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Wednesday, February 10, 1999 Published at 14:05 GMT

President Clinton's best defence

Cheryl Mills: An effective presentation

The legal team defending President Clinton against impeachment charges in the US Senate stood in marked contrast to the House prosecutors sent to judge him.

Drawn from a set of devoted friends, the team has been assembled over the years of scandals from Whitewater to the Monica Lewinsky affair.

As a group, they differed greatly from the 13 white, middle-aged congressmen sent to judge him: Two are women - of whom one is black; one member delivers his arguments from a wheelchair.

The case for the defence

White House Deputy Counsel Cheryl Mills, the first woman to address the trial, is widely regarded as the shining star of the defence team, and gave an effective presentation on President Clinton's behalf on the second day of defence arguments.

She slapped down both the obstruction of justice charge and the House case that leaving Mr Clinton in office would undermine the rule of law.

A 33-year-old African-American, she is known as a devoted protector of the president and first lady, having served in the White House since Mr Clinton came to power.

Ms Mills is herself no stranger to controversy. She came under fire from House Republicans who questioned her truthfulness during a congressional investigation into allegations that White House computer files were misused to aid the president's campaign.

[ image: Gregory Craig: Public face of the team]
Gregory Craig: Public face of the team
White House Special Counsel Gregory Craig spoke alongside Ms Mills, refuting the allegations of perjury against the president. He delivered a chilling message to the senators: "If you convict and remove President Clinton, on the basis of these allegations no president of the United States will ever be safe from impeachment again."

Mr Craig, a friend of the Clintons from their Yale Law School days, was added to the anti-impeachment team last year as its political strategist and public face. Before joining the White House, he held a senior post in the State Department, worked for Senator Edward Kennedy and helped defend John W Hinckley Jr after he attempted to assassinate President Reagan.

Mr Craig's detailed presentation was markedly different from that of the team leader Charles Ruff. In an impassioned speech, Mr Ruff deflated House charges as a "witches brew" of allegations. He asked the gathered senators: "Are we at that horrific moment in our history when our union can only be preserved by taking this step that the framers saw as a last resort?"

[ image: Lead Counsel Charles Ruff: Low-key but forceful]
Lead Counsel Charles Ruff: Low-key but forceful
Mr Ruff, who uses a wheelchair, is a former Watergate prosecutor renowned as an expert in white-collar criminal law with clients including Sen Charles Robb and former Sen John Glenn.

He is known for his direct and forceful presentations - relying heavily on logic. The 59-year-old attorney surprised many when he conceded at a House Judiciary meeting that reasonable people might determine that the president testified falsely under oath, although he insisted that he had not intended to lie.

President Clinton's personal attorney David Kendall presented his client's defence on obstruction of justice charges.

Mr Kendall has battled with Mr Starr since he was named independent counsel to investigate the Whitewater affair in 1994. Although he usually prefers to stay behind the scenes, it was this 54-year-old lawyer who hammered him with questions about his prosecutorial tactics at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

[ image: David Kendall and Bruce Lindsey: Both long-time friends of the president]
David Kendall and Bruce Lindsey: Both long-time friends of the president
Raised as a Quaker in Indiana, Mr Kendall is another of the Clintons' friends from Yale. He has acted on behalf of a variety of clients, including the tabloid National Inquirer and The Washington Post.

Mr Kendall's law partner is 42-year-old Nicole Seligman, the second woman at the defence table. She is best known as one of the lawyers who helped defend Oliver North on charges of selling arms to Nicaraguan rebels during the reagan presidency.

Also on the team is Bruce Lindsey, who along with his associate and White House Special Counsel Lanny Breuer was forced to give evidence to Kenneth Starr's Grand Jury. Mr Lindsey has been one of the president's most faithful companions since their Arkansas days. He practised law in Little Rock and began serving as Deputy White House Counsel in 1994.

Summarising the case for the defence was Dale Bumpers, a long-time friend of the president, and former Democrat senator for Arkansas. Like Mr Clinton, he once served as Arkansas governor.

Even the opposition admitted that Mr Bumpers was a good choice for this important task. Sen Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican, said: "He's an excellent trial lawyer, experienced in the ways of the Senate, and he probably knows Bill Clinton better than all the rest of us."

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In this section

Profile: Lewinsky sees name in lights

Key figures in the Senate trial

Vernon Jordan: Smooth operator

Sidney Blumenthal: Starr witness

Kenneth Starr: Bullyboy or crusader?

Betty Currie: Innocent or enabler?

President Clinton's best defence

Tough Hyde

Sex and the White House

Linda Tripp: Friend and foe