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N.C. Senators Discuss Impeachment Trial

Posted January 6, 1999

— North Carolina's two senators were sworn in as jurors Thursday. Sen. John Edwards described what it was like to take the historic impeachment oath.

"What I felt at that moment was just a strong feeling of history and how serious all this was, and it was a very strong feeling."

Sen. Jesse Helms says President Clinton's behavior in the Monica Lewinsky scandal has brought ridicule to the presidency and that is enough to warrant his removal from office.

On the eve of the opening of the second Senate trial of a president, Helms, a Republican, said he could still be convinced that Clinton should not be convicted. But he said that entering the trial, he believes that Clinton has abused the presidency and that his defenders bear the burden of proving that he should remain in office.

"Anybody in the office of president - if his name was Ronald Reagan or Jerry Ford or whoever - who brought this nation of ours to the point of being ridiculed all around the world, I think that's a high crime, and I think it's abuse of office," says Helms. "And I think the details speak for themselves."

His comments marked the first time North Carolina's senior senator has spoken on the issue of Clinton's impeachment since the U.S. House took up the matter in the fall.

There is fear that the same thing will happened in the Senate that happened in the House - that early signs of senators from both parties working together will change. So far, Edwards says the partisanship has not happened.

"I think that people are still making a real effort to work together, and I hope that continues," he said.

Edwards says he has not made up his mind about impeachment, and that the procedure of the trial is still yet to be determined.

"I think it is unpredictable at this moment," he said. "There are lots of ideas among various senators about the way we should proceed, and those are all being discussed. I suspect that is something that will be preliminarily resolved over the next few days."

Helms said history requires that senators cast on-the-record votes on the two articles of impeachment approved last month by the House, which accuse Clinton of perjury and abuse of office.

"I want every member of the United States Senate to take a stand on each of the two articles," Helms said. "I'm not interested in a dog-and-pony show, but I do think for history's sake that every senator ought to take a stand."

Helms said he expressed his views Wednesday during a meeting of Republican senators and that some senators voiced support.

Helms said he would prefer that senators not hear testimony from Monica Lewinsky. He said he thinks they can form a judgment based on the House impeachment record.

"I don't even want Monica in the United States Senate chamber, but that's a personal thing," Helms said.

Helms expressed concern about the emergence of sexual details during the trial, especially those portions that are televised. And he indicated that he is trying to maintain at least a partially open mind in fairness to Clinton's lawyers and other defenders.

From staff and wire reports.


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