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Comments on the Lewinsky Allegations

Friday, February 6, 1998

These are excerpts from the Friday news conference with President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair:

QUESTION: Mr. President, despite the ongoing investigation, you've felt no constraint in saying what your relationship with Monica Lewinsky is not – was not. So it seems by logic that you ought to be able to say here and now what was your relationship? Her lawyer says – called it colleagues. Is that an apt description?

CLINTON: Well, let me first of all say once again – I never asked anybody to do anything but tell the truth. I know about the stories today. I was pleased that Ms. Currie's stated unambiguously this morning – unambiguously – that she's not aware of any unethical conduct.

But this investigation is going on. And you know what the rules for it are. And I just think as long as it's going on, I should not comment on the specific questions because there's one and then there's another, then there's another.

It's better to let the investigation go on and have me do my job and focus on my public responsibilities and let this thing play out its course.

That's what I think I should do, and that's what I intend to do.

QUESTION: (off-mike) leaving people in the dark.

CLINTON: Well, I'm honoring the rules of the investigation. And if someone else is leaking unlawfully out of the grand jury proceeding, that's a different story. I am going to do – I have told the American people what I think is essential for them to know about this and what I believe they want to know. What I'm doing is going on with my work and cooperating with the investigation, and I do not believe I should answer specific questions. I don't think that's the right thing to do now.

QUESTION: Mr. President, just to go back to the controversy that's been surrounding you lately, there have been various reports that in some ways have come to be accepted as fact. And I just want to give you an opportunity... One of them is that in sworn testimony to the lawyers for Paula Jones that you changed your version of your relationship with Gennifer Flowers. And I just wonder if you can tell us, I mean do you now...

CLINTON: (off-mike) let me just say this.

Again, even though the judge's order has been routinely violated by the other side in the case, the judge has issued strict orders in the case for every – for – for – that covers everybody, including me, not to discuss it.

I can tell you this – and I'm confident as this thing plays out it will become more apparent in the future – if you go back – I told the truth in my deposition with regard to that issue, and I also did in 1992 when I did the interview, which I think was rerun the other night – the interview that Hillary and I did on 60 Minutes.

And you just have to know that and I think it will become apparent as this plays itself out that I did, in fact, do that. But I am not going to discuss that. The judge has given us strict orders not to discuss anything related to that case. The other side has violated it on a regular basis. I don't intend to that. I'm just not going to do it.

QUESTION: Could I ask the prime minister, you could have come here and simply talked about serious politics. But some people have been struck by the warmth of the personal statements of support that you've given to the president. Could I ask you – I mean, have you ever considered that that might be a politically risky strategy, and could I ask the president, have you appreciated those comments from Mr. Blair?

BLAIR: You know, to be quit honest, Phil, I mean, I've said it because I believed it and because I think it is the right thing to do. And I've worked with President Clinton now for some nine months as British prime minister. I have found him throughout someone I could trust, someone I could rely upon, someone I am proud to call not just a colleague, but a friend.

And in the end, you either decide in politics you – when you are asked about people, you are going to say how you actually feel, or you're going to make a whole series of calculations.

And my belief is that the right thing to say is what you feel. And I happen to think if it's, then whether it's my place to say it or not, that if you look at the American economy, you look at the respect with which America is held right around the world today, if you look at the standing and authority of the president, it's a pretty impressive record for anyone.

CLINTON: You asked do I appreciate it? No, I ... He should have come here and jumped all over me. I mean, it's ...

BLAIR: Do you want me come back in now?

CLINTON: Of course I do. But, you know, I think it's also a testament about – there's been a lot of people bandy about the word "character" and sometimes in loose and uncertain context.

I think the people who stand up and say things that they believe when it would be just as easy to walk away show a certain kind of character that I think is essential in a public leader, and I'm very gratified that Tony Blair has done that. Not only for personal reasons, but because I think it will strengthen his authority as a world leader.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

CLINTON: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, all these questions about your personal life have to be painful to you and your family. At what point do you consider that it's just not worth it, and do you consider resigning from office?

CLINTON: Never. You know, I was elected to do a job.

I think the American people know two or three things about me now that they didn't know the first time this kind of effort was made against me. They – I think they know that I care very much about them, that I care about ordinary people whose voices aren't often heard here. And I think they know I have worked very, very hard for them. And I think they know now more often than not the ideas I had and the things I fought for turned out to be right in terms of the consequences for the American people. I think they know all that.

And I'm just going to keep showing up for work. I'm going to do what I was hired to do. And I'm going to try to keep getting good results for them.

The pain threshold, at least for our side, being in public life today has been raised. But to give into that would be to give into everything that I fought against and got me into this race in 1991 to try to run for president in the first place.

I have tried to bring an end to this sort of thing in our public life. I've tried to bring the American people together. I've tried to depersonalize politics and take the venom out of it. And the harder I've tried to do it, the harder others have pulled in the other direction.

That doesn't mean I'm wrong. And I would – I would – I would never walk away from the people of this country and the trust they've placed in me.

QUESTION: Mr. President.

CLINTON: Yes, Mara, go ahead.

QUESTION: I'm wondering if you could elaborate on something that the first lady said recently about a right-wing conspiracy who's working against you. Could you explain how that conspiracy works, and specifically, are Linda Tripp, Ken Starr and Monica Lewinsky part of that conspiracy?

CLINTON: Now you know I've known her a long time, the first lady, and she's very smart. And she's hardly ever wrong about anything.

But I don't believe I should amplify on her observation in this case.

BLAIR: Yes, Adam.

QUESTION: One of your common shared themes, you keep on telling your voters, is this matter of their rights go with responsibilities.

Now you as elected leaders have extraordinary rights and privileges, yet you seem to be saying that there's no extension of responsibilities as far as personal integrity is concerned. Is that what you're really saying? If you're delivering on the job, the big picture, it doesn't matter what you get up to in your private life?

BLAIR: Nobody's saying that you don't have obligations of personal integrity. Of course that's right. But what we are trying to say to you is the responsibilities with which we were asked by our people to discharge, those responsibilities are on the issues where we can affect them as leaders of the country.

You know, if you go to Britain today and you talk to the British people, and I do ask – it just could be that sometimes you guys in the media are not in exactly the same place as a lot of public opinion in terms of the priorities people have.

But if you go out there and you talk to British people and you say, what do you want this new Labour government to do? They will talk to you about ensuring we don't have boom and bust, but that we have steadily rising living standards.

They'll talk about job security. They'll talk about the state of their schools, and they'll talk about the national health service. They'll talk about the welfare system and the crime in their streets. They'll talk about security in old age. They will talk about these things and they will care about these things, and they will expect us to deliver those responsibilities.

And of course it's a great privilege for us to occupy the positions that we do. But in the end, the judgment that the people make of us is a judgment based on what we said that we would do and whether we fulfilled the promises that we made. And that's certainly what we intend to do.

And I do think also that people understand and want political leadership that addresses these fundamental questions in a way that means something to them.

When I was at the Montgomery Blair High School yesterday with the president, and the president got up and addressed the young men and women and the teachers and staff and parents that where there, and started going through the education program that he was unveiling and had formed part of the State of the Union address and everything, and some of those things in terms of class sizes and new technology in the schools were very familiar to the British contingent here as things that we are trying to do in Britain.

I mean, the enthusiasm and the delight with which those things were greeted, because those people knew that in the end, that's what they elected their president to do. That's what they elected me to do.

And that those are the things that they want from us. And we've got to make sure, all the time, that we're focusing on that big picture. And you know, whatever other issues come along and distract us, in the end, the judgment of history upon us will be pretty poor if those weren't the things that when we got to bed at night we are thinking about. Those weren't the things that we were worried about and concerned about throughout the entirety of our society. Because those are the things which really make a difference to their lives.

CLINTON: OK. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Monica Lewinsky's life has been changed forever. Her family's life has been changed forever. I wonder how you feel about that and what if anything you'd like to say to Monica Lewinsky at this minute?

CLINTON: That's good. That's good, but at this minute I'm going to stick with my position of not commenting.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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