GOP senators discuss exit strategy, ask Clinton for deposition
House managers to press for live witnesses Thursday
February 3, 1999
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, February 3) -- On the day House impeachment managers finished taking witness depositions in the trial of President Bill Clinton, Senate Republicans met behind closed doors to discuss a possible strategy to bring the trial to a close with a vote on so-called "findings of fact."
When the trial resumes Thursday at 1 p.m. EST, senators also are expected to decide whether to release the videotaped depositions of Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan and Sidney Blumenthal, all of whom were questioned this week.
They also will have to deal with a request from the House managers to summon witnesses to the floor of the Senate.
In another development, a group of 28 Republican senators sent a letter to Clinton late Wednesday, urging him to give a deposition -- something the White House has said he will not do.
"Personal answers from you should prove beneficial in our efforts to reconcile conflicting testimony," the letter said. "You should give every consideration to our request."
Democrats may thwart GOP plan with amendment flurry
Despite Democratic objections, GOP senators are considering a procedure under which the Senate would vote on "findings of fact" before taking a final vote on articles of impeachment.
Under the plan, the Senate would vote on a resolution saying that Clinton willfully provided false and misleading grand jury testimony and engaged in conduct designed to cover up evidence relating to both the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit and the federal grand jury investigation of his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
The White House and Clinton supporters on Capitol Hill call such a resolution -- which would require only a majority vote and not the two-thirds vote necessary to pass the impeachment articles -- unconstitutional.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle vowed that if Republicans go ahead, he would offer an "array" of amendments in an attempt to stymie the resolution.
Managers move forward with witness request
After the completion of the final deposition Wednesday, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), who heads the corps of 13 House managers, made it clear that they would push ahead in their quest to summon witnesses to the Senate floor.
"We would like live witnesses, and we intend to request them," Hyde said.
But many Democratic senators, and even some Republicans, indicated they are cool to that idea, making it unclear whether there will be the 51 votes required to approve the managers' request.
"Personally, I am not going to support appearances of witnesses before the U.S. Senate," said Sen. Olympia Snowe, (R-Maine).
If the Senate says no, Hyde said, House managers are prepared to move forward with the trial using videotaped segments from the depositions.
Blumenthal admits Clinton lied to him, sources say
Blumenthal, a White House aide and the third and last witness, spent about four hours with House prosecutors and the White House legal team Wednesday. Sources tell CNN that he was quizzed by Rep. James Rogan (R-California) and Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) for about one hour and 15 minutes.
The rest of the time was consumed by numerous objections from Blumenthal's lawyers, sources said. Some of those objections were to questions concerning Kathleen Willey, a woman who accused Clinton of making an unwanted sexual advance in the White House.
White House lawyers did not cross-examine Blumenthal. Sources say they believe he said nothing more than he had said previously.
In his earlier grand jury testimony, Blumenthal testified that Clinton told him that he had not had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and that the former intern had pursued him rather than the other way around. Blumenthal said the president also told him that Lewinsky had been described by others as a stalker.
House managers allege Clinton told Blumenthal that false story so he would relate it to the grand jury, thus obstructing justice.
Sources tell CNN that under questioning from Rogan, Blumenthal admitted that Clinton lied to him during that conversation. He also acknowledged that once word of Clinton's sexual relationship with Lewinsky became known, the president never contacted him to say that his earlier intimation that Lewinsky was a stalker was false.
But sources say Blumenthal insisted he never talked to anybody outside the White House about Clinton's descriptions of Lewinsky.
Rogan calls session 'very productive'
"It was a very productive session," Rogan said. "We look forward to the opportunity of being able to make the presentation on the Senate floor as to why Mr. Blumenthal and the other witnesses should be called live and give every senator the opportunity to see what I've seen."
Blumenthal, a former journalist, has long been a target of criticism. A New York Post editorial last fall dubbed him "Sid Vicious." And Republican leaders singled him out when they asked FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate whether Clinton allies peddled stories of adulterous affairs by lawmakers to the media. Blumenthal denied any involvement.
While other White House witnesses left grand jury appearances without commenting, Blumenthal held news conferences on the courthouse steps to attack Independent Counsel Ken Starr. And when presidential lawyers accused Starr of illegal grand jury leaks, Blumenthal sought to be a party to the case.
After one grand jury appearance, Blumenthal said prosecutors were asking him about his contacts with the news media and were trampling on the First Amendment.
Not one to shy away from a fight, Blumenthal filed a defamation suit against Internet gossip columnist Matt Drudge over a false report about Blumenthal's past. Drudge quickly retracted and apologized hours after sending out the item on the Internet. The lawsuit is pending.
CNN's Bob Franken contributed to this report.
Wednesday, February 3, 1999
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