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Saturday, February 13, 1999 Published at 11:49 GMT

Eyewitness: Of all my trials...

Senators: Free at last, free at last

By Washington Correspondent Paul Reynolds

It was a sunny Friday afternoon in Washington.

The trial was over.

The white dome of the Capitol looked at its commanding best. Democracy was in its heaven and all was right with the world.

Or at least this little part of it.

Outside the building, a crowd of several hundred had gathered. Some had suddenly been forced into the sunlight by a bomb scare.

Grave looking senators, who had done their constitutional duty, came out as well, to stand in front of cameras, to tell the folks how well they had done.

[ image: Not everyone was pleased with the trial's end]
Not everyone was pleased with the trial's end
The people began to trade arguments.

"Clinton was guilty", declared one man, his eye open for passing senators whom he could capture with his camera.

He drew an immediate response from a Clinton supporter who, white bearded and intense, was like the Ancient Mariner who "stoppeth one in three"; except in this case, he stopped everyone.

A young woman from New York said cheerfully "We love Bill Clinton". She took off her leather glove and demanded to shake hands with the BBC. Nice lady.

Senator Slade Gorton, a Republican from Washington state, was walking back to his office across the road. A mild mannered man, he had throughout the trial worked across party lines to try to get compromises. In the end, he voted against one article, on perjury, but had said "guilty" on the obstruction charge.

He remarked as we went along that he thought the Senate had, to use another form of the same word, acquitted itself well.

Crowd of cameras

[ image: Senators were greeted by a forest of cameras]
Senators were greeted by a forest of cameras
In a forest of cameras, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat, of New Jersey, a staunch "not guilty" man from the start, said that he did not hear anyone clapping for joy. He told me that it was a sad day. The president had been humiliated, though he was glad that Mr Clinton would remain in office.

"He's a darn good President", was Frank's comment.

I last met John Warner in 1976 on the lawns of the British Embassy in Washington where he and Elizabeth Taylor were attending a dinner for the Queen, visiting the United States on the 200th anniversary of her ancestor losing the place.

Now, and for past 21 years, a Senator from Virginia, John Warner was as polite as ever, paying tribute to the English common law on which the impeachment article in the constitution is based: we have learned such a lot about history during this trial.

"We did our job," said Senator Warner, who voted for conviction on the obstruction charge only.

"Let's move on" he continued, which for him, as Chairman of the Armed Service Committee means sending American troops to help keep the peace in any Kosovo agreement.

"The president will get my support", he declared. So much for the argument that the trial would disrupt the workings of the US Government.

The Capitol police announced that the building had been checked. People could go back in. Routine had been restored.

There was a sense of gratitude all round that the trial was over.

The words of the spiritual came back to me:

"All my trials, Lord, (will) soon be over."

At last this one was.

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In this section

Clinton in the clear

Eyewitness: Of all my trials...

World's press takes stock

Relief greets end of trial

A 'pyrrhic victory' for Clinton

Everybody wins

Key moments: In their own words

Timeline: The Clinton investigation