By Ruth Marcus
The day after the dismissal of the lawsuit that landed Lewinsky in jeopardy and helped catapult him to national prominence, Ginsburg said he was "surprised" by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright's decision. "She's gutsy," he said.
At a luncheon with Washington Post editors and reporters, Ginsburg said Clinton "may have had a bad approach to picking up women, but I didn't see sexual harassment."
However, Ginsburg said, if testimony about Clinton's involvement with various women is true, "This president has a gender problem . . . it shows a certain disrespect."
Ginsburg said that independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr might have a problem prosecuting Lewinsky for perjury after the Jones case dismissal but that he did not think Wright's decision would affect Starr's ability to accuse her of obstruction of justice or conspiring to obstruct justice.
Ginsburg expounded on everything from his views of Starr -- "out of control" -- to his assessment of his client -- "a very bright kid . . . a very clever mind" -- to criticism by some lawyers of his media-oriented approach to the case.
"My response is when somebody says are you in over your head, I say, 'Of course,' " said Ginsburg, saying that there was no precedent for handling an allegation of sexual misconduct involving the president of the United States.
Later, Ginsburg seemed to joke about his own prominence, pulling out his beeper on one occasion during the lunch and saying, "Excuse me, this is my booking agent."
Ginsburg touched on the role of the news media, the position of women in society, his dinner conversations with Lewinsky as they frequent restaurants here and his theater-going habits. Ginsburg said that in Los Angeles recently, he saw "Gross Indecency," a play about the sodomy prosecution of Oscar Wilde, and was asked by two federal judges in the audience whether he was there doing Lewinsky case homework.
A Los Angeles medical malpractice lawyer, Ginsburg became animated as he imagined cross-examining Pentagon employee Linda R. Tripp, who taped her conversations with Lewinsky and then gave them to Starr. As a witness, Ginsburg said, Tripp would be "a great lamb chop to pick up and start chewing."
Ginsburg's effort to enforce an immunity agreement he asserts he reached with Starr's office is pending before U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson here. But Ginsburg suggested a number of legal avenues he could pursue if Starr chooses to indict Lewinsky.
He said he would challenge the admissibility of tapes made by the FBI of Lewinsky's final conversation with Tripp on the grounds that they were obtained before Starr had formally expanded his jurisdiction to include allegations about Lewinsky. He questioned whether a fair jury could be assembled in the case, saying, "Find me 12 people who don't know anything about the case."
Ginsburg suggested that if Lewinsky were accused of lying about her relationship with the president, he could argue that the constitutional right of privacy would "supersede" her requirement to testify truthfully about such intimate matters because her intent would not be to lie but to protect her privacy. He criticized Starr's subpoena of Lewinsky's bookstore records and his summoning of her mother to testify.
Ginsburg argued that the dismissal of the Jones case would doom any attempt to prosecute Lewinsky for perjury because the perjury statute requires that the false statement be "material."
He also intimated, while refusing elaboration, that the dismissal of the lawsuit would give him a hook to argue against any obstruction of justice prosecution.
"I've got to be protective" of Lewinsky, he said. "That's my job."
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company