(Originally published by the Daily News on Feb. 13, 1999. This story was written by William Goldschlag.)
WASHINGTON - William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, beat the rap yesterday.
After a 13-month national mud bath over Clinton’s adulterous affair with a lovestruck White House intern, the second presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history ended in acquittal.
“Thank God this is over,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“This has been a bad experience, which he [Clinton] caused, but… it’s over now, and we should move on,” said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.).
To no one’s surprise, the verdict wasn’t close. Clinton had a comfortable cushion of 22 votes against the perjury charge and 17 votes on obstruction of justice.
In a hushed chamber at 12:36 p.m., Chief Justice William Rehnquist formally declared Clinton was in the clear - that his lies and evasions on the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal coverup would not cost him the White House.
“It is therefore ordered and adjudged that … William Jefferson Clinton… hereby is acquitted of the charges in the said articles,” Rehnquist announced in the hushed chamber.
On perjury, the vote was 45 to 55. On obstruction of justice, it was 50 to 50. Conviction required 67 votes.
Two hours later, Clinton walked to a microphone in the Rose Garden, his head down. Readings softly from notes for 80 seconds, he apologized - and gave not an inch to those who spent months in vain seeking confession to legal as well as personal sins.
“I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people,” he said.
Clinton later called friend and allies on Capitol Hill thanking them for their support - and pledging that despite reports to the contrary, he won’t seek revenge.
The Senate was at its most solemn during the two historic roll calls on the articles of impeachment. Later, the mood swung to universal relief - even some giddiness - that the 37-day trial was over.
“I’m going to Disney World,” joked Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).
After accepting plaudits and a golden gavel plaque from Senate leaders, Rehnquist declared: “The Senate, sitting as a court of impeachment, stands adjourned sine die,” and abounded from his chair.
A Democratic-led effort after verdict to censure Clinton for his “shameless, reckless and indefensible behavior” bit the dust.
Senators itching to get out of town for the Presidents’ Day recess showed little appetite for revisiting the censure issue when they return Feb. 23.
“This is over. Go home. Get a life,” said Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah).
Democrats and Republicans alike said Clinton will bear the disgrace of his conduct into eternity.
“History should - and, I suspect, will - judge that William Jefferson Clinton dishonored himself and the highest office in our American democracy,” said Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.).
Still, Republican pledged to work with him on nation’s business through the final 707 days of his presidency.
“It won’t be easy, I’m sure, for a period of time,” Lott said. “We’re going to move forward legislatively, and if he’ll join us, that would be fine.”
Clinton survived because a large majority of Americans believed that he should - even though many also believed he lied under oath and obstructed justice.
The chief impeachment prosecutor, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), said he had hoped that “by laying the case out … maybe the public would focus on it and move from its total indifference to concern.” But despite gripes over trial rules that hemmed in the prosecutors, Hyde said, “Frankly, I’m satisfied.”
There were some sour grapes, however.
“He won. He won. He always wins,” said Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.).
But the Senate verdict does not entirely close the books on the Lewinsky scandal - not as long as independent counsel Kenneth Starr keeps open the possibility of a criminal prosecution of Clinton.
With Timothy J. Burger
Source : http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/senate-acquits-president-bill-clinton-1999-article-1.2109502