Congress will move beyond the White House sex scandal and avoid impeachment hearings if President Clinton publicly tells the whole story of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday.
"If it is true that he has lied, he ought to clear it up," Sen. Orrin Hatch said. "He ought to set an example, and in the end I think he'd be more respected for having done so, and I think he could walk away with his head held high."Meanwhile Monday, the White House decided to continue the legal fight seeking to block testimony by presidential confidant Bruce Lindsey.
The White House will appeal the dispute to the Supreme Court and ask for a stay of an earlier appeals court ruling ordering Lindsey to testify, White House counsel Charles Ruff said in a statement.
At issue is a decision last month by a three-judge appeals court panel that ordered Lindsey to testify before the grand jury investigating the Lewinsky matter. The judges rejected arguments that Lindsey's testimony was protected by attorney-client privilege.
Hatch appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" after a week in which Lewinsky, the former intern, received immunity from prosecution. She reportedly told prosecutors she will testify that she had a sexual relationship with the president and surrendered a stained dress that could be used as evidence.
Speaking on Sunday morning television shows, politicians and former advisers urged Clinton to keep his word to "completely and truthfully" testify. Those making the calls ranged from Hatch, a Republican from Utah, to George Stephanopolous, a former Clinton confidant.
"I don't know anybody at the top of the system . . . who really wants to see the president hurt in this matter," Hatch said on NBC's "Meet the Press." Hatch said Clinton has a "reasonable chance of getting through this" if there are not strong new allegations of wrongdoing.
Clinton has denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and said he did not ask anyone to lie about a relationship. He is scheduled to testify to a grand jury on Aug. 17.
As Clinton returned home from a weekend in New York, his senior advisers at the White House recognized that the growing sentiment for some sort of conciliatory statement presented new opportunities.
"We're cognizant of a number of outside voices, both Republican and Democrat, urging some sort of public statement," said one senior adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity. The adviser said it was too early to determine Clinton's next move.
After searching its archives, ABC News found video footage of the president embracing Lewinsky and then patting her on the back during a public event Oct. 23, 1996. Sam Donaldson, co-host of ABC's "This Week," pointed out that the scene is not the same as the often-repeated footage of Lewinsky in a black beret embracing the president.
On the ABC show, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said he would be "crushed" if the president lied about his friendship with Lewinsky. But Conyers said he sees no reason for impeachment hearings and suggested that independent counsel Kenneth Starr, not Clinton, should be investigated for his behavior.
Starr is expected to give the House Judiciary Committee a report summarizing investigations of Clinton and his top advisers. The committee will determine whether to file articles of impeachment with the full House, which would then decide whether to impeach him. If it does, a Senate trial would decide whether the president should be removed from office.
On CBS's "Face the Nation," Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, who serves on the judiciary panel, said Starr "obviously is obsessed with a visceral dislike of Bill Clinton."
Frank said Americans are far more interested in the economy, Social Security, campaign finance reform and other weighty issues than Clinton's private life. "The serious subject matter gets crowded out" by the news media, Frank said as he called for an end to speculation about what Clinton did or did not do behind closed doors.
Most Americans seem to agree. A poll released by Time magazine Sunday said that 69 percent of Americans agree that if the president came forward and admitted a relationship with Lewinsky, he should remain in office.
Stephanopolous and David Gergen, another former White House adviser, said Clinton should tell Americans the truth about his relationship with Lewinsky if he has not done so already. They said that if the two went beyond mere friendship, Americans will forgive the president. But on the "Fox News Sunday" program, Rep. Bob Barr, a Georgia Republican who is one of the president's most vocal critics, said, "If you perjure yourself, you have perjured yourself whether or not you say later, `Oh, I'm sorry I did it.' "
Hatch said of Rep. Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican who heads the House Judiciary Committee, "He'll be honest. . . . He'll be fair and he'll be compassionate. But he'll also want to uphold the law."
Hatch criticized Attorney General Janet Reno for ignoring recommendations to name an in-de-pen-dent counsel to look into allegations of fund-raising abuses in Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign. "She's going to start losing credibility of the American people, and I think it would probably have to lead to her resignation," Hatch said.