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Friday, February 12, 1999 Published at 17:32 GMT


Clinton in the clear



Bill Clinton has been cleared of all charges in his impeachment trial, leaving him free to carry on as the American president.

The trial of the president
In an historic vote, prosecutors failed to secure either of the two counts brought against him in the Senate trial, and could not even muster a simple majority on the first vote. A two-thirds majority was needed to convict on either charge.


The crucial 34th not guilty vote comes in on the first vote
On the article of perjury, senators voted 45 guilty, 55 not guilty, with 10 Republicans voting for acquittal. On obstruction of justice, members were split down the middle, voting 50 guilty, 50 not guilty. Five Republicans crossed the aisle to join their Democrat colleagues.


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Despite widespread predictions that the president would be acquitted, voting at times ran almost neck-and-neck in both instances.

The deciding vote that put the president in the clear on the second article was cast by Sen Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat. Members voted in alphabetical order.

Mr Clinton has now escaped any official rebuke. Immediately following the two votes, senators blocked attempts for a censure motion.

Quick reaction


The President is formally acquitted after the second vote
The vote signals an end to the long-running Monica Lewinsky scandal, which at times had threatened to topple the world's most powerful man.

Reaction was fast and furious and self-congratulatory on both sides.


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New York Senator Chuck Schumer, a vocal Clinton supporter, said "the Senate lived up to every expectation".

"Thank god this is over," he said.


Republican Representative Henry Hyde: Starr should put issue to bed
Representative Henry Hyde, who spearheaded the impeachment process, also complimented the Senate but stood his ground.

"We've all been witnesses to the genius of our constitution ... I have no regrets we fulfilled our oath of office."

The vote came after three-and-a-half days of closed debate on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice laid against the president by House prosecutors.

It was the climax of the first Senate impeachment trial of a president for more than 130 years. The Clinton camp hopes it also brings a halt to the Lewinsky saga, which first hit the front pages 13 months ago.

Public support


The BBC's Philippa Thomas reports on the historic vote
Throughout, the public has been resolutely on his side. Polls taken during the year have shown steady disdain for the partisan bickering over Mr Clinton's sexual misdeeds. His enemies have been increasingly marginalised in the dying days of the Senate trial.

For weeks, the president's fate has appeared safe in the hands of senators - a two-thirds majority would have been needed to remove him from the White House.


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Lately the guns have turned on the independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who is reportedly under investigation by the United States Justice Department.

Press reports say that Mr Starr, who was originally drafted in to investigate the president's financial dealings, allegedly misled Attorney General Janet Reno when he applied for permission to switch to investigating the Clinton-Lewinsky affair.



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