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Clinton Impeachment Trial To Start This Week

Following his impeachment by the House of Representatives on December 19, President Bill Clinton is facing a trial in the Senate that is likely to commence around January 6, 1999.

ClintonThe Senate, comprising 55 Republican members and 45 Democrats, has the power to try the president and, upon conviction, remove him from office. Vice-President Al Gore would become president if this occurred.

The Christmas holiday period has seen much discussion amongst American politicians about how to proceed in the coming weeks. Very few people believe that there are 67 votes in the Senate needed to convict the president, although commentators acknowledge that very little about the Lewinsky matter has been predictable during 1998 and a Senate trial is fraught with uncertainty.

In recent days, Senate Democrats such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan from New York have spoken in favour of a brief Senate trial and the passage of a censure motion against the president.

Senate Republicans such as Orrin Hatch from Utah have also spoken favourably of censure as an alternative to conviction, although House Republicans, particularly Majority Whip Tom DeLay, have been more outspoken in favour of a full-blown trial.

In the past week, 4 House Republicans who voted in favour of the impeachment articles have called for the Senate to censure the president instead of removing him.

Whilst there are Senate rules arising out of the trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and impeachment proceedings against federal judges in the twentieth century, there appears to be little agreement on precisely how the trial will proceed.

At this stage, opinion seems to be swinging in favour of the Senate beginning a full-blown trial, but possibly cutting it short after a couple of weeks and then voting to censure Clinton.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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