of these witnesses, it may even be more damaging to the House to have them come in," Kerry said.

A former prosecutor, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), said Ruff's presentation effectively appealed to the lawyers in the Senate. Asked about witnesses, Leahy said, "You're not going to see anything different with a witness than you've been hearing for several days."

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said Ruff presented a "forceful" case, but felt the president's lawyer spent a great deal of time criticizing the process.

Grassley said too much time was spent on the question of witnesses. "I think Mr. Ruff went into a portion of his testimony today that raised the specter that well, 'you folks are really in for a shock if you think you're gonna get any information out of witnesses,'" Grassley said. "I don't know whether we need witnesses or not, but I know that it seems to me that there seems to be ... too much time put on the White House trying to make a case that there should be witnesses and why."

Sen. Tom Harkin  

Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin gave Ruff's statement high praise. "He gave a powerful rebuttal to all of the allegations that we heard last week. He did it in a forthright, straight manner, without any of the overblown rhetoric or hyperbole ... I think Mr. Ruff really did poke some holes in some of the allegations by the prosecution. Holes that I did not know existed," Harkin said.

In his opening statement, Ruff argued that there is the difference between the standard for impeachment of judges and the impeachment of a president.

Disagreeing with Ruff's argument was Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colorado). "I think that the president should have the same standard as anybody else showing up in court, I think that's what the forefathers intended when the wrote the Constitution and set up this country and I think that's the standard that we need to keep in mind, I don't care whether it's a member of the House or the Senate, or the president or the chief justice, the law needs to apply equally to all citizens of this country," Allard said.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) said Ruff's presentation was a "demonstration of why you need to hear both sides in a circumstance like this to begin to make some thoughtful judgments about these issues ... I think Mr. Ruff made a very strong statement."

Investigating the President


Tuesday January 19, 1999

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