By Ruth Marcus and Susan Schmidt
The relationship began badly, with tears on one side and threats on the other. But over the rocky course of the next eight months, a strange alliance was forged, born of mutual need and finally fused by mutual antipathy toward a common foe: the president of the United States.
They couldn't make an odder couple. Kenneth W. Starr, the prudish, middle-aged son of a conservative minister, who sings hymns while jogging and speaks in reverent tones about "the temple of justice," overseeing a team of hard-nosed prosecutors. Monica S. Lewinsky, the privileged young daughter of Beverly Hills, who flashed her thong underwear at the president during their first private encounter, seizing what she called her "big chance" to entice him.
Although their lives have been intertwined, Starr and Lewinsky have never even met.
For the last eight months, the chief focus of public attention has been on Lewinsky's involvement with the president. But the thousands of pages dumped into the public record last week, combined with interviews with those involved in the investigation, sketch the first hazy portrait of another significant relationship, that between Lewinsky and the office that Starr heads as independent counsel. FBI interviews, grand jury testimony, handwritten proffers and other material provide a glimpse of the initial hostilities, growing intimacy and lingering resentment between the two sides.
Gleanings of how the relationship evolved can be drawn from accounts of the initial, searing encounter at the Ritz-Carlton at Pentagon City last Jan. 16, of the secret session at a Manhattan apartment last July 27 that led to immunity for Lewinsky, and finally of the emotional grand jury appearances at which she detailed her involvement with President Clinton.
The documents show how, as Lewinsky's enchantment with Clinton waned and was replaced by feelings of betrayal, her help for Starr's team grew. She told the grand jury that she still believed she loved the president until the day of his grand jury testimony, Aug. 17, when he minimized what had passed between them and did not even bother, in his speech to the nation that night, to apologize to Lewinsky and her family.
By the end, Lewinsky had become Starr's central witness and critical fact-checker. She was interviewed 18 times, meeting with prosecutors on a near daily basis for much of the summer. The last session came just five days before they sent their impeachment report to Congress. Through the many hours of meticulous questioning, she confirmed items as trivial as the color of her White House intern pass (pink) and as intimate as the precise details of each of the 11 sexual encounters she said she had with the president, the latter in all-women sessions with two female prosecutors, Karin Immergut and Mary Anne Wirth.
The prosecutors and Lewinsky were brought together by the whims of history and bound by mutual need. She needed what only Starr could give her immunity from prosecution, not just for herself but for her parents. Starr needed the testimony that only she could provide about the most intimate memories of her relationship with Clinton, buttressed by meticulously jotted Filofax notations she made to memorialize their sexual encounters.
Through it all, Starr himself is strangely absent. Like a play in which one of the central characters remains off-stage through much of the unfolding drama, Starr was not there at the initial confrontation at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City on Jan. 16, nor was he present for any of the hours of interview sessions between Lewinsky and prosecutors or for her grand jury testimony.
Indeed, during the crucial July meeting at which Lewinsky first began to tell her tale, Starr deliberately absented himself for fear of alienating her, according to sources close to Starr. He waited elsewhere in Manhattan for a report from his team.
"This period [before an immunity deal was struck] bred some distrust of Ken and he personally decided because of that not to intrude on this new relationship," said one source close to Starr.
In the documentary record Starr's report provides of the relationship, Lewinsky emerges as a person who, even in that initial encounter with prosecutors, caromed from hostility, to fear of what they might to do her, to a deep-seated desire to please even those she saw as her tormentors.
As she waited with prosecutors for her mother to arrive on the Metroliner from New York, Lewinsky told the grand jury, "I thought maybe I should try and make these people like me, so I tried to be nice and I told jokes and I asked if we could walk around the mall because I couldn't sit in that room any more."
Later, after she cut a deal, Lewinsky became ever more helpful. As she was being debriefed on Aug. 3, she cautioned them against subpoenaing a California psychologist, Irene Kassorla, to whom she had confided details of her relationship with Clinton, code-named "Henrietta" during their long-distance therapy sessions.
If subpoenaed, the psychologist "would most likely go on television talk shows," Lewinsky warned, according to the interview notes. "In Lewinsky's opinion, Kassorla would be a public relations nightmare to the OIC [Office of the Independent Counsel]."
The First Encounters
On Jan. 16, the day the first stage of Lewinsky's journey with the prosecutors began, she was transformed from a reckless and lovesick young woman into a possible criminal target for lying in her affidavit in the Paula Jones case, when she swore she had had no sexual relationship with Clinton. Suddenly seemingly mundane pursuits such as getting a job in Manhattan and swapping Christmas presents with a boyfriend were possible elements in a criminal scheme, and Lewinsky who had tried so hard, as she later said, to be "a good girl" was a dark protagonist in a national drama.
Michael W. Emmick, a good-looking California lawyer with a nice-guy demeanor, took the lead in trying to woo Lewinsky to join Starr's side, with tough-guy prosecutor Jackie M. Bennett ducking in as needed to play the "bad cop." Buffeted between the two, Lewinsky cried for her mother, only to have Bennett tell her that she was 24 and didn't need her "mommy." "I didn't trust them," Lewinsky later said of her dealings with Starr's prosecutors in that encounter, and her memory of the anger and fear remained raw and close to the surface. Testifying before the grand jury last month, Lewinsky insisted that Emmick leave the grand jury room, and she broke into tears when she related how the prosecutors warned "they were planning to prosecute my mom for the things that I had said that she had done."
When her mother at long last arrived and lawyer William H. Ginsburg weighed in by phone from Beverly Hills, Lewinsky forfeited the chance at an immunity deal that would have required her to participate in a sting of Betty Currie and Vernon E. Jordan Jr. by surreptitiously taping conversations with them that ultimately could provide evidence that Clinton was involved in schemes to obstruct justice.
Instead, she twisted anxiously in the ensuing weeks and months, ready to face criminal indictment and trial rather than to provide false testimony against Clinton, she ultimately told the grand jury. "I waited, you know, and I would have gone to trial had . . . there never been a point where the Office of the Independent Counsel . . . could come to accept the truth I had to say, that that was the truth I had to give" that they had had a sexual relationship an affair of the heart, by her account but that he had not told her to lie about it.
But in January, Lewinsky was a long way from baring her soul to the prosecutors, and Starr was a long way from granting her immunity without what he believed was the full and complete story of Clinton's efforts to keep the story of their affair from being revealed. She told the grand jury this summer that she had welcomed the president's vehement Jan. 26 televised denial that he had ever had "sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky."
"I had been hurt when he referred to me as 'that woman' in January, but I was also glad," she told the grand jurors. "I felt that was the best thing for him to do, was to deny this . . . [although] it showed how angry he was with me, and I understood that."
Convinced that Starr's office was just "out to get" Clinton and Jordan, Lewinsky on Feb. 1 turned over a 10-page handwritten proffer of what she was prepared to testify to that she had had a sexual relationship with him and that Clinton suggested she provide an affidavit in the Paula Jones case in which she would say she visited the Oval Office on occasion just to see her friend Currie or drop off papers. She said in her proffer neither Clinton nor Jordan had "asked or encouraged" her to lie. Some in Starr's office wanted to accept that proffer and secure Lewinsky's testimony right away. But most on the OIC staff, including Starr and his top deputies, were not satisfied it was complete Lewinsky did not detail the origin of the so-called talking points document, for example. And they refused to sign off on any deal at all without interviewing her first.
Ginsburg, a medical malpractice lawyer inexperienced in criminal law, refused to make her available in person. Starr, deeply wary of the erratic Ginsburg and his habit of making contradictory public statments, balked at immunity under the terms Ginsburg offered. Among his many public statements, Ginsburg claimed Starr had offered a deal and then reneged because Lewinsky would not lie to suit him. The California lawyer initiated litigation to enforce the "deal," paralyzing for months efforts to get Lewinsky's testimony and deepening distrust and animosity between the two sides. In secret proceedings made public in the newly released documents, Ginsburg explained that he falsely told the press in February that he had no agreement with Starr because he had agreed with the OIC to keep it secret, an assertion the judge in the case rejected.
"There was a lot of ill will created during the Ginsburg era. There was a lot of mutual distrust," Starr spokesman Charles G. Bakaly III said recently. When Lewinsky finally decided to obtain a new legal team, experienced Washington lawyers Plato Cacheris and Jacob A. Stein, "Their first mission was to try to get back to square one as soon as they could," Bakaly said.
The Turning Point
The turning point came July 27, when the two sides met in a Manhattan apartment. With Lewinsky were three of her lawyers, Stein, Cacheris and Sydney Hoffman; representing the independent counsel were Robert J. Bittman, Solomon L. Wisenberg, Wirth and Georgetown University law professor Samuel Dash, a consultant to Starr's office.
Ten days earlier, Starr had subpoenaed the president and gotten a commitment from his lawyers that Clinton would testify. The OIC team desperate to avoid indicting Lewinsky and determined to get her testimony voluntarily, if possible was satisfied with her story.
The two sides struck an agreement in which Lewinsky and her parents would receive complete protection from prosecution and Starr would get a more detailed recounting of the story she had laid out in her February proffer.
Perhaps the most critical piece of evidence she provided the blue dress stained by the president's semen was a surprise bonus for Starr's prosecutors, who had not known of its existence when they struck the deal. When agents arrived at Lewinsky's lawyers' office to obtain gifts the president had given her and other evidence, they were handed the dress, wrapped in a plastic bag.
On Aug. 6, when Lewinsky appeared for the first time before the grand jury, it was Emmick, the "good cop" role during the Ritz-Carlton encounter, who led the questioning. His approach was gentle; he told her that if she felt any need to consult with her lawyers, "All you need to say is, 'I'd like to speak with my attorneys about something for just a minute,'" he said.
As the day wore on, Lewinsky relaxed. "Time for a nap?" she joked as the afternoon session began. "Let me guess, you're going to remind me I'm still under oath," she offered after another break. "Fast learner."
The prosecutors ventured into unknown and uncomfortable territory as they started to gingerly question Lewinsky about the details of her sexual activities with Clinton. "I don't know how to ask this question more delicately, so I'll just ask," Emmick said at one point. "Did you take any steps to try to be careful with how loud you might be in sexual matters?" She told him that she bit on her hand to keep from crying out.
During that first session, prosecutors for the most part steered clear of eliciting the most graphic sexual details. It was only after Clinton asserted during his own grand jury testimony that he had not engaged in any behavior with her beyond allowing her to perform oral sex on him that the Starr team brought Lewinsky back for the most intimate questioning of all. In a private session on Aug. 26, away from the grand jury, she was questioned by the female prosecutors, whose queries were informed by Clinton's testimony.
Lewinsky was infuriated by Clinton's reported account of their involvement in his testimony and his speech later the same night that she was used merely in a "service" capacity, as she saw it. Her anger and hurt were still raw when she made her next, and final, appearance before the grand jury a few days later. "The people who work for him have trashed me, they claim they haven't said anything about me, they have smeared me and they called me stupid, they said I couldn't write, they said I was a stalker, they said I wore inappropriate clothes," she told the grand jury Aug. 20.
Lewinsky's greatest fury was reserved for the man she had loved but who didn't even acknowledge her pain in his remarks to the nation. "I was hurt that he didn't even . . . acknowledge me in his remarks," she said.
Even after their affair erupted into public view in January, Lewinsky said, "I tried very hard to do what I could to not hurt him. . . . I thought he had a beautiful soul. I just thought he was this incredible person . . . and I think that's what I took away on Monday, was that I didn't know what the truth was. And so how could I know the truth of my love for someone if it was based on him being an actor."
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company