Thrusday, December 31, 1998
Senators warming to a deal
Leadership, Starr said to be open
BY PAUL BARTON
Enquirer Washington Bureau
and The Associated Press
WASHINGTON The Senate's Republican and Democratic leaders on Wednesday discussed presenting to their colleagues a plan to start a trial of President Clinton and permit a censure vote if conviction appeared unlikely.
Friends of Kenneth Starr also signaled the prosecutor might consider a deal.
A Senate leadership source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no firm agreement between Majority Leader Trent Lott and Democratic leader Tom Daschle, but both appeared amenable to presenting the idea when the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 6.
The two leaders previously discussed a tentative trial schedule that would begin evidence presentations Jan. 11 and wrap up by month's end. Chief Justice William Rehnquist would preside and House prosecutors would present the charges that the president committed perjury before a grand jury and obstructed justice.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has repeatedly said he would favor a censure if it was clear that conviction by the necessary two-thirds vote was not attainable in the Senate.
But two other Republican senators, Phil Gramm of Texas and Mike DeWine of Ohio, made clear Wednesday they wouldn't support censure under any circumstances.
Mr. Gramm said the Senate has a clear, constitutional obligation to vote on whether the president is guilty or not guilty of the two articles of impeachment.
Sen. Mike DeWine said Wednesday the Senate will handle an impeachment trial of Mr. Clinton with the grave decorum it requires and that the result will command public respect.
Mr. DeWine reiterated his belief that a trial should be held and that a censure motion would be the wrong way to resolve the president's case.
It's not our job to punish the president, nor is it our job to require the president to say some magical words, nor is it our job to ask the president to make a public act of contrition, Mr. DeWine said at a Capitol Hill press conference.
He added that censure will not end the civic ugliness in which we are currently mired.
Mr. Starr's office has not been contacted about a possible deal in the Senate.
But two friends who spoke on condition of anonymity said the prosecutor hasn't ruled out entering into a three-way resolution of the case that might include an agreement not to prosecute Mr. Clinton after he leaves office.
Some Clinton supporters have said the president was unlikely to sign on to a censure deal that concluded he had committed wrongdoing and then could be used against him by Mr. Starr in a criminal prosecution after he leaves office.
Some have suggested a three-way deal in which Mr. Starr would agree not to prosecute Mr. Clinton if he admitted making false statements in his testimony, or at least agree not to use any admission by Mr. Clinton in a censure deal during a future prosecution.
The friends said Mr. Starr wasn't soliciting such a proposal but hadn't ruled out signing on to one if it is brought to him.
If Mr. DeWine and Mr. Gramm have their way, there would be no deal.
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