It's not over yet.
There will be more grand jury witnesses - maybe including a return appearance by Monica Lewinsky. Then prosecutor Kenneth Starr's report. Then a congressional decision on whether to hold impeachment hearings.
"Starr has everything he needs for his final report except one piece of the jigsaw puzzle - Clinton's testimony," said New York University law professor Steve Gillers. "Starr will insert that testimony, draw conclusions as he deems useful, and say goodbye."
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Still, the prosecutors' focus is on wrapping up their four-year investigation.
Starr has one trial coming up - that of the Clintons' former Whitewater partner, Susan McDougal, on criminal contempt charges for refusing to testify. In addition, Starr could move again against longtime Clinton friend Webster Hubbell, whose failure to recall key events hampered the Whitewater inquiry. Eventually, Starr must file a final report on his investigation with the court that appointed him.
If the Lewinsky matter moves to Congress, the House Judiciary Committee will replace the federal courthouse as the central location for the inquiry.
Leaders of the committee, including Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., have already made preliminary plans for handling a report from Starr, including asking the House to change its rules to narrow access to the report to protect the confidentiality of sensitive evidence.
And Hyde has already hired a team of new investigators that includes several well-seasoned former prosecutors.
But leaders have signaled that if such a report comes in the next month or so, the committee will likely begin a preliminary review of the evidence and leave the momentous decisions about whether to begin impeachment proceedings until after the fall election.
For the president's defenders, the job will be to convince the American public and lawmakers that Mr. Clinton's historic testimony should put an end to the investigation, to argue against impeachment proceedings and to try to change the subject for the president's final two years of office.
Former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta sounded that rallying cry.
"We've beethrough seven months of hell," Panetta said. "It's weakened the presidency. It's undermined confidence in our judicial system. It's bankrupted a lot of staff people who've had to testify. I think it's challenged families with their kids. And it's produced gridlock in the Congress. The time for healing has come."
Still, the Lewinsky matter won't go away and "there will be concern and publicity and leaks" once Starr sends a report to Capitol Hill, said Georgetown University law professor Paul Rothstein.
And any admission on President Clinton's part of a sexual relationship with Lewinsky also could be helpful to lawyers trying to reopen Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit, Gillers said.
"If the president's answers, coupled with other evidence, suggest a broader effort to suppress information in the Jones lawsuit, that could be sufficient ammunition to permit Jones to argue...that she needs to reopen the case," Gillers said.
Written by Pete Yost
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