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Confidences Became Public Humiliation

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Monica Lewinsky's mother, Marcia Lewis, after an upsetting day of grand jury testimony February 11. (Reuters)


In Today's Post
From the Evidence: A Mother's Story

Therapist Urged Lewinsky to Keep Quiet

Donor Regretted Helping Lewinsky Land Internship

Full Coverage

Related Links
New Evidence: Excerpts and Documents

Extensive Excerpts from the Tripp Tapes

Key Player Profiles: Monica Lewinsky, Marcia Lewis, Linda Tripp

Monica's Story: 'You Let Me Down' (Washington Post, Sept. 22)


By Lorraine Adams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 3, 1998; Page A27

Her grand jury testimony began testily and confidently. No, said Marcia Lewis, her daughter Monica S. Lewinsky did not show any special interest in President Clinton. No, she said, there were no flirtatious moments between them.

By the end of the second day in the windowless grand jury room, Lewis was tentative, confused. She had trouble understanding questions from the six prosecutors who took turns covering the same ground, but in slightly different ways. At 3 p.m., in tears, calling out, "I can't take it," she left the grand jury room to collect herself.

Lewis's appearances before the grand jury on Feb. 10 and 11 came at a tense turning point in independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's investigation. Lewinsky had signed an affidavit denying any sexual relationship with Clinton and was refusing to cooperate. Lucianne Goldberg, a New York book agent who encouraged Lewinsky co-worker Linda R. Tripp to tape-record conversations with Lewinsky, had said publicly that Lewinsky had told her mother "everything from the very start."

So Starr granted Lewis limited immunity and forced her to talk about what her daughter had confided to her about Clinton. The grand jury transcripts released yesterday show how for two days the prosecutors pressed her. They wanted to use her testimony to impeach her own daughter, and Lewis knew it.

Other details also emerged yesterday about Starr's effort to learn about Lewinsky through her mother, aunt and closest girlfriends, an effort that left few questions unasked about what the former White House intern did or did not tell them about her sexual affair with Clinton.

Eleven people to whom she revealed the affair were called before the grand jury. They hired lawyers. One friend, Catherine Allday Davis, submitted Hallmark cards Lewinsky had sent her with "monster-size hugs" and squiggly flowers. They became Grand Jury exhibits C.A.D.-1 and C.A.D.-3.

Jocelyn Jolley, who sat beside Lewinsky in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs Correspondence, told FBI investigators that in April 1996, Secret Service agent Maurice Henderson told her to "watch your back, someone saw the president and Lewinsky smooching." Jolley said she was summarily fired on the same day as Lewinsky. She told FBI investigators that she believed the only reason she was dismissed was "in order to make the Lewinsky firing not seem too singular in nature."

But the most interesting window into Starr's investigation comes in the questioning of Lewis. On the first day of her testimony, which lasted two hours, Lewis fought openly with assistant special independent counsel Michael Emmick. He asked her if she remembered what Lewinsky said the president said he felt about her. Lewis replied, "Mr. Emmick?"

"Yes?" he answered.

"I'm trying to answer these questions. She said many different things over the two years. If you ask me what she might have said on one particular day she might have said one thing on one day and something else a month later. I can't remember exactly or what the essence was in July and what the essence was in August."

Using the audiotapes of the body wire worn by Tripp during a conversation with Lewinsky, prosecutors used her daughter's own words to prompt Lewis to talk about the affair and the handling of Lewinsky's subpoena in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.

At one point prosecutors asked Lewis if she remembered Lewinsky whispering to her in a taxi cab that she might be "called" in the Jones suit. Lewis tried to say she did not, but then acknowledged she did. She attempted to paint a picture of herself as being overwhelmed by her daughter's predicament and unable to offer any advice on how she should proceed, even though prosecutors kept playing audiotapes made by Tripp that suggested she gave extensive advice to her daughter and told her to lie.

"I was out of my league," Lewis said. "This had now entered something that I couldn't cope with or understand or in any way help her or anything like that."

Lewinsky had told Tripp that her mother had told her to lie and had brought up the example of Mary Jo Kopechne, who drowned after an evening with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, (D.-Mass.). "Did you ever remind your daughter about what happened to Mary Jo Kopechne?" Emmick asked Lewis. "Oh I may have said that, yes," she replied.

Asked what she meant by mentioning her, she said, "That it is dangerous for foolish young women to – to – to – get involved in things that are not – not where they should be involved."

In several instances, prosecutors posed as Tripp and Lewinsky so that grand jurors could hear clearly. But when prosecutors tried to suggest that Lewis told her daughter she would have forced her to deny the affair in the Jones case, Lewis denied having had that conversation with Lewinsky, and said it was strange Tripp would be talking about her.

Emmick asked her, "Well what difference does it make?" and she said, "It's so strange." Emmick then said, "Well, you can make whatever strange observations you want to, but what we want to find out is what did you and Monica talk about on the safety issue and what Monica says is that you said, 'If, Monica, you on your own hadn't decided to deny this relationship. I would force you.' Did you convey any ideas like that at all?" Lewis again denied it. "I did not – I did not about Paula Jones."

At one point Lewis said that Emmick was trying to force her to say that she had told Lewinsky she would coerce her to lie in relation to her Jones testimony. He replied, "I'm not trying to do that and I can tell you that I am not trying to do that five, ten times if you'd like. But what I am asking is whether or not you in any way conveyed to her the strength of your feeling that she should deny any sexual relationship, not in connection with the Paula Jones case." Lewis answered, "I don't know how to answer that. I'm sorry."

The prosecutors then played out the testimony of Tripp and Lewinsky about the code names Lewinsky used for various well-known figures. They said that Lewinsky told Tripp it was Lewis who had given Vernon Jordan the nickname "Gwen." Lewis denied it.

The prosecutors asked about the request by Jones's lawyers for a hat pin Clinton had given Lewinsky, and what Lewis told her daughter about what to do with any gifts the president had given her. At one point she told Emmick, "I can't understand the long questions. If you could make them shorter." Later, she tells him, "I can't answer so many times the same question."

Emmick then returned again to questions about the code names that Lewinsky had for Jordan, and Hillary Clinton, whom Tripp said Lewinsky called "Babba."

Emmick asked Lewis if she had heard of a Broadway musical actress from the 1950s named Gwen Verdon, and Lewis acknowledged she had, and that Lewinsky would not be familiar with such an actress.

But it was questions about the name Babba that brought Lewis to tears. She said that Babba was a "silly family thing we say." It was the last answer she gave that day. She broke down, crying after 4½ hours of testimony.

In a memo from Starr's office the scene is described by someone whose name is redacted: "Prosecutors exited the grand jury room and told her lawyer: 'The witness is breaking down, we're sending her out.' This statement was immediately followed by the emergence of the witness out of the room, into the inner hallway, in a distraught state. This writer observed the witness (identified as MARCIA LEWIS) crying loudly and exclaiming, 'I can't take it, I can't take any more, I can't stand it.'"

When Lewis returned on April 3, the Jones lawsuit had been dismissed. Her daughter still had not agreed to cooperate. That would not come until July 27. Lewis began her testimony by saying, "I would like to apologize to the grand jury for the emotional breakdown I had at the last hearing and I appreciate their understanding."


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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