Clinton Said He Aided Lewinsky in Job Hunt
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 3, 1998; Page A01
President Clinton told prosecutors that he tried to help Monica S. Lewinsky in January in her efforts to find a private-sector job and asked a senior White House aide whether he would be willing to write her a favorable job recommendation, according to sources familiar with his grand jury testimony last month.
Clinton, sources said, asked John Hilley, then serving as the White House legislative liaison, whether Hilley could recommend the former intern for a job. But sources supportive of the president's defense described this exchange as innocuous, since Clinton never instructed Hilley to write a recommendation, and none was apparently ever written.
Clinton's effort on behalf of Lewinsky, with whom he has acknowledged having an extramarital relationship, came at the same time that lawyers for Paula Jones had issued a subpoena seeking Lewinsky's testimony in Jones's sexual harassment suit against the president. After receiving a private job offer in New York, Lewinsky signed an affidavit swearing she had no sexual relationship with the president. Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr is exploring whether Clinton obstructed justice by allegedly seeking to win Lewinsky's silence about their relationship.
January was only the latest time Clinton had taken a personal interest in Lewinsky's job prospects, Clinton acknowledged in his Aug. 17 grand jury testimony, sources said. In the summer of 1997, he talked to White House deputy personnel director Marcia Scott about Lewinsky's desire to return to the White House after her involuntary reassignment to the Pentagon the year before.
Senior White House officials have told the grand jury that they wanted Lewinsky out of the White House because they believed she was spending too much time around the president, but claimed they did not know she was in an intimate relationship with him.
Clinton, sources said, discussed with Lewinsky her anger about being transferred and later asked Scott if there was a position for her back at the White House. But sources said Clinton issued no instructions to Scott and suggested she find something for Lewinsky only if it was "appropriate." In the end, sources said, Scott did not offer Lewinsky a job and assured her that her public affairs job at the Pentagon was far from a demotion or black mark on her record.
The disclosures about Clinton's testimony, first reported yesterday by the Associated Press, represent the first acknowledgment that he played a direct role in her job searches. In the Paula Jones case, he said he was aware that his secretary Betty Currie was helping her look for work but acknowledged nothing about his own role.
Allies of the president said the job efforts by Clinton in the summer of 1997 show that he was not motivated by a desire to stop her from cooperating in the Jones suit, since at that point no subpoenas had been issued in the case. Moreover, they said neither that intervention nor the one in January yielded any results, either in the form of recommendations or a job -- hardly an example of a president using all the influence at his command to win special treatment for a potential witness against him.
These sources characterized the 1997 conversation with Scott as a sympathetic response by Clinton to Lewinsky's concerns that she had unfairly been shoved out of the White House and suffered a black mark on her resume as a result.
This argument about facts and their meaning -- whether certain actions by Clinton and others in the case were sinister or benign -- has been a recurring theme of recent weeks, and is only going to accelerate in coming days. White House lawyers and political advisers have been busy devising a response to what they anticipate will be Starr's contention that Clinton's actions constituted obstruction of justice. Starr, for instance, has pressed witnesses about why Lewinsky returned gifts that Clinton had given her to Currie -- who put them in a box under her bed -- when they were subpoenaed; Clinton allies say her return of gifts is insignificant, since Clinton gave her more gifts around the same time.
Once allegations about Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky exploded into public view in January, Clinton friend Vernon E. Jordan acknowledged that he had kept Clinton apprised of his own efforts to help her get a New York private-sector job. The job offer he helped arrange, with Revlon Inc., came days before she gave her affidavit in the Jones case but was rescinded after the controversy broke.
Scott, deputy director of White House personnel, has told the grand jury that in the summer of 1997, Currie asked her to see if she could help place Lewinsky in a White House job, according to Scott's lawyer, Stuart Pierson.
Pierson said that while Scott has "no specific recollection" of talking to Clinton about Lewinsky's job interests, she may in fact have done so. Clinton, sources said, told the grand jury that Scott in fact did talk to him about a job for Lewinsky.
Pierson said Scott met with Lewinsky in late spring or early summer in 1997, and then a second time later in the summer. Scott, he said, told Lewinsky that "it was not a good career move" because she had detractors in the White House who had been critical of her job performance earlier. Lewinsky, Pierson said, complained during the second job discussion with Scott that she was banished to the Pentagon while other women who had relationships with Clinton got to stay on in White House jobs.
"She said, 'I never had an affair with the president, but all the others who have get to stay,' " Pierson said.
Hilley, who testified on May 19 to the grand jury, could not be reached for comment last night.
Lewinsky, who appeared before the grand jury once before and once after Clinton gave his own grand jury testimony, was also interviewed for two hours under oath in Starr's offices last week, her attorney said yesterday.
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