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Starr report draws strong reactions as country awaits Clinton’s fate

WASHINGTON (BP)–Independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s report to Congress evoked strong reactions from numerous quarters as the question of President Clinton’s tenure in the White House hung over the country.
Starr’s report, which focused on the president’s attempts to conceal an adulterous relationship with a White House intern, was available for Congress and the country to see Sept. 11 when the House of Representatives voted 363-63 to release a 443-page document held under lock and key.
The report, based on an investigation that began in January with Clinton denying he had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, asserts there are 11 possible grounds for impeachment of the president. The grounds Starr outlines consist of lying under oath, tampering with a potential witness, obstructing justice and failing to fulfill his constitutional authority.
The charges, plus the graphic nature of the descriptions of 10 sexual encounters the president and Lewinsky had in the oval office area from 1995 to early 1997, brought the following reactions:
— The president’s lawyers attacked the report for three consecutive days, saying the president did not commit any of the offenses alleged;
— Some members of Congress called for the president’s lawyers to quit their legal hairsplitting in his defense;
— Some congressmen expressed regret at releasing the report on the Internet after reading the sexually graphic content;
— More major newspapers joined those calling for Clinton to resign.
The Starr report goes to great detail about the sexual relationship between Clinton and Lewinsky to show the president lied when testifying in a deposition in the Paula Jones lawsuit in January. At the time, Clinton denied he had sexual relations with Lewinsky. When the news reports of a Clinton-Lewinsky relationship broke days later, he told the American people he never had sexual relations with the former intern. On Aug. 17, the same day he testified to a grand jury, he told the American people his testimony in January was “legally accurate” but acknowledged he had an improper relationship with Lewinsky.
The Starr report charges Clinton not only committed perjury on four matters in the deposition but also on his sexual relationship with Lewinsky before the grand jury.
While some members expressed concern about the seriousness of the charges, David Kendall, Clinton’s personal lawyer, told reporters after a preliminary review of the report Sept. 11 the “salacious allegations in this referral are simply intended to humiliate, embarrass and politically damage the president. In short, this is personal and not impeachable.
“The president has acknowledged his personal wrongdoing, and so no amount of gratuitous allegations about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, no matter how graphic, can alter the fact that the president did not commit perjury, he did not obstruct justice, he did not tamper with witnesses, and he did not abuse the power of his office.”
The president did not lie but testified “truthfully and accurately ” on both Jan. 17 and Aug. 17, Kendall said.
Kendall and White House counsel Charles Ruff continued to deny the president committed perjury throughout the weekend. Some in Congress called for Clinton to halt such an approach.
“If you come in and then try to make a legal argument about what he said on January 17, I think you’re going to lose,” said Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., Sept. 13, according to The Washington Post.
Kerrey also said it was inconsistent for Clinton to confess he had sinned while his lawyers deny the president lied when he said he did not have sexual relations with Lewinsky. “The president’s lawyer and the president are now saying two different things,” Kerrey said Sept. 13, The Post reported.
During a religious leaders breakfast at the White House Sept. 11, Clinton said he had repented of his sin with Lewinsky but also said he would instruct his lawyers “to mount a vigorous defense, using all available appropriate arguments.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said “nobody believes” Clinton’s January testimony was “legally accurate” and he “ought to quit splitting legal hairs,” according to The Post.
Will Dodson, legal counsel and public-policy director of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “From a legal standpoint, President Clinton’s defense of the perjury charges would never fly in a court of law before a fair and impartial judge and jury. The only way that the president can defend himself against the perjury charges is by continuing to rely upon his contention that none of his actions with Ms. Lewinsky would fall within the definition of sexual relations, because if he did have sexual relations with her then he is guilty of the perjury charges.
“Thus the president’s only legal defense is to continue to rely upon his contention that his actions with Ms. Lewinsky are not embraced within the definition of sexual relations,” said Dodson, a former judge in Texas. “From a legal standpoint, this is a totally absurd position. If you look at the definition of sexual relations, it is impossible to conclude that the president’s actions with Ms. Lewinsky did not constitute sexual relations.”
After he began reading the report, Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., who earlier in the day had voted to release it, expressed his regret. “These graphic details should be taken off the Internet,” he told The Post. “We shouldn’t have it all out there for kids to read.”
On Sept. 14, USA Today called for Clinton to resign in an editorial. It said the “legal skirmishing misses the central question: Has the president so failed in his duties to the nation that he should leave office?
“The answer to that question is yes, and the time for the president to leave is not after months of continued national embarrassment but now. Clinton should resign.”
Clinton should resign “because he has resolutely failed — and continues to fail — the most fundamental test of any president: To put his nation’s interests first,” the editorial said.
On Sept. 13, the Philadelphia Inquirer also called for the president’s resignation. Among other newspapers calling for his resignation are the Orlando Sentinel and the Seattle Times.