Washington, 11 January 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The White House says it will file written motions today in the U.S. Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton that seeks to determine whether he should be removed from office.
Spokesman James Kennedy said Sunday the president's attorneys are working on a response to the formal summons that Clinton was served last week by the Senate. The summons notified the White House that the president is on trial.
White House spokesmen have said the charges should be thrown out because they are not serious enough to warrant Clinton's removal from office.
Clinton is charged with two articles of impeachment -- perjury (lying under oath) and obstruction of justice. The case stems from Clinton's relationship with former White House worker Monica Lewinsky and his attempts to keep it secret.
Democrats have 45 seats in the Senate. That would be more than enough to defeat a vote to remove Clinton, also a Democrat, from office if voting is done along party lines. Conviction and removal would require a two-thirds majority, or 67 of the 100 senators. A successful motion to dismiss the case would need the support of 51 senators.
Spokesman Kennedy did not disclose the nature of the White House legal response. However, the pretrial motions could argue that the case be dismissed because the charges are too vague, that they were improperly drafted or that they simply do not merit Clinton's ouster.
On Sunday, Republican senators said that testimony from witnesses may be crucial to their deliberations. Democrats, however, said testimony could unnecessarily prolong the trial.
Republicans from the House of Representatives who are among the 13 who will prosecute the impeachment case against Clinton want the right to call witnesses, including Lewinsky. They are also to present pretrial motions today.
California Congressman James Rogan, a Republican, said in a television interview (ABC) that Lewinsky should be permitted to present her story.
Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle of South Dakota said in a separate interview (on CBS) that he and his fellow Democrats are opposed to calling witnesses. He said Lewinsky is not in a position to add "one iota of additional information" at the trial.
Daschle said: "We have a body of evidence that is really phenomenal -- 60,000 pages. We know the facts. This has been analyzed and considered in as many ways as anything ever has in the Congress. I think we're ready now to present the evidence and make the decision."
Daschle said that if the House prosecutors bring in witnesses, he would support the White House presenting its own witnesses as well.
"We want to be fair," the senator added.
But Republican Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio said witnesses are critical to resolving factual disputes.
DeWine said (on NBC): "I have never seen a trial before where there are factual disputes and there were no witnesses called."
The House managers are set to begin arguing their case on Thursday. The White House is to follow with its arguments on Jan. 19 -- the day Clinton is to give his annual state of the union address to a joint session of Congress.
Following arguments, the senators acting like jurors are to ask questions for up to 16 hours through Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the Supreme Court.
Rehnquist is the presiding judge at the impeachment trial, only the second such proceeding in American history.