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

Deposition videos to be played Saturday

Senate rejects calling Lewinsky in person

February 4, 1999
Web posted at: 7:08 p.m. EDT (1908 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, February 4) -- The Senate rejected Thursday a motion to call Monica Lewinsky to testify in person before the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. But the senators and the viewing audience will get the opportunity to hear from the former White House intern, as the Senate agreed to allow portions of her videotaped deposition to be played during the summation and closing statement phase of the trial.

Both the House managers and White House counsel will get the chance to play excerpts from this week's depositions of Lewinsky, presidential confidant Vernon Jordan and White House aide Sidney Blumenthal Saturday during the summation of the facts portion of the proceedings.

In this story:

Twenty-five Republicans joined all 45 Democrats in opposing the request made by the House prosecution to call Lewinsky in person. But members of both parties crossed party lines in approving, 62-38, the use of the videotaped depositions. An alternative motion, allowing only the transcripts of the depositions to be used, was defeated on a bipartisan basis.

The Senate votes:

Approved motion to enter the three depositions into evidence, 100-0. (roll call)
Rejected a motion to call Lewinsky in person, 70-30. (roll call)
Rejected a motion to allow deposition transcripts only in the summation and closing arguments, 73-27. (roll call)
Approved a motion to allow deposition transcripts and video tapes in the summation and closing arguments, 62-38. (roll call)
Rejected a motion to move directly to closing arguments, 56-44. (roll call)
Rejected a motion forcing House managers to tell president's team what portions of video they will use, 54-46. (roll call)

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) then introduced a motion to skip Saturday's summation phase and move directly to closing arguments. It was defeated 56-44.

Once it became clear the video would be permitted, White House Counsel Charles Ruff entered a motion requesting the president's counsel be given early notice of which parts of the videotaped depositions the prosecutors planned to use on Saturday.

House manager James Rogan (R-California) complained, quoting a former California judge who once said, "'It's none of your damn business' what the other side is going to put on."

Ruff's motion was rejected on a party-line 54-46 vote.

Earlier the Senate unanimously agreed to admit the depositions of Lewinsky, Jordan and Blumenthal into evidence.

Just as the last vote of the day was starting, a spectator cried out, "God almighty -- take a vote and get it over with it."

Chief Justice William Rehnquist instructed the Senate galleries to remain in order as doorkeepers and Capitol Police led the Richard Douglas Llamas, 48, out of the chamber. The Washington D.C. resident has been charged with disruption of Congress.

Preserving 'the dignity of the Senate'

After the Senate adjourned Thursday, White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart released a statement saying: "Today's vote rejecting the House managers' request for live witnesses indicates the Senate appears ready to bring this trial to a conclusion."

Sen. Charles Schumer  

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York also hailed the vote as preserving "the dignity of the Senate."

"I think it's the best news that's come out of this proceeding in a long, long time," Schumer said.

Rogan told reporters after the votes that the House managers are content with the day's outcome.

"We've certainly demonstrated that there are at least a core group of people who get elected to public office who will ... put their careers on the line to do what they think is right irrespective of what the shifting winds of popular opinion might be," Rogan said. "And we are content to let history be the ultimate judges."

Lewinsky released a statement through her spokeswoman Thursday saying she was "pleased that she does not have to go through the painful and humiliating ordeal of having to testify on the floor of the Senate."

A Lewinsky associate tells CNN that Lewinsky would prefer that none of her videotaped testimony be released but was expecting in advance that excerpts would be made public.

This associate also said Lewinsky has some $1 million in debt because of legal fees and had not worked in more than a year because of the scandal.

Arguing to see and hear Lewinsky

The impeachment trial reconvened Thursday shortly after 1 p.m. EST, with the GOP House managers entering a motion to call only the former White House intern to testify -- for as long as eight hours -- before the senators.

"Miss Lewinsky continues to be, in her own way, an impressive witness," Rep. Ed Bryant (R-Tennessee) said.

Bryant, who deposed the former intern on Monday, said even though Lewinsky was a reluctant witness and provided only the "minimum of truth," her answers affirm the prosecutors' charge that Clinton committed perjury and obstruction of justice.

"Unfortunately we're not having much success, in all honesty, convincing the 45 Democrat senators to abandon their president," Bryant said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Rep. Ed Bryant  

The motion, which was subsequently divided into three parts by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi), also contained a request to enter the depositions into the record and permit the public showing of the videotapes.

The House prosecutors hammered away at the idea that the depositions support their case and that the senators needed to see Lewinsky and judge her testimony for themselves.

"There's new factual record information that needs to be here for you to decide the guilt or innocence question on the perjury and obstruction of justice charges," Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Florida) argued.

Jordan's testimony, said Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Arkansas) who deposed the president's friend, demonstrates that Jordan was conducting a job search for Lewinsky at Clinton's direction when the president knew she was going to be a witness in the Paula Jones case.

The White House team argued that the Senate knows all it needs to know and should make a decision. White House counsel Gregory Craig also asked the senators to consider the damage it would cause to the president's family if the videotaped depositions were aired in the Senate chamber.

Gregory Craig  

Craig told the Senate, that while the president's team did not oppose the release of transcripts of the new depositions, it would be a "terrible mistake and wholely redundant" to allow live witnesses or to play the videotapes at the trial.

"There were no bombshells. There is no dynamite. There are no explosions," Craig said. "The evidence is as it is and is unlikely to change."

He also said the president's counsel opposed showing parts of the video tapes, saying they should be shown in their entirety or not at all.

Earlier Thursday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Illinois) told reporters House prosecutors would ask the Senate to allow Lewinsky, Jordan and Blumenthal to testify in person on the Senate floor. But that plan was abandoned before the trial resumed. Hyde said that at the least the prosecutors hoped to be able to use video from all three witnesses.

Although Hyde said he "would not bet the ranch" on the prospect of senators voting to allow any live witness testimony, he promised to continue to fight for Clinton's removal from office.

Lott's trial timetable

Even before Thursday's votes, Lott seemed to dismiss the chances of live witnesses when he set out the timetable for the rest of the trial.

Under Lott's schedule, the Senate would reconvene on Saturday to hear six hours of presentations from the House managers and the president's counsel on the evidence gathered in the latest round of depositions.

Senate Majority Leader
Trent Lott

On Monday both sides would present their closing arguments and senators would begin their closing deliberations on Tuesday. With all 100 senators having the opportunity to speak for 15 minutes, that portion of the trial could last until Thursday or Friday.

Lott pledged to try to have the final vote on the articles of impeachment as early as Thursday but certainly completed by 12 noon EST on Friday, February 12.

Still unresolved is the question of when, if ever, the Senate would have the opportunity to vote on either a "findings of fact" or a censure resolution.

Democrats oppose 'finding of fact' resolution

Some Republican senators are pushing a "finding of fact" resolution, a carefully worded document that would condemn Clinton's conduct in relation to his affair with Lewinsky, a former White House intern, but would not accuse him of committing any criminal acts and would not remove him from office.

A proposed text would find that Clinton:

  • Willfully provided false and misleading grand jury testimony.
  • Engaged in conduct designed to cover up evidence relating to the Paula Jones sex harassment suit and the federal grand jury investigation of his relationship with Lewinsky.

Democrats have launched a withering barrage of criticism against the proposal, attacking it as unconstitutional. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) called it "findings of fiction" rather than fact.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) said of the proposal: "It's an easy way of convicting a president without a two-thirds vote ... it would set a bad precedent, there's no precedent for this, and I'm concerned that it could become a political weapon to be used by parties that control both houses."

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) one of the architects of the plan said she was not willing to go forward unless the proposals get some support from Democrats.

Republican Sen. Phil Gramm (Texas) said he opposes the idea of a "finding of fact," calling the proposal "an effort for politicians to protect themselves politically."

"The way out is to vote 'guilty' or 'not guilty' and live with it," Gramm said.

Censure also an option

Daschle said Thursday he plans to have a formal draft of a censure resolution available Friday.

Sen. Bob Kerrey  

Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Nebraska) said he advocates adjourning the trial, voting on a tough censure resolution, then reconvening the trial for an up or down vote.

"I'd love to see the Republican leadership move immediately to the Democratic leadership and say let's put together a tough, bipartisan resolution of censure" that the president should sign, said Kerrey.

Daschle said Democrats will push for an immediate vote on the articles of impeachment and then go to a censure resolution. He said Kerrey's proposal to adjourn the trial and pass a censure resolution is "also an option" but one that would take Republican support.

The White House promised there would be no declaration of victory if the Senate acquits Clinton.

"I now declare in a post-impeachment era, this a gloat-free zone," White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said Wednesday.

Clinton is accused in two articles of impeachment of perjury and obstruction of justice, but the Republican majority concedes that a two-thirds vote of the Senate, 67 votes, required by the Constitution to convict Clinton is not possible.

No more presidential testimony

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."

White House counsel Ruff formally responded to the invitation Thursday , telling Lott in a letter: "It is neither necessary nor appropriate for the president to testify."

CNN's John King contributed to this report.

Investigating the President


Thursday, February 4, 1999

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