Senate May Try to Cut Short Impeachment Trial

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Senate majority leader Trent Lott is looking for a way to forestall a long and painful impeachment trial, as President Clinton strolls the beach at Hilton Head. Lott has moved beyond his quick-trial-no-witnesses formulation to a new idea for an opening trial phase that would let a simple majority of Senators determine whether a full trial should be held. Under the plan, the House impeachment managers and the White House defense would briskly present their cases under the eye of Chief Justice Renquist for three or four days, after which the Senate would vote on whether to proceed with the rest of the trial and call witnesses.

Special Report Lott's plan would allow the wavering Senate to get the trial over with quickly and push the whole complicated mess into the history books by mid-month. Since Lott already sees that the Senate is almost certain to acquit, he's eager to minimize the damage to Senate Republicans that would be caused by a prolonged march toward a Clinton victory. The President's upcoming schedule is also a strong reason to speed things up. After the State of the Union speech January 19th, a forum in which he traditionally shines, Clinton will spend time touring the country memorializing Martin Luther King Jr., then receiving the Pope. Lott's no fool -- the Mississipian can no doubt easily imagine the scene as the Pontiff arrives to comfort the popular President while he himself is mired in a failing prosecution. Lott wants to rewrite the script.