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Saturday, September 12, 1998 Published at 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK


President rejects Starr's 'smear campaign'

The president shares a laugh with his staff hours before the rebuttal

Click here to access the BBC's mirror site of the Starr Report and here to access the latest White House response.


The BBC's Stephen Sackur in Washington reports on the White House rebuttal
President Bill Clinton's legal team has issued a second rebuttal dismissing Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's report.

The 42-page rebuttal - which follows a preliminary rebuttal issued ahead of publication of the Starr report - says each of the prosecutor's arguments are focused on sex, that the report is a "hit-and-run smear campaign" and does not warrant impeachment of the President.


[ image: Journalists had been waiting for the rebuttal all day]
Journalists had been waiting for the rebuttal all day
"The referral is so loaded with irrelevance and unnecessary graphic and salacious allegations that only one conclusion is possible. Its principle purpose is to damage the President," the rebuttal said.

The Starr report lists 11 charges which could force the President out of the White House.

Mr Clinton's private attorneys, led by David Kendall, and White House lawyers, led by Charles Ruff, countered the report's charges saying: "The President did not commit perjury. He did not obstruct justice. he did not tamper with witnesses. And he did not abuse the power of the office of the Presidency."


[ image:  ]
The rebuttal addresses five main areas: sex, perjury, abuse of power, obstruction of justice and impeachment.

President Clinton's lawyers said his actions were wrong: "But such acts do not even approach the Constitutional test of impeachment - treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours."

"We have sought ... to begin the process of rebutting charges against the President - charges legal experts have said would not even be brought against a private citizen," the latest rebuttal concluded.


Washington Correspondent Paul Reynolds: "They challenge the whole basis of the Starr report"
The BBC's Diplomatic Editor Brian Hanrahan says Mr Clinton's lawyers are trying to divert the argument away from his private life and his sexual behaviour - which has caused such outrage amongst many Americans - on to a fairly narrow definition of whether he committed perjury.

He says the polls show that if the public believed the President committed perjury it could bring him down.


The BBC's Rob Watson reports on the rebuttal
Vice President Al Gore expressed his support for Mr Clinton on Saturday and said that the Starr report is not grounds for impeachment of President.

"I do not believe this report serves as the basis for overturning the judgement of the American people ... that Bill Clinton should be their president," Mr Gore said.


A Greek tragedy? Clinton's journey from denial to repentence
Mr Clinton himself is spending the weekend away from the media spotlight at home at the White House.

In his weekly radio broadcast to the nation, he said it had been an "exhausting and difficult week".

He stressed his primary mission was to continue his work for the American people, with a call to focus on the real issues facing the USA.

Testing public opinion

With mid-term elections approaching, public opinion will now be all-important.

Most Congressmen have reserved judgement on the Starr report, saying they wanted to wait to read the president's defence.


[ image: Details have yet to sink in]
Details have yet to sink in
But some analysts are suggesting they may be waiting to see which way the winds of public opinion are blowing before they play their cards

Democratic Congressmen have already dispersed to their districts to sample the views of their constituents, which will no doubt play a crucial role in determining their own support for the president.

According to early polls, about 60% of Americans still support the president's term in office.


The BBC's World Affairs Editor John Simpson reports on the American public reaction
But a growing number believe Mr Clinton should be impeached if he encouraged Miss Lewinsky to lie.

As the battle lines are drawn, and the lurid details in the Starr report sink in, opinion could sway either way.

What next for Clinton?


[ image:  ]
The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives must now decide whether the allegations in the Starr report constitute "high crimes and misdemeanours".

If so, the committee can begin formal impeachment hearings.

But such hearings would probably not begin until January next year, once the new Congress starts work.


The BBC's Bridget Kendall examines Clinton's difficult task ahead
If, after hearings, the committee were to recommend impeachment - a formal accusation of the President - it would be up to the full House to endorse.

Once impeached, Mr Clinton would go before the Senate for what would, in effect be a trial.

But as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Henry Hyde, says, for now they are "at the beginning of a long climb up a steep mountain".





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