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, and I think the details speak for themselves,'' Helms said in an interview with The News & Observer of Raleigh on Wednesday.
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.
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.
``I want them to have time to present their witnesses if they want to, and present their evidence and so forth,'' Helms said. ``They may be able to convince me.''
But the senator clearly revealed his frame of mind going into the trial, repeating what he said was a recent quip from a constituent.
``Give him a fair trial before you hang him,'' Helms said with a laugh.
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