With the Starr report now released, the central question is whether the Congress will pursue impeachment. And central to the question of impeachment is whether President Clinton committed perjury.
While a rebuttal released by the White House in anticipation of the Starr report asserts that Clinton did not lie under oath, the Starr report says there is "substantial and credible information" which suggests that "the President's lies about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky were abundant and calculating."
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The Starr report alleges that Clinton lied under oath twice: first in his January testimony in the Paula Jones civil lawsuit and then again last month during his videotaped testimony to Starr's grand jury.
The White House rebuttal countered the perjury charges, claiming that Clinton's encounters with Lewinsky "did not consist of 'sexual relations' as he understood that term to be defined."
The rebuttal goes on to note that "the law defines perjury very clearly. Perjury requires proof that an individual knowingly made a false statement while under oath ... Even if an answer doesn't directly answer the question asked, it is not perjury if it is true - no accused has an obligation to help his accuser. Answers to fundamentally ambiguous questions also can never be perjury. And nobody can be convicted of perjury based on only one other person's testimony."
However, the rebuttal does acknowledge that Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky did involve "inappropriate intimate contact."
The root of the argument is semantic: The President has testified that he did not touch Lewinsky sexually. Lewinsky's testimony, and that of her friends and colleagues claim he did.
But the bottom line is whether this constitutes an impeachable offense. Again, Starr's report claims there is ample evidence of Clinton lying under oath, and concealing evidence of his relationship with Lewinsky to begin impeachment proceedings. Lawyers for Clinton declared today that the President's transgressions were "personal," but do not constitute an impeachable offense.
In the rebuttal, Clinton's lawyers state that "a relationship outside one's marriage is wrong - and the President admits that. It is not a high crime or misdemeanor. The Constitution specifically states that Congress shall impeach only for "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Now that the results of Starr's investigation are public, the question remains whether Congress, and the American people will agree.
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