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Vernon Jordan. (AP file photo)

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Key Player Profile: Vernon Jordan

'I Was Concerned by Her Fascination . . . With Him'

Saturday, October 3, 1998; Page A29

The first of Vernon E. Jordan Jr.'s five appearances before the grand jury was an all-day session on March 3. Exchanges between Jordan and prosecutors – sometimes curt, usually courteous – focused on his friendship with President Clinton, his introduction to Monica S. Lewinsky, and his efforts to obtain her a job. His testimony culminated in his account of asking both Lewinsky and President Clinton, separately, on Dec. 19 whether they had had sexual relations. Reports at the time of Jordan's testimony suggested a rift between him and Clinton, but he described to jurors an enduring and intimate friendship.

Q: How would you describe the nature of your relationship with President Clinton over the last year?

Jordan: First of all, let me say that the President of the United States, William Clinton, has been my friend for a very long time. We became friends in 1973 when I was president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League and I was in Little Rock making a speech about race relations, equal opportunity, fairness and justice, and this young lawyer, a professor at the University of Arkansas, showed up and we've been friends since.

. . . We are personal friends. We are fellow lawyers. We are fellow southerners. We care about race. We care deeply about the south where we are both from. And I think we have a historic mutuality of interest in public policy issues, politics. We play golf.

The President every year since he has been President has come to our home for Christmas Eve dinner. The first dinner given for him after he was elected President but before he took office, we hosted that. So we are friends.

Q: . . . How often would you say you and President Clinton talk in the last year?

A: That depends. I have an extensive travel schedule and a full law practice. The President has an extensive travel schedule and he is the leader of the free world. So the notion that we talk every day is not true.

We talk when it is mutually convenient, when he is in town, I am in town . . . It is not unlike your relationship with your own best friend.

'She Said That She Had Not Had a Sexual Relationship With the President'

On Dec. 19, 1997, Monica S. Lewinsky called Jordan, distraught, and said she had received a subpoena in the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit. Jordan told her to come to his office, where they met alone. He testified that he first thought that she was worried about her job prospects in connection with the subpoena, but that he soon realized her fears were deeper, and offered to find her an attorney.

Q: What would be the first thing you addressed with her during that meeting?

A: Well her emotional state was obviously one of dishevelment and she was quite upset. She was crying. She was – she was highly emotional, to say the least.

Q: What was your reaction to that? Were you surprised at how emotional she was?

A: Well, I assumed that much of it was fear and then it was clear that there was more than that.

. . . I asked her if there had been any gifts and she said that there had been gifts. It was clear to me that there was more than fear here as a result of this document. And the conversation increasingly demonstrated to me that there was on the part of Ms. Lewinsky a sort of – shall I say – fascination, that she was taken with the President and it was – it was this conversation, it was this – what I saw and what I felt as I listened to her talk that – and as I looked at this, brought me to the point that I asked her directly had there been any sexual relationship between she and the President.

And she said that she had not had a sexual relationship with the President and I took her at her word on that. And suggested to her that she needed a lawyer, told her that she should tell the truth and I told her that I would help her get a lawyer. . . .

Q: So you were alerted to that or what caused you to ask that question is because the document itself referred to them.

A: The document, her demeanor, and I pursued her and I said, "Tell me about your friendship with the President."

And she said, "The President is a friend of mine and I really have great admiration for the President." And I thought quite honestly that I was listening to a bobby soxer who was mesmerized by Frank Sinatra, who was quite taken with this man because of his position, because of who he was, because he was tall and he was handsome and because he was President. That was clear to me. And she expressed an admiration, a fondness for the President. And it was clear to me that a new element had been discovered here by me and I felt it incumbent upon myself to satisfy myself as to what had taken place. And I asked her a question and she said no.

Q: And as best you can recall, what exactly would have been the question you would have asked?

A: Have you had sexual relationships with the President.

Q: And when you said sexual relationships and without your needing to be graphic, what did you mean when you said that? Were there any limitations on what you viewed as sexual relations to be?

A: My view of it was sexual intercourse. Period. That's my definition of sexual relations is sexual intercourse and that's the context in which I asked the question.

Q: So in your mind when you asked her if she had sexual relations, you meant solely did she have sexual intercourse with him?

A: Yes, I meant sexual intercourse, period.

Speaking of the same meeting, Jordan added:

A: . . .During the course of the conversation, Ms. Lewinsky asked me if I thought that the President would leave the First Lady at the end of his term and that, as I remember it, was a very both frightening, and from my point of view, unrealistic question about the President so I just said that's a really crazy notion on your part, that that would happen, and that I was confident that they would be together 'til death do them part and I do believe that, as a matter of fact. And said that to her. And that was – it was that statement that certainly sent alarm bells off in my mind as to this kind of fixation, this kind of possessive, bobby-soxer attitude that I felt that she had towards the President. . . .

Q: Did she ever indicate in essence she was frustrated by the situation? Namely, was there ever a time when she indicated that she was frustrated or words to that effect that she was not speaking to the President as much as she'd like?

A: Yes, she did. She said, "I don't ever hear from the President," and I said to her, I said, "He is the leader of the free world, he has Iraq, he has IMF, he has Southeast Asia, he has the Middle East. He's a very busy guy . . . I was – it was somehow stunning to me that she was complaining that she did not hear from the President . . .

Q: Did you ever say to her words to the effect of take your frustrations out on me or if you're frustrated, talk to me, don't take them out on the President?

A: I think I said to her, "You know, you can't be calling the Oval Office and if you've got some problem, you call me." . . .

Later that night, Jordan went to the White House, where he met with Clinton alone in the private residence.

Q: Did you when you did meet up with the President indicate that you needed to talk to him alone?

A: He was alone. When I got upstairs, he was alone, so I didn't have to say that. He was alone.

Q: Tell us what you told the President.

A: I told him that Monica Lewinsky had been subpoenaed, came to me with a subpoena. I told him that I was concerned by her fascination, her being taken with him. I told him how emotional she was having gotten the subpoena. I told him what she said to me about whether or not he was going to leave the First Lady at the end of the term. And at the end of that, I asked him if he had had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. . . .

. . .Okay? And I explained all of this to him. And he listened. I think, with some dazzlement, some amazement at this. And I put the question to him. And he said –

Q: What was the question you asked?

A: "Mr. President, have you had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky?" The President said, "No, never."

A Flurry of Calls

On Jan. 19, with allegations about Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky about to become public, Jordan is involved in a series of telephone conversations that begin with a call to his home by Clinton at 8:55 a.m. Jordan then pages Lewinsky, and proceeds over the next 10 hours to place 25 calls to her and various White House aides. Yet he insists that he cannot recall the subject of the first Clinton call, and insists that he was not a central player in the drama.

Q: Okay. Now, why were you trying to get a hold of Monica Lewinsky at 10:33 a.m. that morning?

A: I was trying to find Monica Lewinsky because I had just been exposed the day before to the Drudge Report and I wanted to ask her what she knew about the Drudge Report.

Q: Okay. In light of the fact that that call is immediately after a call for three minutes and 42 seconds to the general White House operator's number and immediately before a call for a minute and 12 seconds to Nancy Hernreich's number, do you believe that in either of those calls, either the 10:29 call to the White House or the 10:35 call to the White House, you would have spoken to the President about Monica Lewinsky?

A: Possible. Whether I did nor not, I don't know. It is entirely possible.

Q: Okay. Is it fair to say that Monica Lewinsky and matters related thereto was one of the issues that you were dealing with that day?

A: I think that's fair to say. Yes.

Q: Is it fair to say that on the priority of issues that you were dealing with on Martin Luther King Day that it was the primary issue you were dealing with?

A: No, it's not fair to say that it was the primary issue, but it was one of the issues. Monica Lewinsky was never sort of a primary issue in my life. It was a tangential issue in my life. I dealt with it.

As I have said here before, I dealt with it successfully in terms of getting her a job and, secondly, successfully in terms of getting her counsel.

Q: What other issues on that day ranked in importance as high to you as dealing with what you just learned about Monica Lewinsky? Namely the Drudge Report and matters related thereto?

A: I sort of don't prioritize my issues. I cannot tell you what priority of issues were on my mind on a holiday. There are many issues on my mind every day, whether I'm talking to the White House or whether I'm talking to a client. So the notion that this was an issue of primacy for me, I mean, it doesn't make sense to me.

'My Door Swings Back on Welcome Hinges'

As his last appearance before the jury on June 9 ended, Jordan, with an assist from the jury foreman, went out with a flourish.

Jordan: Counsel, do you want to tell me what this means? I mean, are you going to ask me back?

Q: This means that we have –

The Foreperson: We hope not to ask you back.

Q: Correct. This means –

A: I'll tell you something, Forelady, I hope not to come back.

Q: And I think I can safely say that we have no intention to call you back and we tried to make every effort to do it so we would not call you back . . .

The Foreperson: I want to say something and it's really kind of a joke, and I know it's going on the record, but if ever any of us need a job, can we feel free to come to you?

A: Madam Forelady, my door swings back on welcome hinges to anybody in this grand jury.

It's very interesting. I yesterday gave the commencement address at New York Law School, its 106th commencement, and it was great fun and, Madam Forelady, I made a great speech. It was so exciting to be there, reminiscing about what I did 38 years ago. I must tell you the contrast of yesterday and today is mind-boggling, to say the least. But I had a very good time yesterday with that graduating class and not so good a time today with you, but I'm glad that it's all over. Thank you.

(The witness was excused.)

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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