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House Team Wants Rebuttal

Hyde Rep. Henry Hyde, leader of the House prosecution team, responds Thursday to the White House defense of President Clinton. (Reuters)

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  • House Managers' Responses to White House Presentation

  • By Juliet Eilperin
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, January 22, 1999; Page A25

    Stung by three days of barbed attacks on their impeachment case by White House lawyers, the House prosecution team yesterday demanded an opportunity for rebuttal time despite a bipartisan Senate deal that envisions no additional presentations.

    "We feel unhappy about the fact the agreement reached among the senators does not provide rebuttal time for us," said Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), the lead prosecutor. "We feel that's pretty standard."

    Other House "managers," such as Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), offered even more blunt criticism of the Senate process.

    "Under the traditional rules of impeachment the managers have an opportunity for rebuttal. The Senate resolution undermines that opportunity, much to the detriment of the truth and facts in the case," Cannon said. "We can only be hopeful that the Senate questioning period will be an opportunity to address the discrepancies, the mischaracterizations, the obfuscations and lies put forth by the White House counsel."

    Several GOP senators said the House team will have a chance to respond to the White House's assertions during the 16 hours of questioning by senators today and Saturday. But with the questions alternating between parties and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) urging both sides to be "succinct in their answers," prosecutors said they may not have the time they want to respond to the president's defense.

    "It would take me a good 30 to 40 minutes to slowly and carefully go through each point Mr. [White House counsel Charles F.C.] Ruff, Miss [deputy counsel Cheryl] Mills and Mr. [presidential lawyer David E.] Kendall have made in regards to obstruction of justice," Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) said. "I want to jump up there and talk right now."

    But the only senators who publicly advocated giving the managers an additional response period yesterday were those who suggested the trial might be drawing toward a close.

    Moderate Republican Sen. James M. Jeffords (Vt.) said he and his colleagues were discussing "what needs to be done now and how can we get out of here, hopefully, without feeling that we've shortchanged anybody. There's a strong feeling on the Republican side the House needs a good time to rebut." Jeffords added that such an opportunity would come after the question period.

    But Democrats, buoyed by a sense they may convert enough Republicans to block the prosecution's move for witnesses in the trial, showed no interest in meting out additional time. "I wouldn't give them five minutes," said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.). "They had their chance."

    Increasingly restive as Clinton's lawyers sought to demolish what Ruff called a case built on "shifting sand castles of speculation," the House prosecutors adopted an aggressive response this week outside the Senate chamber.

    The managers from the House Judiciary Committee cranked out a total of 29 fact sheets for the news media responding to Clinton's defense this week. They issued five such papers yesterday, with headlines ranging from "there is NO legal difference between direct and circumstantial evidence" to "what is the applicable law of obstruction?"

    Hutchinson conceded they were responding to "a shift in momentum" for the White House but said that was an inevitable consequence of Clinton's lawyers speaking uninterrupted for three days in a row.

    "In any trial you have momentum shifts," he said. "This week, guess what, the president's lawyers are up and they have a shift in momentum. If we had a rebuttal time, I would argue, we would have another shift."

    Even as House prosecutors readied themselves to answer senators' questions today, they continued to disagree among themselves on whether to add other women who have alleged to have had sexual relations with Clinton to the witness list they will present to the Senate next week.

    Some managers, including Cannon and Rep. James E. Rogan (Calif.), support calling some of these women to testify to prove the president repeatedly obstructed justice by encouraging them to file false affidavits in the Paula Jones case.

    "I personally think some of the evidence can be very probative," Rogan said of the women's testimony, who are each known by the collective alias of "Jane Does."

    But Hyde, who will make the decision on any witness list, has remained silent on the issue and other House Republicans are opposed to calling those women to testify. Hutchinson said such names would not fit on "a carefully constructed list that will draw the support of senators."

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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