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Thursday, January 22, 1998 Published at 18:08 GMT


The case against the president

Taped conversations could force President Clinton from the White House

After almost nine months,President Clinton has still been unable to shake allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice. A Q&A guide to the allegations and what might happen next.

What are the main allegations?
President Clinton has admitted to an affair with a young White House aide, Monica Lewinsky. More seriously, Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr alleges that President Clinton lied under oath when questioned about the affair and told Miss Lewinsky to do the same.

How serious is this?
Very. Previous allegations focused on Mr Clinton's activities before he became president. The charges, if proved, would lay him open to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

When did the affair take place?
The affair took place in late 1995 when Monica Lewinsky was working as a volunteer in the White House. It continued for a number of months.

Where does perjury come in?
On January 7, 1998, Ms Lewinsky was questioned, under oath, by the lawyers for Paula Jones, who was then involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the president.

During her testimony Ms Lewinsky denied the affair. President Clinton also denied the affair when questioned under oath on January 17 by Ms Jones's lawyers. Ms Lewinsky has been granted immunity in return for her co-operation. President Clinton is still open to the charge.

... and obstruction of justice?
It is believed that Mr Starr's report might charge that Mr Clinton and a friend, Vernon Jordan, advised Miss Lewinsky to lie under oath about the affair.

How did the allegations surface?
The allegations came to light through a recent series of taped conversations between Lewinsky and another former White House staff member, Linda Tripp.

What is in the tapes?
The more than 20 hours of recorded conversations reveal that Ms Lewinsky talked to Linda Tripp about an affair but they did not confirm or disprove that she was told to lie under oath by President Clinton or Vernon Jordan.

What does this have to do with Whitewater?
The tapes were made at the request of Kenneth Starr whose was first charged with investigating the Whitewater allegations.

Mr Starr has been given permission to broaden his investigation to cover the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Is there a vendetta?
Hillary Clinton and many of Mr Clinton's allies have alleged that there are political and personal forces at work behind the allegations. Kenneth Starr has been working for years to try to make charges stick against Mr Clinton, but had little success in finding evidence which implicated the president personally. Indeed, Mr Starr has been criticised for his relentless pursuit of the president. His investigations have cost the taxpayers more than $40m.

But Mr Clinton's August admission that the affair did take place makes these theories irrelevant.

Where will it all end?
If the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice can be proved, President Clinton could be impeached by Congress and removed from office.

The House Judiciary Committee will decide whether President Clinton's conduct is covered by the term "high crimes and misdemeanors", an impeachable offence.

If it decides a formal inquiry is warranted, it could seek a House vote to authorise it. The House would then draw up articles of impeachment that the Senate would use during a trial to justify the president's removal from office. These would have to be approved by majority vote.



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