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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 19:45 GMT
'Ample evidence' to try Clinton
President Bill Clinton
Clinton's own admissions 'could have convicted him'
Former US President Bill Clinton could have been charged - and might have been convicted - over his attempts to cover up his affair with Monica Lewinsky, the special prosecutor has concluded.

Robert Ray - who took over from Kenneth Starr as independent counsel - said there was sufficient evidence the president had obstructed the inquiry into the scandal surrounding him and the former White House intern.

Clinton's changing claims
26 January, 1998: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.
17 August, 1998: I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact it was wrong.
4 September, 1998: I've already said I made a bad mistake and it was indefensible and I'm sorry.
19 January, 2001: I tried to walk a fine line between acting lawfully and testifying falsely. But I recognise that I did not fully accomplish that goal, and that certain of my responses to questions about Ms Lewinsky were false.

Mr Clinton's lawyers struck a deal with Mr Ray to spare the president from criminal charges the day before he left office in January 2001.

Mr Ray's report was released by a three-member panel of federal appeals court judges who appointed him and his predecessor Mr Starr to investigate the president and his wife in 1994.

The report - which was required by law - said: "The independent counsel concluded that sufficient evidence existed to prosecute and that such evidence would 'probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction... by an unbiased trier of fact'."

Mr Ray said he decided against prosecution on the grounds that "non-criminal alternatives" were sufficient.

But in the report, he concluded: "President Clinton's offences had a significant adverse impact on the community, substantially affecting the public's view of the integrity of our legal system.

"President Clinton admitted he 'knowingly gave evasive and misleading' answers" about his sexual relationship with Ms Lewinsky.

The day before President George W Bush was inaugurated, Mr Clinton agreed to surrender his licence to practise law for five years as part of the deal with Mr Ray.

Monica Lewinsky
Monica Lewinsky was 21 when she met the President

He admitted he made false statements under oath when questioned about his relationship with Ms Lewinsky during a hearing into his alleged sexual harassment of Paula Jones.

The report said: "President Clinton engaged in conduct that impeded the due administration of justice by testifying falsely under oath... that he could not recall ever being alone with Monica Lewinsky; and he had not had a sexual affair or engaged in sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky."

After the release of the report, Mr Clinton's personal attorney David Kendall said: "The investigation of President Clinton from 1994 to 2001 was intense, expensive, partisan and long.

"There's still no Whitewater report, and there's nothing new in this report. It's time to move on."

'Political process'

The former president's spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said: "It's not clear what the purpose of the report is other than to promote Robert Ray's Senate campaign, Monica Lewinsky's HBO special and the Paula Jones vs. Tonya Harding boxing match.

"The release of the report is a non-event.

"This investigation started as a political process and it ends as a political process."

Mr Ray's final report on his inquiry into claims of obstruction and perjury by Mr Clinton will soon be followed by his last submission on Mr and Mrs Clinton's involvement in the Whitewater financial case.

See also:

19 Jan 01 | Americas
Clinton escapes Lewinsky charges
22 Dec 98 | Themes
Sex, lies and impeachment
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