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Thursday, December 10, 1998 Published at 07:53 GMT

Clinton impeachment charges set out

Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld (right) argued that lies did not justify impeachment

BBC Washington Correspondent Philippa Thomas: "There is a great deal at stake in Congress"
The Republican majority on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has proposed four articles of impeachment against US President Bill Clinton.

The articles, to be debated on Thursday, include two counts of perjury, one of obstruction of justice and one of abuse of power.

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It is expected the committee will vote this week to send at least one of the proposals - probably that of perjury - on to the full House.

The BBC Washington correspondent says Wednesday's debate was the last chance for the Democrats to present their basic case - that President Clinton sinned, but did not break the law.

But the Republicans' chief counsel, David Schippers, is expected to introduce fresh evidence when he sums up the case for impeachment: excerpts from the videotape of Mr Clinton answering questions in the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit.

This evidence could reinforce the Republicans' claim that the President was contemptuous of the law.

Censure plan

BBC Washington Correspondent Stephen Sackur: Bill Clinton is in desperate need of friends
Democrats countered the Republican impeachment plans with a proposal to censure Mr Clinton, citing him for "reprehensible conduct with a subordinate" - Monica Lewinsky.

"No person is above the law and the president remains subject to criminal and civil penalties for this conduct," the Democrat proposal reads.

It does not accuse Mr Clinton of perjury or demand he pay a fine.

Republican testifies for Clinton

A senior Republican politician backed the moves to have impeachment proceedings dropped.

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Former Massachusetts governor William Weld told the committee expulsion from office was too high a price for lying about a sexual affair.

Mr Weld had been called by the president's legal team to give evidence before the Judiciary Committee in the second and final day of defence.

He suggested a deal involving a vote of censure, a fine and a written acknowledgement of wrong-doing by the president.

Swing voters

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The president's lawyers have aimed their arguments at undecided congressmen who could swing the vote in the full House.

Mr Clinton's lawyer, Charles Ruff, conceded in Wednesday's hearing that "reasonable people" may conclude that the president lied about his sexual contact with Ms Lewinsky.

But Mr Ruff insisted Mr Clinton's testimony did not amount to perjury because the president believed it to be true - albeit misleading.

New offensive

Meanwhile, the White House has launched a new offensive, with a 184-page brief against impeachment that sharply criticised independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde dismissed the White House report as "more legal hairsplitting and semantic gymnastics".

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