By Peter Baker
The Jones legal team in December directed Clinton to turn over any documents related to Willey, including telephone logs and records "reflecting any communications, meetings, or visits." A Jan. 15 response prepared by the president's attorneys and unsealed yesterday said, "President Clinton has no documents responsive to this Request."
Yet on March 16, the morning after Willey went on national television to say that Clinton kissed and groped her without permission near the Oval Office in 1993, the White House promptly produced 15 letters and notes she wrote to the president. As part of the effort to show that Willey still seemed friendly after the purported incident, the White House also provided a detailed compendium of all her telephone calls and contacts with the Oval Office. Clinton personally approved the release of the records, which aides at the time said were compiled the previous weekend.
In papers submitted to U.S. District Court in Little Rock yesterday, Jones's lawyers said the failure to provide those documents amounted to "outright mendacity" meant to stonewall their case charging that Clinton sexually harassed Jones in 1991. As a result, they announced plans to seek court sanctions against the Clinton camp for defying their court-authorized document request.
The documents filed by the Jones camp yesterday also included a sensational -- but uncorroborated -- allegation that Clinton raped a woman while he was attorney general of Arkansas in the late 1970s. The Jones lawyers, in making this claim for the first time publicly, offered no sworn testimony to directly support the allegation and no first-hand evidence that an attack ever took place. They produced a four-page unsigned copy of a letter from a friend of the woman who wrote about the incident.
The woman denied the assertion in a sworn deposition in the Jones case that remains under seal and was not made public yesterday, according to several people familiar with her testimony. In a telephone interview yesterday, an attorney for the woman expressed indignation that she was the subject of "vicious rumors and vicious allegations." Asked whether the rape allegation were true, he said, "We're neither admitting it or denying it."
Robert S. Bennett, the president's attorney in the Jones case, did not respond to several telephone messages yesterday. The White House denounced the latest filings as scurrilous and baseless.
"This is outrageous and false," White House spokesman James Kennedy said of the assault allegation. "As Ms. Jones's attorneys know, [the woman] has already provided them with an affidavit and a deposition denying the allegation. Moreover, Ms. Jones's attorneys are repeating false charges that come from longtime political opponents of the president."
The Washington Post does not name alleged rape victims without their permission.
The official explanation of the failure to turn over the Willey letters rested on a more legalistic defense -- that the Jones lawyers sought the correspondence from Clinton personally, not the White House. "The letters and other documents are White House documents," Kennedy said, as opposed to items that belonged to Clinton.
However, the instructions to Clinton in the December document request from the Jones team specifically stated that, "You are to produce not only the documents and things in your immediate possession, but also those over which you have custody or control."
John W. Whitehead, president of the Virginia-based Rutherford Institute, which is funding Jones's legal battle, characterized the White House behavior "as part of a pattern of suppression of evidence, which is no light thing."
Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, who is investigating whether Clinton or his allies tried to influence the testimony of Willey or another former aide, Monica S. Lewinsky, recently subpoenaed the White House for all documents related to Willey. The White House is working toward a Tuesday deadline to collect materials to hand over to prosecutors.
While publicly pledging cooperation, the White House has followed a strategy of blocking inquiries both in the Jones case and in Starr's investigation, which started as an examination into whether Clinton urged Lewinsky to lie to Jones's lawyers about having an affair with the president.
Clinton has invoked executive privilege and attorney-client privilege to prevent Starr from asking certain questions of senior aides, including deputy counsel Bruce R. Lindsey and communications adviser Sidney Blumenthal. The White House also has not given a firm response to Starr's requests for Clinton to testify about his contacts with Lewinsky. And the White House repeatedly has rejected news media requests for documents or other information related to Lewinsky, including any records like those released about Willey.
The disclosure of the Willey letters two months after Clinton told the Jones team he had no such documents is the latest example of what critics call a habit of tardy responses to investigators. During last year's campaign finance probes, the White House did not turn over videotapes of Clinton's coffees with political donors until months after they were requested, angering not only Senate Republicans but also Attorney General Janet Reno.
The latest round of recriminations in the Jones sexual harassment case stemmed from her team's filing of 700 pages of documents earlier this month that included sworn testimony from three other women alleging sexual encounters with Clinton and from several of his former state trooper bodyguards asserting that he used them to procure women. Outraged by what he called an irrelevant "smear campaign," Bennett filed a motion a week ago seeking to strike those materials from evidence.
The 58-page filing yesterday was Jones's response and her lawyers took the unusual course of submitting it six days before a court deadline and on a Saturday, when the disclosures would be certain to earn attention in Sunday newspapers and talk shows.
The brief argued that the testimony regarding other women should not be thrown out because it supports the Jones contention that Clinton and his allies engaged in a "vast enterprise" to obstruct justice in her case. The Willey letters were cited as an example of withheld evidence and the rape allegation was introduced as an instance where Jones's attorneys contend a witness was afraid to tell the truth for fear of reprisal from Clinton.
The Jones team also asked U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright not to strike evidence of any efforts to persuade Lewinsky to lie under oath, even though the judge previously ruled the Lewinsky matter out of bounds because it might interfere with the Starr investigation.
Jones's attorneys were interested in Lewinsky and Willey, among other women, to prove a pattern of conduct by Clinton that would bolster their client's charge of a crude sexual proposition by the then-governor on May 8, 1991. In a Dec. 15 request for material, the Jones lawyers asked Clinton for "all documents" regarding Willey, including personnel records, appointment calendars and "all documents (such as logs, telephone records, security videotapes, or lists) reflecting any communications, meetings, or visits involving Defendant Clinton and Mrs. Willey, especially within the White House."
The Jan. 15 response signed by Bennett said, "President Clinton objects to this Request for Production as it is intended solely to harass, embarrass, and humiliate the President and the Office he occupies. . . . Notwithstanding the above objections, President Clinton has no documents responsive to this Request. Also notwithstanding the above objections, the Clinton Campaign has no documents responsive to this Request."
A month later, another Clinton lawyer, Amy Sabrin, amended the president's response by sending the Jones lawyers' firm two letters -- a handwritten note from Willey describing an international convention she attended as a Clinton-appointed delegate and his three-paragraph response. In a Feb. 25 letter, Sabrin said the documents were located by the Clinton-Gore campaign "in the course of reviewing some files for an unrelated matter."
On March 15, Willey went public with her story in a widely watched "60 Minutes" interview alleging in graphic terms that the president accosted her in a private hallway adjoining the Oval Office when she went to see him about a job. The next day, the White House released the letters and notes from Willey, many of them signed "fondly, Kathleen," and one describing herself as Clinton's "number one fan." The White House produced 15 notes or letters from her to the president; five from him to her; five to Clinton's personal aides and logs noting 10 telephone calls. Accompanying the correspondence was a four-page summary chart detailing the dates and types of contacts.
Just as Willey has now been drawn into the Starr case, so too has the woman named in the rape allegation. The independent counsel has subpoenaed the Jones team for records involving the alleged rape victim as part of his obstruction of justice probe.
The Jones lawyers filed a statement from Phillip David Yoakum, of Fayetteville, Ark., who said the woman was a friend and told him of an incident involving Clinton. Yoakum said he once recorded her talking about the episode but later destroyed the original tapes and gave copies to Sheffield Nelson, a Republican who ran against Clinton for governor in 1990. Yoakum has not responded to repeated attempts to contact him; Nelson declined to comment.
The Jones team also filed an unsigned Oct. 23, 1992, letter Yoakum purportedly sent to the woman outlining what he said she had told him and chiding her for deciding to lie about it in exchange for an unspecified "pay off" from Clinton. According to Yoakum's account, Clinton met her 14 years earlier at a state conference, invited her to a hotel room and forced her to have sex.
The woman declined to comment when reached by telephone last week. Her lawyer deplored the Jones filing. "It's a vicious rumor," he said. "The allegations are so beneath my client's dignity that we don't intend to be involved at all. This is a loathsome process that is going on."
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