Will Clinton Cop a Plea?

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Here's the deal the White House would dearly love to get away with: President Clinton cops a plea of perjury, Congress censures (rather than impeaching) him in return, and the nation moves on. It's a possibility implicitly if not officially recognized by top Democrats, who finally seem to be reading from the same script again. Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt both declared their impatience with Clinton's legal "hairsplitting" Monday; Gephardt called on Congress to use "common sense for the good of the country," while Daschle spoke of a "prompt, appropriate conclusion in the public interest." White House spokesman Jim Kennedy, for his part, made it clear that only a thin line of lawyers stood between the President and an admission that he committed perjury. "No legalisms," said Kennedy, "should obscure the fact that it was wrong."

Special Report But such a deal is unlikely to be inked any time soon. Most Republicans feel that something more than censure is warranted -- like maybe picking up the tab for the approximately $4 million spent nailing down Clinton's evasions since January. Perhaps more importantly, there's a whole nest of legal ramifications should the President publicly admit that he lied under oath. Ken Starr's grand jury is still in session, for one. Whatever deal Congress makes, Starr could still indict Clinton after he leaves office. Paula Jones, too, would be blissfully happy with an admission of perjury. It could help reopen her lawsuit and pave the way for a hefty out-of-court settlement. One way or another, legal fees are going to feature heavily in the President's future.