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III. Turning Up the Heat
Lewinsky was panicked by the summons to testify in the Jones case. She told Tripp that she called the president, who told her not to worry he would set her up with his friend Vernon Jordan. As Jordan himself publicly recounted, he found a lawyer for her Frank Carter, a respected white-collar-crime specialist. Jordan personally accompanied her to Carter's office. At Jordan's press conference, he stated that Lewinsky had told him "in no uncertain terms" that she did not have a sexual relationship with the president. "At no time," Jordan continued, "did I ever say, suggest or intimate that she should lie."
As for the lying, Lewinsky spun a somewhat different story, Tripp later told prosecutors. According to Lewinsky, Jordan told her to remain silent. He told her that witnesses are never indicted in civil cases. In fact, witnesses rarely, if ever, go to jail for perjury in a civil case. This case, however, may be different. Just exactly what Jordan said, or didn't say, on that ride to Carter's office is one of the most crucial questions in the special prosecutor's obstruction-of-justice investigation. Jordan's many defenders around Washington insist that he was too ethical and too smart to instruct Lewinsky to lie. Speaking not for attribution, however, several white-collar-crime lawyers suggested that Jordan may have coached Lewinsky in a way that subtly got the message across without exposing anyone to obstruction-of-justice charges. When preparing witnesses, a clever lawyer can ask questions that produce answers the lawyer wants to hear without ever suggesting that the witness lie.
That night, after Lewinsky met jordan, she spoke to Tripp on the phone. Newsweek editors have listened to a tape of that conversation. There is nothing on the tape that either strongly supports or flatly contradicts the allegation that Jordan coached Lewinsky to lie. There is only the most cryptic reference to Jordan. At one point, Tripp and Lewinsky discuss telling President Clinton that Lewinsky has told others about their sexual encounters. Tripp fervently wants her to. She thinks that if Clinton knew the secret was out, he would settle the Jones case and thereby save Tripp and Lewinsky from having to testify (and possibly lie) under oath. For a moment, Lewinsky seems to entertain the idea of threatening to tell all tell Clinton that she intends to reveal the truth if she is questioned by Jones's lawyers. "Maybe we should just tell the creep," she says. "Maybe we should just say, don't ever talk to me again, I f-----d you over [by telling others about the affair], now you have this information, do whatever you want with it." But then she seems to lose heart. "He won't settle [the Paula Jones case]," she says. "He's in denial." Tripp says she cannot lie under oath, she has to tell the truth, and she again urges Lewinsky to "tell the big one [Clinton]" that she has already confided in Tripp. "I can't," pleads Lewinsky. "If I do that, I'm just going to f---ing kill myself." Then Lewinsky makes a reference to Jordan, whom she calls "the other one." "The other one, the one I saw today, asked me, 'You didn't tell anybody, did you?' " If Lewinsky is accurately recounting her conversation with Jordan, her version suggests that Jordan did know that Lewinsky claimed to have some kind of sexual relationship with the president. But Lewinsky is silent on the question of whether Jordan told her to keep quiet or outright lie. The only other apparent reference to Jordan is a remark of Tripp's: "Maybe Vernon's right and it's a huge fishing net because of the rumor [that Lewinsky was having sex with Clinton]." As for Clinton, Lewinsky says she will lie "so he will not get screwed." Lying seems to come naturally to Lewinsky. "I was brought up with lies all the time... that's how you got along... I have lied my entire life," she says. But she does not say that Clinton told her to lie.
Tripp and Lewinsky were busy plotting their own deceits. In their conversation that night just before Christmas, they discuss a plan for Tripp to have a "foot accident" while she is traveling and end up in a hospital at just the time she is scheduled for deposition. As they talk, Lewinsky's mother interrupts on call waiting. After a minute, Lewinsky comes back on the line. She announces that her mom thinks that the "foot accident" plan is "brilliant." Monica's mother even offers to help pay for Tripp's medical expenses (not necessary, says Tripp; she's insured).
Tripp and Lewinsky worry that Paula Jones's lawyers will find some incriminating physical evidence. Tripp wonders if the lawyers have searched Clinton's trash. "My fear is that they have information that we don't know they have... and they can nail us," says Tripp. "God forbid," Lewinsky says, "somebody had a video camera of him and me." Lewinsky recalls a thank-you note she wrote the president after her family was allowed to watch him tape a radio address. "I sent a note to Nancy [Hernreich, an assistant to the president], a note to Betty [Currie], and a note to the creep... 'Dear Schmucko, thank you... As my little nephew said, 'It was great to meet the principal of the United States'."
For all their jokey intimacy about "the creep," it is clear in this conversation that Lewinsky and Tripp have decided to take separate paths. "Look, Monica," says Tripp, "we already know you're going to lie under oath..." Tripp continues: "I'm being a sh---y friend and that's the last thing I want to do because I won't lie. How do you think that makes me feel? I can make you stop crying and I could make your life so much easier if I could just f----ing lie... I feel like I'm sticking a knife in your back, and I know at the end of this, if I have to go forward, you will never speak to me again and I will lose a dear friend." Lewinsky does not know that the tape recorder is already turning.
On Jan. 7, Lewinsky signed a sworn affidavit. She "cannot fathom" why Paula Jones's lawyers would seek information from her, she says in the document, which was obtained by Newsweek. She says that while she has met the president several times, "I have never had a sexual relationship with the president, he did not propose that we have a sexual relationship, he did not offer me employment or other benefits in exchange for a sexual relationship... I declare under the penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct."
Five days later, on Monday, Jan. 12, Tripp placed a call to the office of Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.
Over the phone, Tripp briefly outlined her story: The president of the United States was having an affair with a government employee. She had been subpoenaed in the Paula Jones case. Clinton and his friend and lawyer Vernon Jordan had told the woman to lie. The woman had signed an affidavit denying the affair. Tripp had 20 hours of tapes to back her up. Within an hour, there were a half-dozen federal prosecutors and an FBI agent sitting in Tripp's living room.
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