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Washington Journal: Senate To Consider Dismissing Case Against Clinton

Washington, 25 January 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. Senate is expected to consider today whether to dismiss impeachment charges against President Bill Clinton that seek his removal from office.

A simple 51-vote majority is needed to throw out the case. But political observers say the Democrats, who have 45 seats in the 100-seat Senate, are unlikely to pick up the needed support from the Republicans.

The Senate returns at 1900 Prague time to resume the Clinton impeachment trial. The president is charged with lying under oath and obstruction of justice stemming from an intimate relationship with a former White House worker.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, says he plans to offer a motion to dismiss the case.

Byrd, who has served in the Senate (upper chamber) for 40 years, says there are not enough votes to convict Clinton, a Democrat.

In order to convict and remove the president, the Senate needs 67 votes.

The veteran senator says that lengthening the impeachment trial would only prolong and deepen a political fight that has divided the country.

If the Senate decides to continue the trial, the next move would be to consider calling witnesses.

During the weekend, a federal judge ordered, Monica Lewinsky - the former White House worker and central figure of the impeachment case - to submit to questioning from House Republican prosecutors. Three of the prosecutors went to a Washington hotel late yesterday (Sunday) to question Lewinsky behind closed doors.

Democratic senators objected to the move. They said the Senate has not yet decided whether to permit any witnesses in the trial.

Republican Congressman William McCollum defended the approach.

He said: "We would be derelict in our duty if we didn't talk to her."

The House managers said they wanted to ask substantive questions of Lewinsky about her relationship with Clinton. McCollum said he wanted to question Lewinsky about "her current state of mind on the grand jury testimony that she gave." In that testimony, the former intern said Clinton never asked her to lie about their affair.

Meanwhile, Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott said he would go ahead with a plan to submit written questions to Clinton. The White House says Clinton would answer any questions only through his lawyers.

Several senators say they are stepping up work to end the trial that has occupied much of the Senate's time.

Senator John Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat, said in a television interview (on CBS) that one way perhaps to pick up enough support from the Republicans to end the trial is to offer what he called a "motion to dismiss-plus."

Breaux said: "That motion in essence would contain the facts that the president has dishonored the office, that he had an inappropriate relationship, that he misled the American public, but that it does not rise to the standard of convicting and throwing him out of office."

Such an outcome would let Clinton to serve out the remaining two years as president with a rebuke -- but not conviction - from the Senate.

Clinton was impeached by the House last month. He is only the second president in U.S. history to be impeached. But no U.S. president has ever been removed by the Senate after a trial.