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Saturday, January 16, 1999 Published at 14:24 GMT

Prosecution plea: 'Do the right thing'

Rep Steve Buyer launched prosecution attack on Mr Clinton

Republicans wrapped up their arguments against President Bill Clinton with a passionate appeal to senators' patriotic duty to protect the rule of law and safeguard the "covenant of trust" between the president and the country.

The trial of the president
The grand finale of three days of arguments to remove the president from office came from lead prosecutor and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep Henry Hyde. He said that as "the trustee of the national conscience", Bill Clinton had shattered the trust of the American people, debased the office of the president and made himself unworthy of the honour to lead.

Rep Henry Hyde: 'Make America a country worth dying for'
"No greater harm can be done than breaking the covenant of trust between the president and the people, between the three branches of our government and between the country and the world," he said.

[ image:  ]
In an attempt to reclaimed the gloss and lustre that many said he had lost in the partisan House debates, Mr Hyde addressed accusations that the prosecutors' motivations were purely political.

"These are not trivial matters, these are not partisan matters. These are matters of justice," he intoned. "It is not a question of who we hate. It's a question of what we love.

"And among the things we love is a rule of law, equal justice before the law and honour in our public life."

Tough choice is the right choice

[ image: Rep Lindsey Graham]
Rep Lindsey Graham
Rep Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also spoke eloquently. He cut to the heart of the Senate's dilemma: Is it worth it to risk throwing the country into political turmoil over lies about sex?

Speaking without notes, Rep Lindsey Graham, a former trial lawyer, pleaded with senators to convict Bill Clinton even though it means removing a popular president from office.

Rep Lindsey Graham: "He chose to lie"
"If we can do nothing else for this country, let's say that this behaviour is unacceptable. Remove him.

"This is a hard question. I'm not going to tell you that it's not," he said, pacing back and forth in front of the podium. "No matter what you do Americans will get up and go to work the next day and they will be OK."

Just like anyone else

Rep Steve Buyer: "Perjury and obstruction of justice are not private acts"
Mr Graham was preceded by Rep Steve Buyer. The Indiana Republican once again stressed that the president was not above the law.

Rep Buyer explained at length how military officers lose their jobs and private citizens lose their freedom for similar crimes.

[ image:  ]
"Where is the fairness for these Americans if they stay in jail and the president stays in the Oval Office?" he asked the hushed Senate chamber.

Some 182 Americans were convicted of perjury and 144 convicted of obstruction of justice in 1997, Rep Buyer said.

On Tuesday, as President Clinton puts the final touches on his annual State of the Union address, White House lawyers will begin their 24 hours of arguments in the president's defence.

Divided over witnesses

The BBC's Stephen Sackur: "The prosecutors are desperate to call witnesses"
Despite Saturday's persuasive arguments, the issue of witnesses remains unresolved.

The question of calling witnesses has polarised the Senate. Democrats maintain that the weight of evidence passed on by the House is enough to allow them to make a decision.

Republicans have kept up steady pressure.

On Friday, Representative Bill McCollum of Florida requested that the president himself should testify.

[ image: Rep McCollum: Evidence shows Mr Clinton
Rep McCollum: Evidence shows Mr Clinton "knowingly" lied
"Let's examine Monica Lewinksy, Vernon Jordan, Betty Currie and other key witnesses. Invite the president to come, judge for yourself their credibility," he told the Senate.

The White House has rejected any idea of Mr Clinton attending the trial, saying that he has already testified about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Battling against national boredom

Despite the historic nature of the trial, prosecutors face an uphill battle trying to sustain the interest of the American public who appear to have switched off.

Major television networks that carried the start of Thursday's session did not continue on Friday.

A new ABC News poll showed that only 33% of the public believed Mr Clinton should be removed from office if he lied about the affair under oath, compared to 55% who held that position shortly after the scandal first broke one year ago.

Mr Clinton is charged with committing perjury and obstructing justice over his affair with former White House aide Monica Lewinsky.

A two-thirds vote in the Senate is needed to remove Mr Clinton, but this is something few believe will happen. It is America's first presidential impeachment trial since 1868.

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