"I'm wondering if it was really more of a political decision than an honest evaluation of the proposal," said Maine Republican Olympia J. Snowe, a key proponent.
Lott sought to allay any GOP concerns, saying, "I don't think any president that has been impeached and tried by the Senate, even though he may not be removed, could feel like he's gotten off scot-free."
One of the findings' authors and primary boosters, Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, all but conceded that the effort had failed. "If no Democrat is going to support it, then I think [the findings] are perilously close to being dead," he said.
With that option disintegrating, House prosecutors made one last stab at gaining a conviction, or at least inflicting still more embarrassment on the president.
Knowing they could not win enough votes to call all three witnesses to the Senate floor, they requested only Lewinsky. She is "the central witness in the cast of this entire proceeding," said House prosecutor Bill McCollum of Florida.
Prosecutor Ed Bryant of Tennessee, who deposed Lewinsky on Monday, conceded that the former White House intern had been less than helpful, offering only guarded, clipped responses to his questions.
"Her testimony is clearly tinted, some might even say tainted, by a mixture of her continued admiration for the president, her desire to protect him and her own personal views of right and wrong," Bryant lamented, hinting that perhaps she would loosen up on the Senate floor.
Prosecutors also pushed hard to be allowed to use the videotapes.
Rep. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, for instance, spoke of "dramatic" revelations in Jordan's deposition that show "the control and direction of the president of the United States in the effort to obstruct justice."
But it was not clear how his examples would further the case for Clinton's conviction.
Jordan was forced to concede that he had breakfast with Lewinsky on Dec. 31, 1997, a meeting he previously denied had happened, and that he knew the search for a job for Lewinsky was at the behest of the president.
But such "revelations" do not directly implicate Clinton in illegal acts.
House prosecutors released a series of deposition excerpts last night, but many of them could be interpreted as more favorable to Clinton than against him. For instance, Lewinsky said she had breakfast with Jordan not to talk about her job search but to warn Jordan and the president that her former friend, Linda Tripp, would soon betray her.
"I felt I needed to devise some way to cushion the shock of what would happen if Linda Tripp testified all the facts about my relationship," she said.
At that breakfast, House prosecutors maintain, Jordan told Lewinsky to destroy notes she had written to the president so they would not fall into the hands of Paula Corbin Jones' lawyers. But Lewinsky told Bryant the discussion about the notes "was really in relation to discussing Linda Tripp."
Even Hutchinson conceded that the videotape of Jordan that he so wanted to present would not be scintillating.
"I went and saw the videotape and I was underwhelmed by my questioning," he allowed. "I thought we had a dynamic exchange, but when I saw it on videotape, I'm nowhere to be found. You get to look at Mr. Jordan, a distinguished gentleman."
White House lawyers tried hard to play up the mounting frustration with a trial whose outcome has been a foregone conclusion for days, if not weeks. Craig told senators they had already "indulged" the dogged House prosecutors and "leaned over backwards to accommodate" them.
"The moment of truth can no longer be avoided, and the Senate should move to make its decision," Craig said. "The Senate must act now to end this impeachment trial, finally and for all time."
At the trial
The Senate "court of impeachment" is in recess as House prosecutors and President Clinton's lawyers prepare for tomorrow's presentation of evidence based on videotaped testimony by Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan and Sidney Blumenthal. The trial resumes at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
Pub Date: 2/05/99