In the two weeks since President Clinton acknowledged having had an inappropriate relationship with Monica Le-win-sky, the capital's attention has been riveted by the prospect of an impeachment report that official Washington assumes independent counsel Kenneth Starr will send to the House of Representatives.
On the Sunday talk shows and over lunches at this city's downtown restaurants, Washingtonians debate what will be, or what they think should be, in Starr's report. They trade guesses over how quickly the report could be completed and how much of it should be made public.Never mind that Starr has not even said that his prosecutors are writing a report. Nor does it seem to matter to most prognosticators that there has been no direct contact between Starr's office and the House Judiciary Committee, which would receive the document and decide whether impeachment proceedings against Clinton were warranted.
"As far as what the report is going to look like, I haven't the faintest idea," David Schippers, chief investigative counsel of the House Judiciary Committee, said in an interview.
Nonetheless, Schippers and most everyone else on Capitol Hill are convinced that Starr has indeed reached the most important challenge of his 4-year-old inquiry: rendering a judgment of the president.
Several lawyers who say they are familiar with Starr's plans say prosecutors are preparing to forward a lengthy report to the House that will include "substantial and credible information" of offenses that could constitute grounds for the impeachment of Clinton.
Expected to be completed sometime in September, the report will almost certainly say the president lied under oath when he denied in January that he had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky.
Clinton admitted to Starr's grand jury and to the nation on Aug. 17 that he had had a relationship with the former White House intern that was "not appropriate."
The lawyers also added that it is unlikely the report will be confined to the accusation that the president committed perjury in making the denial in the sexual misconduct lawsuit that was filed against him by Paula Jones, which was later dismissed by a federal judge.
In recent days, prosecutors have also discussed the possibility of accusing Clinton of lying to the grand jury when he testified that the "intimate physical contacts" he had with Lewinsky did not meet the definition of "sexual relations" established in the Jones lawsuit, the lawyers said.
Prosecutors are also writing draft sections that would accuse Clinton of obstruction of justice and encouraging others to lie under oath, or suborning perjury, the lawyers said.
In a phrase that harkens back to an article of impeachment filed against Richard Nixon, prosecutors are said to be considering an accusation that Clinton abused the power of his office when he used White House lawyers and claims of various privileges to attempt to delay and thwart the prosecutors' inquiry, the lawyers said.
Besides the report, lawyers said, prosecutors are also likely to forward copies of transcripts of testimony from the 75 witnesses who have appeared before the grand jury here; 20 hours of audiotapes made by Linda Tripp, Lewinsky's former colleague who recorded their conversations; records of Lewinsky's visits to the White House; telephone calls between the president and Lewinsky; the president's videotaped grand jury testimony and other physical evidence.
"I'm hearing it's going to be a pretty substantial amount of material," said Schippers, a 62-year-old Chicago lawyer. "I assume it will be a very complete report and it would contain not just good but bad - not only evidence but also evidence tending to cast doubt on that evidence."