From Starr Is Delayed
By Susan Schmidt and Juliet Eilperin
Among the documents scheduled for release are transcripts of Linda R. Tripp's tape-recorded conversations with Monica S. Lewinsky -- including their final exchange at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City on Jan. 14, when the FBI listened in through a device worn by Tripp. In addition, the material will include about 100 transcripts of grand jury testimony by Tripp, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Clinton secretary Betty Currie, Lewinsky's mother Marcia Lewis, White House adviser Sidney Blumenthal and Oval Office steward Bayani Nelvis.
Republicans and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee each argued yesterday that the new material will bolster their interpretation of events, but both sides agreed that Lewinsky and Tripp come off badly in the taped conversations.
In the 20-plus hours of tapes that lead up to the Pentagon City conversation, committee lawyers said, Tripp leads Lewinsky on and even encourages her to take notes about her sexual encounters with Clinton. Lewinsky, for her part, presses Tripp to keep silent about what she knows about Lewinsky's affair with Clinton if she is questioned in the the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit.
The documents were technically released Monday by the committee after a debate over what should be withheld. But as a practical matter, they will not be available until the Government Printing Office completes the massive task of printing them in bound volumes, a project the committee had hoped would be completed Thursday but now expects will take all week. The committee released 3,183 pages of documents on Sept. 21.
Republicans said yesterday that the new material demonstrates what they believe is abuse of executive privilege by the president in his attempt to keep senior White House lawyer Bruce R. Lindsey from testifying about Lewinsky. Democrats said the documents show that Currie was a prime mover in trying to line up jobs for Lewinsky after her sexual relationship with Clinton ended.
According to Republican sources, the documents show that Lindsey cited executive privilege in refusing to answer grand jury questions about a lunch with Jordan, arguing that Jordan was a "confidential adviser" to Clinton. Lindsey also cited executive privilege in refusing to answer questions about conversations he had with Clinton concerning Lewinsky, saying he was functioning as a "confidential intermediary" between Clinton and his personal lawyer, Robert S. Bennett.
Executive privilege rests with the president, who can direct his aides to invoke it, normally in matters of national security. But it is not generally thought to apply to conversations with people outside the government, and in criminal proceedings, the Supreme Court has held that the need to gather evidence takes priority.
Democratic sources said the documents indicate that Currie began working to bring Lewinsky back to the White House shortly after she was transferred to the Pentagon in the spring of 1996. Senior Clinton aides had been worried that she was fixated on the president.
Currie, according to one Democratic source, testified that she "felt bad" for Lewinsky and believed "she had been mistreated in terms of her transfer from the White House." After White House personnel aide Marsha Scott rejected the idea of rehiring Lewinsky, the source said, Currie contacted Jordan and White House deputy chief of staff John Podesta about finding Lewinsky a job in New York.
Republicans said the transcripts of Currie's testimony suggest that she became more and more forgetful in each grand jury appearance, and that she was so busy taking notes that she slowed the grand jury down.
They also highlighted testimony by former Clinton adviser Dick Morris, ousted after his own sex scandal in 1996. Morris confirmed in an interview yesterday that he told the grand jury the White House used confidential material from personnel files to smear him and a former employee of the Reagan White House, Republican political adviser Ed Rollins. Morris also told the grand jury that the White House maintains "a secret police operation to go around and intimidate women" linked to Clinton, and he pointed to Lindsey as well as two private investigators as participants in that effort. He said yesterday that his information came principally from news reports, not from any White House source.
Another Clinton adviser, Blumenthal, testified that Clinton told him Lewinsky had pursued him, making sexual demands, Republican lawyers said yesterday. Blumenthal said he talked to Hillary Clinton about the Lewinsky matter and was told that Clinton was spending time with her because he was "ministering" to a troubled young person.
Staff writer Guy Gugliotta contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company