Two Probes on a Collision Course
By Ruth Marcus
The Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit triggered independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's investigation into whether President Clinton or others had attempted to obstruct justice in the Jones case.
Yesterday, Jones's lawyers argued that evidence of such obstruction should also be a basis for keeping their case alive and sending it to trial.
In court papers filed in Little Rock, they said they had gathered "substantial evidence" of a "vast enterprise" by Clinton and his allies to "suppress evidence in this case and otherwise corrupt these proceedings." The judge, they argued, should therefore reject Clinton's bid to have the case dismissed and proceed with plans for a May 27 trial.
At this point, the two investigations, though they started from far-off points, seem as if they are merging into one.
Starr's investigation began with a failed Arkansas real estate development. It moved on to a variety of other matters, including whether efforts by Clinton allies to find work for former associate attorney general Webster L. Hubbell represented an attempt to obstruct justice by encouraging him not to provide damaging testimony about the president.
And, in part based on the Hubbell hook, Starr's investigation has subsumed some of the Jones lawsuit, in particular, whether Clinton or others obstructed justice by encouraging former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky to lie to Jones's lawyers about whether she had a sexual relationship with the president.
This week, Starr opened a new front with the grand jury testimony of Kathleen E. Willey, a former volunteer in the White House who alleged in her deposition by the Jones lawyers that Clinton kissed and groped her near the Oval Office when she went to him seeking a paying job.
The Jones lawsuit has undergone a similar odyssey. It started with allegations that then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton made a crude advance to Jones in a Little Rock hotel room eight years ago, then in an effort to prove a pattern of conduct on Clinton's part branched out to include a broad investigation of his relationships with other women.
Yesterday, Jones's lawyers argued that evidence that Clinton and his allies attempted to cover up the alleged relationships should be a basis for keeping the case alive, and ultimately should be admitted at the trial.
In arguing against Clinton's final effort to have the case dismissed before trial, Jones's lawyers first went through more standard legal arguments for sending the case to trial. They argued, for example, that Jones was not required to prove that she suffered any "tangible job detriment" as a result of rebuffing Clinton, but pointed to evidence that she had nonetheless suffered by having her job duties changed. Jones was also dissuaded from pursuing better positions, her lawyers argued.
But then, Jones's lawyers dwelled at some length on a more unusual argument: how the allegedly obstructive practices of Clinton and his allies also provide grounds for rejecting the president's bid to have the case dismissed.
Clinton, they said, "has a pattern and practice of obstructing justice when it suits his needs." The president's "testimony, and the testimony of his agents, must be given little or no weight in deciding the motion before the court," they argued, "in light of a prolonged attempt to suppress, alter, or distort evidence relating to the matters at issue in the case."
And, although the judge in the Jones lawsuit has already ruled that evidence about Lewinsky should be excluded from the trial, the Jones lawyers said Lewinsky's treatment was relevant not only to prove their sexual harassment claim but also to show Clinton's efforts to obstruct justice.
The evidence about Lewinsky, they said, "shows that Mr. Clinton testified untruthfully under oath numerous times" in his deposition by the Jones lawyers "and that he and those acting for him suppressed evidence in this case."
As to Willey, Jones's attorneys said they need to reinterview her along with developer and Democratic fund-raiser Nathan Landow to get more evidence about whether Landow sought to influence her testimony about the alleged sexual encounter with Clinton.
"This summary judgment evidence leads to the very reasonable and quite obvious inference that Mr. Landow was serving as an intermediary for Mr. Clinton and his agents in attempting to influence Ms. Willey to withhold or alter her deposition testimony in this case, conduct constituting both witness tampering and obstruction of justice," the lawyers said. Landow has denied any misconduct.
Besides Lewinsky and Willey, the other women mentioned in the Jones case are there because Jones's lawyers contend they illustrate that those who complied with Clinton's requests for sexual favors were then granted government jobs or other benefits, while Jones who rebuffed Clinton was deprived of career benefits.
Although she has excluded evidence about Lewinsky from the trial, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright has allowed Jones's lawyers to gather information about women whose alleged relationships with Clinton had some government "nexus," either troopers played a role in arranging their encounters or they had a state or federal government job.
Wright has not yet ruled about what will be allowed at trial. But yesterday, for the first time, that evidence was placed on the public record and occupied a significant part of the 90-page brief filed by Jones's lawyers to oppose Clinton's motion for summary judgment.
In introducing the other women, the lawyers cited the experience of Gennifer Flowers in obtaining a state job, citing that as evidence of Clinton's willingness to "subvert" normal hiring procedures to help a woman who succumbed to his advances. They also pointed to an unnamed woman who obtained a state judgeship from Clinton after they allegedly had an affair, and to Lewinsky, saying she was "afforded extraordinary advancement, benefits, and assistance from Mr. Clinton and his allies, apparently as a direct result of her acceding to Mr. Clinton's sexual demands.
"Given Mr. Clinton's well-documented practice of using the benefits of government employment as rewards for submission to his sexual desires," they added, "a reasonable juror might well conclude that Mr. Clinton would withhold those benefits from those who, like plaintiff, did not submit."
Likewise, the lawyers pointed to Clinton's alleged use of state troopers to arrange meetings with other women as evidence of a conspiracy between Clinton and his bodyguard, trooper Danny Ferguson, to infringe on Jones's civil rights.
They said three other troopers "confirm Mr. Clinton's long-standing pattern and practice of sending his trooper bodyguards to solicit women to perform sexual favors for Mr. Clinton, after which Mr. Clinton would frequently brag to the troopers that he had engaged in sexual activities with these women. Trooper Ferguson was aware of these discussions. Accordingly, he . . . must have known why Mr. Clinton would ask to meet a single woman alone in a hotel room."
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