GOP OKs Impeachment Procedure

The White House says House Speaker Newt Gingrich's maneuvering on possible impeachment proceedings are "premature."

Press Secretary Mike McCurry says he can't understand why GOP lawmakers are concerning themselves with something that would be months away at the earliest - while important national issues are languishing.

Click here for our
Special Report
McCurry, meanwhile, says Gingrich should create select committees to consider administration initiatives on education and child care.

House leaders reached agreement earlier Thursday on how to handle any allegations against President Clinton that may be referred to Congress by Whitewater special counsel Kenneth Starr.

CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante reports that Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., have agreed that a bipartisan panel of judiciary committee members and other House leadership would be formed to consider any possible impeachment proceeding against the president.

The panel also would go to Starr's office to look over any evidence related to the Clinton investigation. The panel would consider both the president's land dealings in Arkansas, being investigated by a Little Rock grand jury, and allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice, being investigated in Washington.

Natalie Ungvari of Los Angeles, a friend of Monica Lewinsky appeared before the Washington jury Thursday, accompanied by her lawyer, who also represents Neysa Erbland. Prosecutors believe Erbland, who testified last month, may have heard details about the former White House intern's alleged affair with President Clinton.

Also at the Washington courthouse Thursday was Marsha Scott. The deputy director of personnel at the White House did not speak to reporters when she arrived

Gingrich had broached the possibility of establishing a special committee for the job, as was done in the Watergate inquiry of the 1970s. However Hyde, backed by Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, have maintained that if Starr refers Clinton allegations to the House, the Judiciary Committee should handle it.

The visit to Starr's office, Plante reports, is an effort to keep leaks to a minimum. If Starr took his evidence to Capitol Hill, Plante says, it would be open to all members of Congress, increasing the chances that sensitive information would be leaked to the press.

However, one official said: "No preliminary investigation will get under way until Starr forwards a referral to the House, and it is still speculation that he will."

Plante ays this may be months away. However, House leaders are moving cautiously on this because, with President Clinton's high rating in the polls, any talk of impeachment makes members of Congress nervous. They are afraid of a backlash when they run for re-election, he says.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report