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From the Starr Referral:
Clinton's Grand Jury Testimony, Part 6

The following material was submitted by independent counsel Kenneth Starr with his report to the House on President Clinton. This document provided by Federal News Service. Editor's Note: Some of the language in these documents is sexually explicit.

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Now, keep in mind at this time, at this time, until this date here when it's obvious that something funny's going on here and there's some sort of a gotcha game at work in this deposition, until this date, I didn't know that Ms. Lewinsky's deposition [sic] wasn't going to be sufficient for her to avoid testifying. I didn't, you know –

MR. KENDALL: Excuse me, Mr. President, I think –

PRESIDENT CLINTON: So, all these details –

MR. KENDALL: – you mean her affidavit.

BY MR. WISENBERG:

Q: You mean her affidavit?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Excuse me. I'm sorry. Her affidavit. Thank you.

So, I don't necessarily remember all the details of all these questions you're asking me, because there was a lot of other things going on, and at the time they were going on, until all this came out, this was not the most important thing in my life. This was just another thing in my life.

Q: But Vernon Jordan met with you, sir, and he reported that he had met with Monica Lewinsky, and the discussion was about the lawsuit, and you didn't inform, under oath, the Court of that in your deposition ? A I gave the best answer I could, based on the best memory I had at the time they asked me the question. That's the only answer I can give you, sir.

Q: And before –

PRESIDENT CLINTON: And I think I may have been confused in my memory, because I've also talked to him on the phone about what he said about whether he talked to her or met with her. That's all I can tell you.

But, let me say again, I don't have the same view about this deposition – I mean, this affidavit – that I think you do. I felt very strongly that Ms. Lewinsky and everybody else that didn't know anything about Paula Jones and anything about sexual harassment, that she and others were themselves being harassed for political purposes, in the hope of getting damaging information that the Jones lawyers could unlawfully leak. Now, I believed then, I believe today, that she could execute an affidavit which, under reasonable circumstances with fair-minded, non politically-oriented people, would result in her being relieved of the burden be put through the kind of testimony that, thanks to Linda Tripp's work with you and with the Jones lawyers, she would have been put through. I don't think that's dishonest. I don't think that's illegal. I think what they were trying to do to her and all these other people, who knew nothing about sexual harassment, was outrageous, just so they could hurt me politically.

So, I just don't have the same attitude about it that you do.

Q: Well, you're not telling our grand jurors that because you think the case was a political case or a setup, Mr. President, that that would give you the right to commit perjury or –

PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, sir.

Q: – not to tell the full truth?

   

PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, sir. In the face of their, the Jones lawyers, the people that were questioning me, in the face of their illegal leaks, their constant, unrelenting illegal leaks in a lawsuit that I knew and, by the time this deposition and this discovery started, they knew was a bogus suit on the law and a bogus suit on the facts.

Q: The question is –

PRESIDENT CLINTON: In the face of that, I knew that in the face of their illegal activity, I still had to behave lawfully. But I wanted to be legal without being particularly helpful. I thought that was, that was what I was trying to do. And this is the first – you are the first persons who ever suggested to me that, that I should have been doing their lawyers' work for them, when they were perfectly free to ask follow-up questions. On one or two occasions, Mr. Bennett invited them to ask follow-up questions.

It now appears to me they didn't because they were afraid I would give them a truthful answer, and that there had been some communication between you and Ms. Tripp and them, and they were trying to set me up and trick me. And now you seem to be complaining that they didn't do a good enough job. I did my best, sir, at this time. I did not know what I now know about this. A lot of other things were going on in my life. Did I want this to come cut? No. Was I embarrassed about it? Yes. Did I ask her to lie about it? No. Did I believe there could be a truthful affidavit? Absolutely.

Now, that's all I know to say about this. I will continue to answer your questions as best I can.

Q: You're not going back on your earlier statement that you understood you were sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to the folks at that deposition, are you, Mr. President?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, sir, but I think we might as well put this out on the table. You tried to get me to give a broader interpretation to my oath than just my obligation to tell the truth. In other words, you tried to say, even though these people are treating you in an illegal manner in illegally leaking these depositions, you should be a good lawyer for them. And if they don't have enough sense to write – to ask a question, and even if Mr. Bennett invited them to ask follow-up questions, if they didn't do it, you should have done all their work for them.

 ... My goal in this deposition was to be truthful, but not particularly helpful. ...
Clinton on interpretation of his testimony


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Now, so I will admit this, sir. My goal in this deposition was to be truthful, but not particularly helpful. I did not wish to do the work of the Jones lawyers. I deplored what they were doing. I deplored the innocent people they were tormenting and traumatizing. I deplored their illegal leaking. I deplored the fact that they knew, once they knew our evidence, that this was a bogus lawsuit, and that because of the funding they had from my political enemies, they were putting ahead. I deplored it.

But I was determined to walk through the mine field of this deposition without violating the law, and I believe I did.

Q: You are not saying, are you, Mr. President, in terms of doing the work for the Jones folks, the Jones lawyers, that you could, you could say, as part of your not helping them, "I don't know" to a particular question, when you really knew, and that it was up to them – even if you really knew the answer, it was up to them to do the followup, that you kind of had a one free "I don't know ....

PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, sir.

Q: If I could finish up? I've been very patient, Mr. President, in letting you finish.

You didn't think you had a free shot to say, "I don't know", or "I don't recall", but when you really did know and you did recall, and it was just up to them, even you weren't telling the truth, to do a follow-up and to catch you?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, sir, I'm not saying that. And if i could give you one example? That's why I felt that I had to come back to that question where I said, I don't know that, and talk about Bruce Lindsey, because I was trying, I was honestly trying to remember how I had first heard this. I wasn't hung up about talking about this.

All I'm saying is, the – let me say something sympathetic to you. I've been pretty tough. So, let me say something sympathetic.

All of you are intelligent people. You've worked hard on this. You've worked for a long time. You've gotten all the facts. You've seen a lot of evidence that I haven't seen. And it's, it's an embarrassing and personally painful thing, the truth about my relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.

So, the natural assumption is that while all this was going on, I must have been focused on nothing but this; therefore, I must remember everything about it in the sequence and form in which it occurred. All I can tell you is, I was concerned about it. I was glad she saw a lawyer. I was glad she was doing an affidavit. But there were a lot

of other things going on, and I don't necessarily remember it all. And I don't know if I can convince you of that.

But I tried to be honest with you about my mindset, about this deposition. And I'm just trying to explain than I don't have the memory that you assume that I should about some of these things.

Q: I want to talk to you for a bit, Mr. President, about the incident that happened at the Northwest Gate of the White House on December 5th – sorry, December 6th, 1997. If you would give me just a moment?

That was a – let me ask you first. In early nineteen – in early December 1997 the Paula Jones case was pending, correct?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Yes, sir.

    Q: You were represented by Mr. Bennett, of course?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: That's correct.

Q: In that litigation?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Yes, I did.

Q: How –

PRESIDENT CLINTON: He was.

Q: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, no. Yes, he was representing me.

Q: How often did you talk to him or meet with him, if you can just recall, at that time in the litigation?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, we met, I would say – I wish Mr. Ruff were answering this question, instead of me. His memory would be better. We met probably, oh, for a long time we didn't meet all that often, maybe once a month. And then the closer we got to the deposition, we would meet more frequently. So, maybe by this time we were meeting more.

We also – there was a period when we had been approached about –

MR. KENDALL: Again, the question only toes to the number of meetings and not the content of any conversations with your lawyer.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I understand. We're not talking about the content. There was a, there was a period in which we, I think back in the summer before this, when we had met more frequently. But I would say normally once a month. Sometimes something would be happening and we'd meet more. And then, as we moved toward the deposition, we would begin to meet more.

BY MR. WISENBERG:

Q: A witness list came out on December 5th of 1997, with Monica Lewinsky's name on it. Mr. President, when did you find out that Monica's name was on that witness list?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I believe that I found out late in the afternoon on the 6th. That's what I believe. I've tried to remember with great precision, and because I thought you would ask me about this day, I've tried to remember the logical question, which is whether, whether I knew it on the 6th and, if so, at what time.

I don't – I had a meeting in the late afternoon on the 5th, on the 6th – excuse me, on the 6th – and I believe that's when I learned about it.

Q: Now, on the morning of the 6th, Monica Lewinsky came to the Northwest Gate and found out that you were being visited by Eleanor Mondale at the time, and had an extremely angry reaction. You know that, sir, now, don't you?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I have, I have – I know that MonicaLewinsky came to the gate on the 6th and apparently directly called in and wanted to see me and couldn't, and was angry about it. I know that.

Q: And she expressed that anger to Betty Currie over the telephone, isn't that correct, sir?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: That, Betty told me that.

Q: And she then later expressed her anger to you in one of her telephone conversations with Betty Currie, is that correct?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: You mean did I talk to her on the phone?

Q: Monica Lewinsky, that day, before she came in to visit in the White House?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Mr. Wisenberg, I remember that she came in to visit that day. I remember that she was upset. I don't recall whether I talked to her on the phone before she came in to visit, but I well may have. I'm not denying it that I did. I just don't recall that.

Q: And Mrs. Currie and yourself were very irate that Ms. Lewinsky had overheard that you were in the Oval Office with a visitor on that day, isn't that correct, that you and Mrs. Currie were very irate about that?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, I don't remember all that. What I remember is that she was very – Monica was very upset. She got upset from time to time. And, and I was, you know, I couldn't see her. I had, I was doing, as I remember, I had some other work to do that morning and she had just sort of showed up and wanted to be let in, and wanted to come in at a certain time and she wanted everything to be that way, and we couldn't see her. Now, I did arrange to see her later that day. And I was upset about her conduct.

I'm not sure that I knew or focused on at that moment exactly the question you asked. I remember I was, thought her conduct was inappropriate that day.

Q: I want to go back and I want to take them one at a time. Number one, did you find out at some point during that day that Monica had overheard from somebody in the Secret Service that you were meeting with Ms. Mondale, and that Monica got very irate about that?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I knew that at some point. I don't know whether found out that, that day. I knew that day, I knew that somehow she knew that among, that, that Eleanor Mondale was in to see us that day. I knew that. I don't know that I knew how she knew that on that day. I don't remember that.

Q: That leads into my second question, which is, weren't you irate at the Secret Service precisely because they had revealed this information to Ms. Lewinsky on that very day, so irate that you told several people, or at least one person, that somebody should be fired over this, on that very day? A

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I don't remember whether it happened on that very day. But, let me tell you that the Uniformed Secret Service, if that is in fact what happened and I will stipulate that that is, that no one should be telling anybody, not anybody, not a member of my staff, who the President is meeting with. That's an inappropriate thing to do.

So, I would think that if that, in fact, is what I heard when I heard it, I would have thought that was a bad thing, I don't know that I said that. I don't, I don't remember what I said, and I don't remember to whom I said it.

Q: It would be an inappropriate thing, sir, and that leads into my next question is that why did Mrs. Currie, on your instructions, later that day tell many of the Secret Service Officers involved that it never happened, to forget about it?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: That what never happened?

Q: The incident that you were so irate about earlier; the incident of somebody disclosing to Ms. Lewinsky that Ms. Mondale was in the Oval Office?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I don't know the answer to that. I think maybe, you know, I don't know. I don't know the answer.

Q: You don't recall that you later gave orders to the effect that we are going to pretend this never happened or something –

PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, sir.

Q: – like that?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, sir. I don't recall it. First of all, I don't recall that I gave orders to fire anybody, if that was the implication of your first statement.

Q: It wasn't an implication. Actually, the question was that you initially wanted somebody fired. You were so mad that you wanted somebody fired.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I don't remember that, first of all. I remember thinking it was an inappropriate thing to do. And I, I, I remember, as I usually do when I'm mad, after awhile I wasn't so mad about it, and I'm quite aware that Ms. Lewinsky has a way of getting information out of people when she's either charming or determined. And it – I could have just said, well, I'm not so mad about it any more.

But I don't remember the whole sequence of events you're talking to me about now, except - do remember that somehow Monica found out Eleanor Mondale was there. I learned either that day or later that one of the Uniformed Division personnel had told her. I do – I thought then it was a mistake. I think now it was a mistake. I'm not sure it's a mistake someone should be terminated over. I think that, you know, you could just tell them not to do that any more.

Q: In fact, it would kind of be an overreaction, to get irate or terminate somebody for revealing to a former White House staffer who visits where the President is, don't you think, sir?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, it would depend upon the facts. I think on the whole people in the Uniformed Secret Service who are working on the gate have no business telling anybody anything about the President's schedule, just as a general principal. I didn't mind anybody knowing that she was there, if that's what you're saying. I could care less about that. But I think that the schedule itself – these uniformed people, you know, somebody shouldn't just be able to come up on the street and, because they know who the Secret Service agent is, he says who the President's with. I don't think that's proper.

Q: I agree, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: But, on the other hand, I didn't, you know, I, I wanted to know what happened. I think we found out what happened. And then they were, I think, told not to let it happen again, and I think that's the way it should have been handled. I think it was handled in the appropriate way.

Q: You have no knowledge of the fact that Secret Service officers were told later in the day something to the effect of, this never happened, this event never happened? You have no knowledge of that?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I'm not sure anybody ever told that to me. I mean, I thought you were asking – let me just say, my interpretation of this, of your previous question was different than what you're asking now. What I remember was being upset that this matter would be discussed that – by anybody. It's incidental it happened to be Monica Lewinsky. And that, that whatever I said, I don't recall. But then thinking that the appropriate thing to do was to say, look, just this, this is not an appropriate thing for you to be talking about, the President's schedule, and it shouldn't happen again.

Now, the question you seem to be asking me now – I just want to be sure I'm getting the right question – is whether I gave instructions, in effect, to pretend that Monica Lewinsky was never at the gate. And if -

Q: To the effect of pretend –

PRESIDENT CLINTON: And if that is the question you are asking me, I don't believe I ever did that, sir. I certainly have no memory of doing that.

Q: Or anything to that effect?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I don't know what that means.

Q: Is that your testimony?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: What does that mean, anything to that effect?

Q: Well, Mr. President, you've told us that you were not going to try to help the Jones attorneys, and I think it's clear from your testimony that you were pretty literal at times. So, that's why I'm saying, I don't necessarily know the exact words. The question was, do you have any knowledge of the fact –

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Of that?

Q: – of the fact that later in the day, on Saturday, the 6th of December, 1997, Secret Service people were then, were told something to this effect: This event never happened, let's just pretend this event did not happen. Do you have knowledge of it, or not?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, sir. And I, I didn't instruct the Secret Service in that regard. I have no memory of saying anything to anybody in the Secret Service that would have triggered that kind of instruction.

Q: Did you tell Captain Purdy, while you were standing in the doorway between the Oval Office and Betty Currie's office, did you tell Captain Purdy of the Uniformed Division, I hope I can count on your discretion in this matter? At the end of the day when you all were talking about that earlier incident, did you tell him that or anything like that, sir?

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Copyright © 1998 by Federal News Service, Inc. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's original duties. Transcripts of other events may be found at the Federal News Service Web site, located at www.fnsg.com.

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