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Clinton Won't Seek Recusal of Jones Judge

Wright Judge Susan Webber Wright. (Reuters)

Related Links
  • Jones Case Judge May Cite Clinton (Washington Post, Feb. 17)

  • Clinton Faces Possible Sanction (Washington Post, Sept. 2)

  • Text of Judge Wright's Sept. Order

  • By Peter Baker
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, February 18, 1999; Page A04

    President Clinton will not ask a federal judge who is considering whether to find him in contempt of court to step aside because she spoke with the prosecution team in his impeachment trial, according to sources informed about the decision.

    Clinton's attorney, Robert S. Bennett, filed a short document yesterday with the court in Little Rock informing U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright that he would not seek her recusal. The move permits Wright to conduct an inquiry into whether Clinton should face civil sanctions for his misleading testimony in the Paula Jones lawsuit about his affair with Monica S. Lewinsky.

    Wright told Bennett and other attorneys involved in the Jones case on Tuesday that she would explore a contempt citation against Clinton now that his impeachment trial was over. That could lead to a full hearing about whether he was completely truthful when he denied during his Jan. 17, 1998, deposition having sexual relations with Lewinsky.

    Before proceeding with such an inquiry, Wright gave Clinton the opportunity to ask that another judge handle the matter if he or his lawyers felt she could not rule fairly because of her contact with one of the House Republicans who prosecuted him before the Senate. Rep. Asa Hutchinson (Ark.) last month asked Wright to testify at the impeachment trial; she refused but allowed her clerk to file an affidavit about Clinton's deportment during his deposition.

    In deciding not to challenge Wright, the Clinton team opted to take its chances with a known quantity. Although she has already telegraphed her predisposition by raising the contempt issue without being asked, Wright has ruled in Clinton's favor in the past, including dismissing the Jones suit last April because Wright found it lacked legal merit.

    In another development, Lewinsky appeared close to reaching an agreement that would allow her to proceed with a television interview with ABC's Barbara Walters. Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr was poised to allow the interview with some restrictions on what she could discuss, a source said, confirming an Associated Press report. The interview could take place within the next two weeks.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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