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Votes Fall Far Short of Conviction

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The U.S. Senate acquitted President Clinton on two articles of impeachment Friday, rejecting a Republican-led drive to force him from office on charges stemming from his affair with Monica S. Lewinsky.

The votes, which ended a long year dominated by scandal, fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed to oust Clinton--only the second U.S. president to be impeached--and failed to win a simple majority.

The five-week Senate trial, marked by much of the same political divisiveness that has fueled the case from the start, culminated with the defeat of a perjury charge, 55 to 45, while the vote on an obstruction of justice count ended in a 50-50 tie.

All 45 Democratic senators supported acquittal. They were joined by 10 Republicans on the perjury charge and five on the obstruction count.

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The doors to the ornate Senate chamber--closed since Tuesday afternoon as senators conducted private deliberations--opened about 9 a.m. PST for votes on the two articles. Called in alphabetical order, the lawmakers rose, one by one, at their burnished mahogany desks, pronouncing their votes in solemn tones. Some shouted, others could hardly be heard.

The roll calls completed, Clinton’s political career had survived its sternest test. But the cost to his place in history--as well as to the nation’s political process--cannot yet be calculated.

Two hours after the trial concluded, the president--his eyes tired, his voice somber--delivered a brief statement from a lectern set up in the White House Rose Garden. He began by offering an apology--as he first did last August--for the national trauma sparked by his extramarital relationship with the former White House intern.

“I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people,” he said.

Republicans had been concerned that Clinton would claim some form of vindication. Instead, he expressed gratitude “for the support and the prayers I have received from millions of Americans over this past year.”

He added: “This can be and this must be a time of reconciliation and renewal for America.”

Clinton paused to answer one question before heading back into the Oval Office. Asked if he could forgive those who had sought to remove him, he said: “I believe any person who asks for forgiveness has to be prepared to give it.”

Before the Senate officially had gaveled its historic proceedings to a close and members scattered for the start of a weeklong Presidents Day recess, attempts by Democrats to offer a resolution formally censuring Clinton were thwarted.

Bomb Scare Cuts Deliberations Short

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tried to bring up the censure resolution, but Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) objected and the Senate failed to muster the two-thirds vote required to override him.

Feinstein then tried to submit for the record a censure statement, signed by 38 Democrats and Republicans, but a bomb scare forced evacuation of the chamber.

Later, she managed to place the statement into the record. It condemned Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky as “shameful, reckless and indefensible,” and castigated his conduct for demeaning the presidency and creating disrespect for U.S. laws.

The statement also said: “The United States Senate recognizes the historic gravity of this bipartisan resolution and trusts and urges that future congresses will recognize the importance of allowing this bipartisan statement of censure and condemnation to remain intact for all time.”

Clinton’s chief accusers, Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) and his 12 House Republican managers, expressed no bitterness over the trial outcome--a conclusion that had been forecast almost from the moment independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr first presented his evidence to Congress in September.

“We could have studied the polls and listened to the pundits and decided that following the Constitution was not in our political best interests,” Hyde said. “But we didn’t do that.”

Looking to history, Hyde added: “I trust you will judge us fairly.”

As they marched through the Capitol Rotunda on their way back to the House side of the building, the managers were applauded by a group of tourists.

“That tells me that we did the right thing, that the Constitution out there in America is alive and well and was strengthened by this process,” said Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), a manager and one of Clinton’s harshest critics.

Bystander Hugs Counsel Ruff

The Clinton legal defense team also was met with cheers after it had left the Capitol and crossed Lafayette Park in front of the White House. A bystander rushed up and hugged White House Counsel Charles F.C. Ruff.

David E. Kendall, Clinton’s chief private attorney, beamed: “It feels really good, definitely for the American people.”

The presidential impeachment trial was the first of a chief executive elected to the White House. Andrew Johnson, who became president after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, was impeached by the House but narrowly avoided conviction by the Senate in 1868. In 1974, three articles of impeachment were approved by the House Judiciary Committee against President Nixon, but he resigned before the full House voted on the charges.

The Clinton case was sent to the Senate after the House, in the final act of the 105th Congress, approved the two impeachment articles in December. Two other articles that the House Judiciary Committee had approved were defeated by the full House.

The House impeachment debate and its votes had been stridently partisan. While the atmosphere during the Senate trial was more collegial, several procedural votes broke along party lines. And when all but one of the 45 Democratic senators supported an unsuccessful bid to dismiss the case in late January, virtually all doubt was removed that Clinton would remain in office.

As the trial entered its final stages, the key question became whether either of the articles of impeachment would win even a bare majority in the 100-member Senate. Though of no consequence legally, that question assumed symbolic importance.

It also became clear that the perjury charge against Clinton was viewed as the weakest of the two allegations, and that was confirmed when 10 Republican senators were among the 55 voting “not guilty” on it.

Jones Deposition, Grand Jury Testimony

The charge arose from Clinton’s testimony in August to Starr’s grand jury, which was investigating whether Clinton had broken any laws in seeking to conceal his affair with Lewinsky. The president had been asked about the affair when he gave a deposition in January 1998 in the sexual harassment case Paula Corbin Jones had filed against him.

When Starr sent his report to Congress, Clinton was seen as most vulnerable to a perjury charge because of his deposition in the Jones case. He denied, for example, having had sexual relations with Lewinsky.

But perjury in the deposition was one of the articles rejected by the House in December. The Senate trial instead focused on whether the president lied in his grand jury testimony as he sought to explain the reasons for his answers in the Jones case.

Although Clinton was roundly denounced for “legal hairsplitting” in his grand jury answers, several Republicans concluded that the House managers had not proved he intended to lie.

Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee was one of the GOP senators voting to acquit on the perjury charge. He said that he decided the false statements Clinton was accused of making, such as details of his relationship with Lewinsky, “probably were not the kinds of things the Founding Fathers were thinking about that would cause removal from office.”

The other GOP senators voting for acquittal on the charge were John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, Slade Gorton of Washington, James M. Jeffords of Vermont, Ted Stevens of Alaska, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, John W. Warner of Virginia, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

More compelling to many senators was the charge that Clinton sought to obstruct justice both in the Jones lawsuit and the Starr investigation.

Thompson was among the five Republicans who split their votes by supporting that charge. He said that he believed “the pattern of conduct [by Clinton] on obstruction was overwhelming--tampering with witnesses, defaming people--all as part of a federal court proceeding, which is what obstruction is all about.”

Gorton, Stevens, Shelby and Warner joined him in voting guilty on the charge. Chafee, Collins, Snowe, Jeffords and Specter voted not guilty.

“The difficulty with each of the charges,” said Chafee, “is that circumstantial evidence is rebutted by direct evidence or by confusion.”

Lewinsky Testimony a Stumbling Block

House prosecutors were unable to overcome a major hurdle on the obstruction charge: Lewinsky repeatedly testified that Clinton never directly encouraged her to lie about their affair under oath and that a job search launched on her behalf by presidential confidant Vernon E. Jordan Jr. was intended to buy her silence.

Collins cautioned that her acquittal votes did not mean she was not disturbed by Clinton’s behavior.

“I do not mean in any way to exonerate this man,” she said. “He lied under oath. He sought to interfere with the evidence. He tried to influence the testimony of key witnesses.

“And, while it may not be a crime, he exploited a very young, star-struck employee whom he then proceeded to smear in an attempt to destroy her credibility, her reputation, her life.”

The vote of one Democrat had been in some doubt up until the roll call was sounded.

Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.) had been the only Democrat to vote against dismissing the trial outright when his colleague, Sen. Robert C. Byrd (R-W.Va.), sought to bring it to an abrupt close.

But on Friday, Feingold returned to the Democratic fold and voted to keep Clinton in the White House.

“President Clinton has disgraced himself, but he has not committed” impeachable offenses, Feingold said. “He was chosen by the people to be the president, and he should remain the president for his full term.”

As had been long anticipated, both Feinstein and California’s other Democratic senator, Barbara Boxer, voted not guilty on both articles.

Feinstein said afterward that she expects the ill will caused by the Lewinsky scandal to linger, despite the president’s call for reconciliation.

“There are scars and wounds from this, and the scar tissue is going to remain for a while,” she said.

Boxer, who repeatedly has defended the president, continued to maintain that his misdeeds did not rise to the level of the high crimes and misdemeanors that the Constitution says are impeachable offenses.

Like many other Democrats, the two California senators complained that legislative business had been sacrificed to make way for the long afternoon and evening trial sessions since early January.

“We are so anxious to get back to work, I can’t tell you,” Boxer said. “I am so tired of this issue. . . . Nothing is getting done.”

That sentiment was roundly voiced after the Senate applauded U.S. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist for presiding over the trial and presented him with a “golden gavel” plaque of appreciation.

“There was such a sense of--not just relief--but peace,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.).

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) added: “There are no winners. Nobody wins. . . . The president would make a serious mistake if he were to misread what happened in the Senate today. . . . He ought not to take solace.”

*

Times staff writers Edwin Chen, Art Pine, Faye Fiore, Sam Fulwood III, Alissa J. Rubin, Stephen Braun, Doyle McManus and Geraldine Baum contributed to this story.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

How They Voted

Members of the 106th Congress

Senate: 55 Republicans, 45 Democrats

California’s Senators

Boxer, Barbara (D-Calif.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Feinstein, Diane (D-Calif.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

*

Senators

Abraham, Spencer (R-Mich.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Akaka, Daniel K. (D-Hawaii)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Allard, Wayne (R-Colo.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Ashcroft, John (R-Mo.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Baucus, Max (D-Mont.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Bayh, Evan (D-Ind.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Bennett, Robert F. (R-Utah)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Biden, Joseph R. Jr. (D-Del.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Bingaman, Jeff (D-N.M.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Bond, Christopher S. (R-Mo.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Breaux, John B. (D-La.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Brownback, Sam (R-Kan.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Bryan, Richard H. (D-Nev.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Bunning, Jim (R-Ky.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Burns, Conrad R. (R-Mont.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Byrd, Robert C. (D-W.Va.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Campbell, Ben Nighthorse (R-Colo.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Chafee, John H. (R-R.I.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Cleland, Max (D-Ga.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Cochran, Thad (R-Miss.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Collins, Susan (R-Maine)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Conrad, Kent (D-N.D.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Coverdell, Paul (R-Ga.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Craig, Larry E. (R-Ida.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Crapo, Michael D. (R-Ida.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Daschle, Tom (D-S.D.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

DeWine, Mike (R-Ohio)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Dodd, Christopher J. (D-Conn.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Domenici, Pete V. (R-N.M.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Dorgan, Byron L. (D-N.D.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Durbin, Richard (D-Ill.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Edwards, John (D-N.C.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Enzi, Mike (R-Wyo.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Feingold, Russell D. (D-Wis.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Fitzgerald, Peter (R-Ill.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Frist, Bill (R-Tenn.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Gorton, Slade (R-Wash.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Graham, Bob (D-Fla.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Gramm, Phil (R-Texas)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Grams, Rod (R-Minn.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Grassley, Charles E. (R-Iowa)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Gregg, Judd (R-N.H.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Hagel, Charles (R-Neb.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Harkin, Tom (D-Iowa)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Hatch, Orrin G. (R-Utah)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Helms, Jesse (R-N.C.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Hollings, Ernest F. (D-S.C.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Hutchinson, Tim (R-Ark.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Hutchison, Kay Bailey (R-Texas)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Inhofe, James M. (R-Okla.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Inouye, Daniel K. (D-Hawaii)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Jeffords, James M. (R-Vt.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Johnson, Tim (D-S.D.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Kennedy, Edward M. (D-Mass.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Kerrey, Bob (D-Neb.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Kerry, John F. (D-Mass.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Kohl, Herbert (D-Wis.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Kyl, Jon (R-Ariz.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Landrieu, Mary (D-La.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Lautenberg, Frank R. (D-N.J.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Leahy, Patrick J. (D-Vt.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Levin, Carl (D-Mich.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Lincoln, Blanche Lambert (D-Ark.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Lieberman, Joseph I. (D-Conn.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Lott, Trent (R-Miss.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Lugar, Richard G. (R-Ind.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Mack, Connie (R-Fla.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

McCain, John (R-Ariz.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

McConnell, Mitch (R-Ky.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Mikulski, Barbara A. (D-Md.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Moynihan, Daniel Patrick (D-N.Y.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Murkowski, Frank H. (R-Alaska)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Murray, Patty (D-Wash.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Nickles, Don (R-Okla.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Reed, Jack (D-R.I.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Reid, Harry (D-Nev.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Robb, Charles S. (D-Va.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Roberts, Pat (R-Kan.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Rockefeller, John D. IV (D-W.Va.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Roth, William V. Jr. (R-Del.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Santorum, Rick (R-Pa.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Sarbanes, Paul S. (D-Md.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Schumer, Charles E. (D-N.Y.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Sessions, Jeff (R-Ala.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Shelby, Richard C. (R-Ala.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Smith, Bob (R-N.H.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Smith, Gordon (R-Ore.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Snowe, Olympia J. (R-Maine)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Specter, Arlen (R-Pa.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Stevens, Ted (R-Alaska)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Thomas, Craig (R-Wyo.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Thompson, Fred (R-Tenn.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Thurmond, Strom (R-S.C.)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Torricelli, Robert (D-N.J.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Voinovich, George (R-Ohio)

Perjury: guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Warner, John W. (R-Va.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: guilty

Wellstone, Paul (D-Minn.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty

Wyden, Ron (D-Ore.)

Perjury: not guilty

Obstruction of justice: not guilty


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