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Clinton Impeachment Trial: White House Lawyer - Closing Argument, U.S. Senate Session (1999)

Published by Admin in The Presidency
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February 8, 1999On January 25, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia moved for dismissals of both articles of impeachment for lack of merit. On the following day, Rep. Bryant moved to call witnesses to the trial, a question that the Senate had scrupulously avoided to that point. In both cases, the Senate voted to deliberate on the question in private session, rather than public, televised procedure. On January 27, the Senate voted on both motions in public session; the motion to dismiss failed on a party line vote of 56--44, while the motion to depose witnesses passed by the same margin. (In both cases, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was the sole Democratic vote in the majority.) A day later, the Senate voted down motions to move directly to a vote on the articles of impeachment and to suppress videotaped depositions of the witnesses from public release, Feingold again voting with the Republicans.Over three days, February 1--3, House Managers took videotaped closed-door depositions from Monica Lewinsky, Clinton's friend Vernon Jordan, and White House aide Sidney Blumenthal. On Feb. 4, however, the Senate voted 70--30 that excerpting these videotapes would suffice as testimony, rather than calling live witnesses to appear at trial. The videos were played in the Senate on February 6, featuring 30 excerpts of Lewinsky discussing her affidavit in the Paula Jones case, the hiding of small gifts Clinton had given her, and his involvement in procurement of a job for Lewinsky.On February 8, closing arguments were presented with each side allotted a three-hour time slot. On the President's behalf, White House Counsel Charles Ruff declared: "There is only one question before you, albeit a difficult one, one that is a question of fact and law and constitutional theory. Would it put at risk the liberties of the people to retain the President in office? Putting aside partisan animus, if you can honestly say that it would not, that those liberties are safe in his hands, then you must vote to acquit."Chief prosecutor Henry Hyde countered: "A failure to convict will make the statement that lying under oath, while unpleasant and to be avoided, is not all that serious...We have reduced lying under oath to a breach of etiquette, but only if you are the President...And now let us all take our place in history on the side of honor, and, oh, yes, let right be done."On February 9, after voting against a public deliberation on the verdict, the Senate began closed-door deliberations instead. On February 12, the Senate emerged from its closed deliberations and voted on the articles of impeachment. A two-thirds majority, 67 votes, would have been necessary to convict and remove the President from office. The perjury charge was defeated with 45 votes for conviction and 55 against. (Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voted "not proven," which was considered by the Chief Justice Rehnquist as a vote of "not guilty.") The obstruction of justice charge was defeated with 50 for conviction and 50 against.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinton_impeachment

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