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Washington Journal: Clinton Rejects Calls To Resign

  • Frank Csongos

Washington, 14 December 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. congressman who presided over the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry is urging President Bill Clinton to resign for the good of America.

The call was made Sunday by Rep. Henry Hyde, a veteran Republican from the Midwestern state of Illinois, in a television interview (CBS TV's Face the Nation.) Other top opposition Republicans also urged Clinton, a Democrat, to resign.

Clinton, who is visiting Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in an effort to revive the Middle East peace process, said he would not step down.

He told reporters in Jerusalem: "I have no intention of resigning. It's never crossed my mind."

It was Hyde's committee that on Saturday approved the fourth and final article of impeachment, alleging that Clinton abused his power by lying to Congress.

The case stems from Clinton's relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and his allegedly illegal efforts to keep the affair private.

The House panel on Friday approved the first three impeachment articles on a strict party line, over the objections of Democrats. The articles allege two counts of perjury - lying while under oath - and obstruction of justice.

The full House of Representatives is anticipated to vote on impeachment this coming Thursday, in only the second such vote in U.S. history. The outcome of the vote is uncertain.

By reporting the impeachment charges to the full House, the Republicans blocked a Democratic censure alternative that would have condemned Clinton's behavior without seeking his removal from office.

The censure resolution said Clinton "by his conduct has brought upon himself, and fully deserves, the censure and condemnation of the American people." The defeated resolution said Clinton had failed to uphold respect for the truth and "dishonored" his office.

Just minutes before the first impeachment article was brought to a vote Friday, Clinton said on the White House grounds for the first time that he would accept the lesser punishment of censure.

Clinton said: "The public consequences of my actions are in the hands of the American people and their representatives in the Congress. Should they determine that my errors of word and deed require their rebuke and censure, I am ready to accept that."

The president said: "What I want the American people to know, what I want the Congress to know, is that I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds. I never should have misled the country, the Congress, my friends or my family. Quite simply, I gave in to my shame. Mere words cannot fully express the profound remorse I feel for what our country is going through and for what members of both parties in Congress are now forced to deal with."

Republicans say censure is unconstitutional, an abdication of the House's solemn role in impeachment. Democrats say it is a constitutionally correct alternative to impeachment.

House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt said yesterday (on NBC TV's Meet the Press) that if Clinton were to be condemned and censured by the Congress, history books would cite this in their first descriptions of Clinton's presidency.

If the House votes to impeach, the Senate upper chamber would then hold a trial.

If the Senate convicts Clinton, he would become the first American president ever removed from office by impeachment. However, a conviction is not considered likely because it would require a two-thirds majority, and Republicans are not believed to be able to muster the necessary votes.

Hyde said Clinton should resign to spare the nation the turmoil and tumult of impeachment and the possibility of a trial. He said resignation would be a way for Clinton to leave office with honor.

House Republican Whip Tom DeLay of Texas also called on Clinton to resign. And House Majority Leader Dick Armey said: "I can say if it were me, I would have resigned long before this moment."