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Local Experts Say Clinton Testimony is Unprecedented

Posted August 16, 1998

— There's as much talk in legal circles about the Clinton investigation as there is on the streets. Some legal scholars question whether the whole process has gone too far. Others say politics will prevent it from going far enough. But, all say we are in unprecedented legal times.

A sitting president testifying before a grand jury is a situation that's sparking debate among legal scholars all over the country. Clinton and Lewinsky, Starr and the grand jury, it's all up for debate at the U.N.C. law school.

"There is serious question about the ability to indict a sitting president," said Rich Rosen.

Rosen was a Washington, D.C. public defender, before his 18 year tenure at U.N.C. He specializes in the grand jury process.

"My gut reaction is given the present indifference of the American people to what's going on, it seems to me the relatively prevalent feeling is this is nobody's business except the people involved and the families. I would be surprised if there's an impeachment that comes out of this."

Other than Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon, we've never seen the process go this far before.

Buck Melton is a legal historian, who's written a book on the impeachment process.

"Impeachment is shot through entirely with politics. It is very largely politically motivated. It's very hard to proceed with impeachment unless you've got very large political grounds well supporting that. Given that this is an election year for every member of the house of representatives, you have to consider the political angle."

And that political angle, according to Melton, is one that may surprise you. He thinks if it comes to it, even the president's opponents on Capitol Hill may find impeachment an unpopular option.


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