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Grounds for Impeachment, No. II

From independent counsel Kenneth Starr's report to the House on President Clinton. Some of the language in these documents is sexually explicit.

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II. There is substantial and credible information that President Clinton lied under oath to the grand jury about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

A. Background

In January 1998, upon application of the Attorney General, the Special Division of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit expanded the OIC's jurisdiction to investigate, among other matters, whether Monica Lewinsky and the President obstructed justice in the Jones case. The criminal investigation was triggered by specific and credible evidence that Monica Lewinsky denied her relationship with President Clinton in a false affidavit in the Jones case, that she had spoken to the President and Vernon Jordan about her testimony, and that she may have been influenced to lie by the President through the assistance of Vernon Jordan and others in finding her a job. After the President, in his January 17 deposition, denied any sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky and otherwise minimized his overall relationship with her, the President's testimony became an additional subject of the OIC investigation.

The threshold factual question was whether the President and Monica Lewinsky in fact had a sexual relationship. If they did, the President would have committed perjury in his civil deposition and interrogatory answer: The President, as noted in Ground I above, had denied a sexual affair, sexual relationship, or sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, including any direct contact with her breasts or genitalia. The answer to the preliminary factual question also could alter the interpretation of several possibly obstructionist acts by the President -- the employment assistance for Ms. Lewinsky, the concealment of gifts he had given to Ms. Lewinsky, the discussion between the President and Ms. Lewinsky of her testimony or affidavit, the President's post-deposition communications with Betty Currie, and the President's emphatic denials of a relationship to his aides who later testified before the grand jury.

   


During the investigation, the OIC gathered a substantial body of information that established that the President and Monica Lewinsky did, in fact, have a sexual relationship. That information is outlined in Ground I above. In particular, the information includes: (i) the detailed and credible testimony of Ms. Lewinsky regarding the 10 sexual encounters; (ii) the President's semen stain on Ms. Lewinsky's dress; and (iii) the testimony of friends, family members, and counselors to whom she made near-contemporaneous statements about the relationship. All of this evidence pointed to a single conclusion -- that she and the President did have a sexual relationship.

B. The President's Grand Jury Testimony

The President was largely aware of that extensive body of evidence before he testified to the grand jury on August 17, 1998. Not only did the President know that Ms. Lewinsky had reached an immunity agreement with this Office in exchange for her truthful testimony, but the President knew from public reports and his own knowledge that his semen might be on one of Ms. Lewinsky's dresses. The OIC had asked him for a blood sample on August 3, 1998 (two weeks before his grand jury testimony) and assured his counsel that there was a substantial predicate for the request, which reasonably implied that there was semen on the dress.

As a result, the President had three apparent choices in his testimony to the grand jury. First, the President could adhere to his previous testimony in his civil case, as well as in his public statements, and deny any sexual relationship. But he knew (or at least, had reason to know) that the contrary evidence was overwhelming, particularly if his semen were in fact on Ms. Lewinsky's dress. Second, the President could admit a sexual relationship, which would cause him also to simultaneously admit that he lied under oath in the Jones case. Third, the President could invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination.

Confronting those three options, the President attempted to avoid them altogether. The President admitted to an "inappropriate intimate" relationship, but he maintained that he had not committed perjury in the Jones case when he denied having a sexual relationship, sexual affair, or sexual relations with her.(103) The President contended that he had believed his various statements in the Jones case to be legally accurate.(104) He also testified that the inappropriate relationship began not in November 1995 when Ms. Lewinsky was an intern, as Ms. Lewinsky and other witnesses have testified, but in 1996.

During his grand jury testimony, the President was asked whether Monica Lewinsky performed oral sex on him and, if so, whether he had committed perjury in his civil deposition by denying a sexual relationship, sexual affair, or sexual relations with her. The President refused to say whether he had oral sex. Instead, the President said (i) that the undefined terms "sexual affair," "sexual relationship," and "sexual relations" necessarily require sexual intercourse, (ii) that he had not engaged in intercourse with Ms. Lewinsky, and (iii) that he therefore had not committed perjury in denying a sexual relationship, sexual affair, or sexual relations.(105)

A more specific definition of "sexual relations" had also been used at the civil deposition. As to that definition, the President said to the grand jury that he does not and did not believe oral sex was covered.

Q: [I]s oral sex performed on you within that definition as you understood it, the definition in the Jones --

A: As I understood it, it was not; no.(106)

The President thus contended that he had not committed perjury on that question in the Jones deposition -- even assuming that Monica Lewinsky performed oral sex on him.

There still was the question of his contact with Ms. Lewinsky's breasts and genitalia, which the President conceded would fall within the Jones definition of sexual relations. The President denied that he had engaged in such activity and said, in effect, that Monica Lewinsky was lying:

Q: The question is, if Monica Lewinsky says that while you were in the Oval Office area you touched her breasts would she by lying?

A: That is not my recollection. My recollection is that I did not have sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky and I'm staying on my former statement about that. . . . My, my statement is that I did not have sexual relations as defined by that.

Q: If she says that you kissed her breasts, would she be lying?

A: I'm going to revert to my former statement [that is, the prepared statement denying "sexual relations"].

Q: Okay. If Monica Lewinsky says that while you were in the Oval Office area you touched her genitalia, would she be lying? And that calls for a yes, no, or reverting to your former statement.

A: I will revert to my former statement on that.(107)

The President elaborated that he considered kissing or touching breasts or genitalia during sexual activity to be covered by the Jones definition, but he denied that he had ever engaged in such conduct with Ms. Lewinsky:

   


Q: So touching, in your view then and now -- the person being deposed touching or kissing the breast of another person would fall within the definition?

A: That's correct, sir.

Q: And you testified that you didn't have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky in the Jones deposition, under that definition, correct?

A: That's correct, sir.

Q: If the person being deposed touched the genitalia of another person, would that be -- and with the intent to arouse the sexual desire, arouse or gratify, as defined in definition (1), would that be, under your understanding then and now --

A: Yes, sir.

Q: -- sexual relations.

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Yes it would?

A: Yes it would. If you had a direct contact with any of these places in the body, if you had direct contact with intent to arouse or gratify, that would fall within the definition.

Q: So you didn't do any of those three things --

A: You --

Q: -- with Monica Lewinsky.

A: You are free to infer that my testimony is that I did not have sexual relations, as I understood this term to be defined.

Q: Including touching her breast, kissing her breast, touching her genitalia?

A: That's correct.(108)

C. Summary

In the foregoing testimony to the grand jury, the President lied under oath three times.

1. The President testified that he believed oral sex was not covered by any of the terms and definitions for sexual activity used at the Jones deposition. That testimony is not credible: At the Jones deposition, the President could not have believed that he was telling "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" in denying a sexual relationship, sexual relations, or a sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky.

2. In all events, even putting aside his definitional defense, the President made a second false statement to the grand jury. The President's grand jury testimony contradicts Ms. Lewinsky's grand jury testimony on the question whether the President touched Ms. Lewinsky's breasts or genitalia during their sexual activity. There can be no contention that one of them has a lack of memory or is mistaken. On this issue, either Monica Lewinsky lied to the grand jury, or President Clinton lied to the grand jury. Under any rational view of the evidence, the President lied to the grand jury.

First, Ms. Lewinsky's testimony about these encounters is detailed and specific. She described with precision nine incidents of sexual activity in which the President touched and kissed her breasts and four incidents involving contacts with her genitalia.

Second, Ms. Lewinsky has stated repeatedly that she does not want to hurt the President by her testimony.(109) Thus, if she had exaggerated in her many prior statements, she presumably would have said as much, rather than adhering to those statements. She has confirmed those details, however, even though it clearly has been painful for her to testify to the details of her relationship with the President.

Third, the testimony of many of her friends, family members, and counselors corroborate her testimony in important detail. Many testified that Ms. Lewinsky had told them that the President had touched her breasts and genitalia during sexual activity. These statements were made well before the President's grand jury testimony rendered these precise details important. Ms. Lewinsky had no motive to lie to these individuals (and obviously not to counselors). Indeed, she pointed out to many of them that she was upset that sexual intercourse had not occurred, an unlikely admission if she were exaggerating the sexual aspects of their relationship.

Fourth, a computer file obtained from Ms. Lewinsky's home computer contained a draft letter that referred in one place to their sexual relationship. The draft explicitly refers to "watching your mouth on my breast" and implicitly refers to direct contact with Ms. Lewinsky's genitalia.(110) This draft letter further corroborates Ms. Lewinsky's testimony and indicates that the President's grand jury testimony is false.

Fifth, as noted above, the President's "hands-off" scenario -- in which he would have received oral sex on nine occasions from Ms. Lewinsky but never made direct contact with Ms. Lewinsky's breasts or genitalia -- is implausible. As Ms. Lewinsky herself testified, it suggests that she and the President had some kind of "service contract -- that all I did was perform oral sex on him and that that's all this relationship was."(111) But as the above descriptions and the Narrative explain, the nature of the relationship, including the sexual relationship, was far more than that.

Sixth, in the grand jury, the President had a motive to lie by denying he had fondled Ms. Lewinsky in intimate ways. The President clearly sought to deny any acts that would show that he committed perjury in his civil case (implying that the President understood how seriously the public and the courts would view perjury in a civil case). To do that, the President had to deny touching Ms. Lewinsky's breasts or genitalia -- no matter how implausible his testimony to that effect might be.

Seventh, the President refused to answer specific questions before the grand jury about what activity he did engage in (as opposed to what activity he did not engage in) -- even though at the Jones deposition only seven months before, his attorney stated that he was willing to answer specific questions when there was a sufficient factual predicate.(112) The President's failure in the grand jury to answer specific follow-up questions suggests that he could not supply responses in a consistent or credible manner.

3. Finally, the President made a third false statement to the grand jury about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. He contended that the intimate contact did not begin until 1996. Ms. Lewinsky has testified that it began November 15, 1995, during the government shutdown -- testimony corroborated by statements she made to friends at the time.(113) A White House photograph of the evening shows the President and Ms. Lewinsky eating pizza.(114) White House records show that Ms. Lewinsky did not depart the White House until 12:18 a.m. and show that the President was in the Oval Office area until 12:35 a.m.(115)

Ms. Lewinsky was still an intern when she says the President began receiving oral sex from her, whereas she was a full-time employee by the time that the President admits they began an "inappropriate intimate" relationship. The motive for the President to make a false statement about the date on which the sexual relationship started appears to have been that the President was unwilling to admit sexual activity with a young 22-year-old White House intern in the Oval Office area. Indeed, Ms. Lewinsky testified that, at that first encounter, the President tugged at her intern pass. He said that "this" may be a problem; Ms. Lewinsky interpreted that statement to reflect his awareness that there would be a problem with her obtaining access to the West Wing.(116)

For all these reasons, there is substantial and credible information that the President lied to the grand jury about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.(117)

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