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Prosecutors Deride Clinton Defense

January 16, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Wrapping up their opening arguments, House prosecutors today launched a blistering attack on what they called President Clinton’s ``so-what defense.″ They told senators he should be removed from office because he ``abused the trust placed upon him by the American people.″

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott asked Democrats to meet to discuss the possibility of calling witnesses later in the trial, but he got a cool response from Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle.

Lott suggested in a letter to Daschle that ``a bipartisan group of senators could anticipate and help resolve in advance any complications″ brought about by witness testimony. ``We should consider safeguards now so that testimony could begin as soon as fairness allowed.″

But Daschle said such a move would violate the Senate’s previous agreement, which calls for the witness question to be settled later in the process. ``I agree that the prospect of witness testimony poses a number of troubling considerations that we would be forced to confront,″ Daschle wrote. ``It is my hope that such arrangements will ultimately prove unnecessary.″

The House prosecutors opened their final arguments, seeking to show that perjury before a grand jury and obstruction of justice are offenses that meet the impeachment standard.

``By his action the president did commit high crimes and misdemeanors,″ Rep. Steve Buyer told a hushed Senate chamber, dismissing arguments by the White House that the president’s attempt to conceal his affair with Monica Lewinsky did not met the constitutional standard for ousting a president.

``I’m not offended by the ‘so what defense.’ If that is all you have then try it,″ Buyer said. He said presidential lawyers seemed to feel their only chance was to ``attack the prosecutor and attempt to confuse those who sit in judgment.

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