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Turmoil At The White House

Behind the scenes, the Clinton White House is in turmoil. And why wouldn't it be?

The president has agreed to testify before, answer questions from a Republican special prosecutor determined to make a criminal case against him- and in the process very possibly destroy what's left of the Clinton presidency.

The president's political advisers see this as dangerous, at the least possibly political suicide. They are engaged in heated, desperate efforts to overturn the legal advice the president is getting.

What the political advisers want is for the president not to testify for Ken Starr, and to make some public statement - something fuller than he has done before.

All of which raises an interesting question: Will the president yet decide not to testify for Starr, not to walk into what his political advisers see as a trap?

There is no indication whatsoever that the president is even considering this. The official White House statements, including the president's own, say simply that he will continue to tell the truth and that he will answer Starr's questions, via a television hookup with the grand jury.

One opportunity for the president to bail out of the August l7th date with Starr is for him to say that there are appeals working, and that a federal judge's investigation into Starr's leaks to the press is not yet completed.

Thin? Yes. But, to hear some of the president's political advisers tell it, he is in desperate straits and must, absolutely must change course.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch indicated over the weekend that he believes that if the president makes some public statement, levels about what has happened and why and, in effect, asks for forgiveness from the American people, the American people would understand, and, if not absolutely forgiven, at least move on.

But, again, there are no indications anywhere that the president actually is contemplating such a move. On the other hand, if he were, none of us would be likely to know it at this stage.

A mea culpa scenario, before the grand jury date, is possible, but at this point, apparently not probable.

Will, can, the president yet be moved to that?

It will be, to say the least, interesting to see.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp