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Starr Report Will Go Online; Clinton Continues Apologies

By Richard A. Serrano
and Janet Hook
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's report appears headed for public viewing Friday, even as President Clinton sought one last time Thursday to delay its release and to assure his political base that he still can govern despite the question of impeachment hanging ever heavier over his presidency.

With such monumental political ramifications at stake, and a nation eager to learn what Starr has concluded from his investigation of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair, the tension was boiling at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

On Capitol Hill, the spirit of bipartisanship that initially met the reception of Starr's report a day earlier turned into bickering as Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on when or how the report should be made public.

At the White House, Clinton spent much of the day on yet another round of apologies - to Senate Democrats, his Cabinet and others. And he dispatched to the Capitol a team of lawyers who, scrambling to come up with their own report defending the president, were unable to forestall the release of the Starr documents.

But the House GOP leadership, unwilling to budge, remained determined to post the 445-page report on the Internet by midday Friday, -an event that, by informing the public to an unprecedented degree, could create another set of consequences for the Clinton presidency.

That plan seemed a done deal, with the House Rules Committee voting in the early evening to release the report, and the full House now set to adopt that plan Friday morning.

"We're going to make it available to the American people," pledged House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. "Anyone in the country, anyone in the world, will be able to access it."

The tone of distrust was sounded even as morning was breaking.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said Republicans would not give Clinton an early copy of the records.

"The report is made to the Congress of the United States," Armey declared. "It is the responsibility of the Congress to make it available to all interested parties."

But strategists in both parties predicted that, despite Democratic complaints, the procedures for handling the report will pass overwhelmingly Friday. "No one wants to vote against making this public," said Michele Davis, a spokeswoman for Armey.

The report will likely be posted on at least four official Web sites. In a sign of the cyberspace traffic jam likely to hit Friday, House Rules Committee Chairman Gerald B.H. Solomon, R-N.Y., said the main Web site had received 10,000 "hits," or inquiries, 90 minutes after it was announced.

The material to be released includes about 445 pages consisting of the report's introduction, a narrative, and a statement of grounds for impeachment.

Meanwhile, around noon, Senate Democratic leaders emerged from a meeting with the president at the White House.

Soon after the Senate Democrats departed, two Clinton lawyers - private attorney David Kendall and White House Counsel Charles F.C. Ruff - arrived at the Capitol and met with House Judiciary Committee leaders in what was billed as a "get-acquainted" session to discuss procedures.

Afterward, they stressed that the Starr report is just "one side of the story." Kendall referred to the Starr conclusions as "simply a collection of their contentions and claims and allegations, and we look forward to the chance to rebut."

After more than three hours of statements and debate, the House Rules Committee passed by party-line voice its resolution recommending the full House release the report Friday. The report's accompanying documents tentatively will be released in a couple of weeks, after House leaders have reviewed that material.

While that vote was going down, Clinton conducted another unusual gathering, huddling with his Cabinet in the residential quarters of the White House.