'Abundant' Lies Cited in Report;
President Denies Impeachability
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 12, 1998; Page A01
President Clinton betrayed his "constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws" by engaging in a pattern of "abundant and calculating" lies regarding his relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky, prosecutors charged in an impeachment report overflowing with graphic accounts of sexual escapades in the Oval Office suite.
The extraordinary 453-page document prepared by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and made public yesterday by the House of Representatives accused Clinton of becoming sexually involved with "a young subordinate employee" and then orchestrating a cover-up campaign using aides, friends and the resources of the White House. In all, it listed 11 possible grounds for impeachment, including perjury, witness tampering, obstruction of justice and abuse of power.
"In view of the enormous trust and responsibility attendant to his high Office, the President has a manifest duty to ensure that his conduct at all times complies with the law of the land," Starr wrote in the report. Perjury and obstruction "are profoundly serious matters. When such acts are committed by the President of the United States, we believe those acts 'may constitute grounds for an impeachment.'‚"
Clinton has admitted publicly that he carried on an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky and "misled people, including even my wife," but he has adamantly denied committing any illegal acts. While making no comment on the devastating report cataloguing his activities yesterday, Clinton at a prayer breakfast issued a new and more emotional public apology for his dalliances, saying "I have sinned" and vowing to repent.
Although he agreed that "legal language must not obscure the fact that I have done wrong," Clinton said he had ordered his lawyers to mount a "vigorous defense" and they quickly did just that. Hours before the report was even released, Clinton's lawyers attacked it as an illegitimate excavation of the president's personal life that has nothing to do with his performance in office.
"This private mistake does not amount to an impeachable action," they wrote in a 78-page rebuttal. In the end, the lawyers wrote, the independent counsel generated no genuine case of legal wrongdoing by Clinton and "is left with nothing but the details of a private sexual relationship told in graphic details with the intent to embarrass."
Culminating an eight-month national spectacle that has held Washington up to ridicule on the world stage, Starr's findings were made public following an emotional debate on the House floor about the propriety of releasing a document that none of its members, let alone Clinton or his lawyers, had even read. Within minutes after it was posted on the Internet, millions of Americans jammed Web sites, along with lawmakers and presidential aides who were stunned by the breathtaking amount of detail about Clinton's sexual adventures with Lewinsky.
Never before in American history has a legal document of this sort made its way into public view and never before have a president's sexual habits been so thoroughly exposed to scrutiny. Even the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, which spawned the Lewinsky investigation, never yielded court papers with this level of crude and unvarnished detail.
With the voluminous document just being absorbed by the members of Congress who ultimately have to determine whether the alleged offenses amount to the "high crimes and misdemeanors" required for impeachment by the Constitution, lawmakers said their initial impression was that the report further damages a president whose public standing has already been severely damaged.
The Starr report depicted a president who engaged in sex acts in the Oval Office suite even as aides or Secret Service guards stood just outside the door and sometimes came close to catching him. All told, it recounted 10 sexual encounters between Clinton and Lewinsky, all in the White House.
On one occasion, it said, they got together on Easter Sunday, at a time that news accounts show he had just returned from church services with Hillary Rodham Clinton. On other occasions, it said, Lewinsky performed oral sex on him while he simultaneously conducted telephone conversations once with political adviser Dick Morris and three other times with different members of Congress. While they never had intercourse, it said, he once used a cigar to sexually satisfy her. Even after they broke up, it said, he stole a quick kiss before rushing off to a state dinner for visiting Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.
"What in the heck are we doing, making this kind of near-pornographic material available on the Internet with the imprimatur of the U.S. Congress?" Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who voted against disclosure, said after reviewing the report.
Starr said he had no choice but to include the blunt descriptions of sexual acts because Clinton, even while acknowledging a physical relationship during his grand jury testimony last month, continued to deny that he had "sexual relations" with Lewinsky as defined during his deposition in the Jones case.
Republican leaders signaled that they would resist attempts by the White House to characterize the case as merely an intrusion into private affairs.
"Some will try to make this just a purely sexual matter," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). "But I don't see anything that I've read so far that indicates that Judge Starr is saying that he should be impeached because of a sexual relationship. It's because of other matters that are very significant."
Starr's 11 Counts
The other matters are the 11 counts of Starr claims may be impeachable offenses four allegations of perjury in his Jan. 17 deposition in the Jones case, one charge of perjury in his Aug. 17 grand jury testimony in the Starr investigation, four counts of obstructing justice, one of witness tampering and one of abuse of his office.
To back those up, prosecutors included significant new information and assertions about the affair and the investigation. Among new revelations:
Clinton himself informed Lewinsky that she would be called as a witness during the Jones case during a 2 a.m. telephone call to her Watergate apartment on Dec. 17. She had appeared on a witness list provided to Clinton's lawyer on Dec. 5 and she would not be served with a subpoena until Dec. 19.
Clinton met with his personal secretary, Betty Currie, on a second, previously undisclosed occasion after his Jones deposition in which prosecutors said he appeared to be coaching her to agree with his false characterization of his relationship with Lewinsky. Clinton testified he did not recall that meeting.
Clinton asked White House Chief of Staff Erskine B. Bowles to help provide a job reference for Lewinsky as late as January, shortly before the Starr investigation was launched.
Clinton was told two weeks before he admitted the affair that the stain on a navy blue Gap dress that Lewinsky provided authorities had in fact tested positive for semen. Investigators took a sample of Clinton's blood on Aug. 3 and it later matched the DNA on the dress. Starr contends in the report that Clinton's knowledge that prosecutors possessed the DNA evidence spurred his decision to confess on Aug. 17.
FBI investigators found that some of Linda R. Tripp's 27 secret tapes of her conversations with Lewinsky may have been doctored and Starr said he is investigating whether that happened. Starr said he did not rely on any tapes that appeared to be duplicated for his report.
A Secret Service officer wanted to put Lewinsky on a watch list of people to be banned from the White House because he was concerned about Clinton's reputation, but a commander overruled him, saying it was none of their business.
While the report focused exclusively on the Lewinsky matter, Starr briefly addressed other issues under investigation. He said he is still looking into possible perjury and obstruction of justice related to former White House volunteer Kathleen E. Willey, who accused Clinton of groping her in the Oval Office suite, and into possible misuse of Tripp's personnel records, which were described in part to a journalist by a Pentagon official.
Other phases of his 4½-year investigation, including the Whitewater land deal, the travel office firings and the improper handling of FBI files, "are now nearing completion," Starr wrote, but apparently provided no evidence of impeachable acts.
18 Months, On and Off
Based largely on Lewinsky's account, the report provides the first extensive account of the 18-month, on-and-off affair, from its unusual beginning through several rocky periods and to its eventual demise:
As she recalled it, Lewinsky and the president began flirting in the months after she arrived at the White House as an unpaid intern in July 1995; she tried to put herself in positions to come across him and made eye contact when she could. On Nov. 15, during the federal government shutdown when most regular employees were furloughed and much of the White House was being operated by interns, Lewinsky finally had a chance to approach Clinton.
While they were alone at one point, she flirted, raised her jacket to show him the straps of her thong underwear and later told him she had a crush on him. He invited the 22-year-old woman to the study adjacent to the Oval Office, where they kissed. Hours later, he found her again and suggested she come back to the private enclave and she performed oral sex on him. During their encounter, he took telephone calls from Reps. Jim Chapman (D-Tex.) and John S. Tanner (D-Tenn.), according to her testimony and phone logs.
They had another encounter two days later this time he had a phone call from Rep. Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.) but soon afterward, the government reopened and it was not until New Year's Eve that she got close to him again. She introduced herself in case he forgot her name, but he said he remembered and they went into the study for sex.
After that, most of their rendezvous were on weekends; the president called her to set them up. She carried a folder with her and told aides or Secret Service officers that she was there to deliver papers. It was not until after their sixth encounter, she said, that Clinton spent significant time talking with her and getting to know her. But over the course of their affair, they engaged in telephone sex 10 to 15 times and exchanged gifts she gave him 30, including six neckties, and he gave her 18, including a hat pin, two brooches and a special edition of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." She wrote "mushy" love notes and called him "Handsome," while he called her "Sweetie" and "Dear."
"I just knew he was in love with me," she testified, and she believed he might divorce Hillary Clinton after leaving the White House and marry her.
But too many people began to worry about her attentions on the president and then-deputy chief of staff Evelyn S. Lieberman banished her to a Pentagon job in April 1996. Clinton had tried breaking off their relationship in February, only to resume it weeks later, but her transfer effectively ended their liaisons until after the election.
According to Lewinsky, they had two more encounters in early 1997, though. It was the first of these get-togethers, on Feb. 28, that she was wearing the dress. He ended the relationship for good on May 24, three days before the Supreme Court ruled that Jones's case could go to trial.
Clinton's account of their affair is far sketchier because he would not answer specific questions during his testimony. The president testified that their first sexual encounters did not take place until early 1996 after she had gotten a paid clerk's job and was no longer an intern and he remembered only the first of the two 1997 episodes Lewinsky described.
To prove Starr's contention that the president perjured himself both in his Jones deposition and his grand jury testimony, the report details many instances when the president fondled Lewinsky's breasts and genitalia, even though Clinton denied such touching in his Aug. 17 testimony and implicitly admitted only receiving oral sex.
Clinton said he did not believe he committed perjury in the Jones case because he did not think the definition of "sexual relations" used by the Jones lawyers included oral sex performed on him.
The evidence supporting Lewinsky's account of the trysts included White House logs showing she was in the building on eight of the 10 occasions and telephone records of phone calls. Lewinsky kept detailed calendars noting when she had visited the president.
In addition to the DNA evidence on the dress, Lewinsky told 11 people about the affair, mostly as it happened, including a host of friends, family members and two therapists who provided corroborating testimony. The president, said one of the therapists who urged her to break it off, "became Lewinsky's life."
Clinton also lied when he said in the deposition that he did not recall ever being alone with Lewinsky except when she came to drop off papers briefly, the report argued, and the president acknowledged he had in fact been alone with Lewinsky when asked again about it during his grand jury testimony. Currie, his secretary, testified he was alone with her on at least three occasions and six current or former Secret Service officers guarding the Oval Office said they had observed the two alone together.
The report cast Currie in a more ambiguous light than she has previously been portrayed, a facilitator who testified that she would "sneak" in Lewinsky to see the president, sometimes returning to the White House in the evening solely for that purpose. Currie testified that she would lead Lewinsky to the Oval Office by unusual routes to avoid other aides who she believed would disapprove. Currie used an alias when she paged Lewinsky, and she told the grand jury that she suspected an affair but told Lewinsky she didn't "want to hear it."
Prosecutors argued that the president also lied in his deposition when he said he could not recall any specific gifts he gave Lewinsky, even though he acknowledged last month giving her several just three weeks before the deposition.
Obstruction of Justice
Beyond perjury, Starr outlined a variety of instances where he maintained Clinton committed obstruction of justice in the Jones case and the subsequent criminal investigation, such as coaching one potential witness, lying to others, helping to hide the subpoenaed gifts and arranging for job interviews for Lewinsky to encourage her allegiance.
Much attention in the report focuses on the Dec. 28 White House meeting between Clinton and Lewinsky. In her handwritten, 10-page proffer given to Starr's office on Feb. 1, Lewinsky said she talked to Clinton that day about whether she should hide the gifts and he said he did not know. Shortly afterward, she said, Currie called her at home and said "the president had told her Ms. Lewinsky wanted her to hold on to something for her." Currie later showed up at the Watergate and took a box of gifts.
Currie, the report said, testified she could not remember whether Clinton told her he wanted her to hold on to the gifts. Clinton has denied he instructed Currie to retrieve the gifts.
Starr further contended that when Clinton made his late-night call to Lewinsky to tell her she would be subpoenaed in the Jones case, he urged her to resist testifying by preparing a written affidavit, which she later did. The Jan. 7 affidavit denied any sexual relationship with the president.
That affidavit was then submitted as evidence during Clinton's Jones deposition by his own lawyer, Robert S. Bennett, to try to curtail questioning about Lewinsky. With Clinton listening, Bennett told the federal judge supervising the deposition that Lewinsky had asserted "there is absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form" with the president.
Clinton was questioned sharply during his grand jury testimony about how the president could knowingly allow his lawyer to submit the false statement. Clinton said Bennett was speaking only in the present tense and, therefore, made a true statement. "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is," said Clinton, and "actually, in the present tense, that is an accurate statement."
The prosecutor questioning him, Solomon L. Wisenberg, responded, "Do you mean today that because you were not engaging in sexual activity with Ms. Lewinsky during the deposition that the statement of Mr. Bennett might literally be true?"
"No, sir," Clinton said. "I mean that at the time of the deposition, it had been that was well beyond any point of the improper contact between me and Ms. Lewinsky."
The report focuses heavily on Clinton's discussions with Currie in the days after his Jones deposition. After returning to the White House that night, he called Currie at home and asked her to come to work the next day, when he compared his recollections with hers. He told the grand jury he was trying to "refresh my memory"; Starr argued that "he was attempting to enlist a witness to back up his false testimony from the day before."
Currie told the grand jury that the president offered her a series of leading questions. "You were always there when she was there, right? We were never really alone." And, "You could see and hear everything." And, "Monica came on to me, and I never touched her, right?" Currie said she took those to be "more like statements than questions."
In the next two days, the report documents frantic efforts by Currie to contact Lewinsky, including the new information that Currie unsuccessfully paged Lewinsky seven times on Jan. 19 using the alias "Kay" or "Kate."
The report discloses a second, previously unknown meeting between the president and Currie on Jan. 20 or 21 in which he appeared to be urging her to agree with his false testimony about Lewinsky. Currie described it as a "recapitulation of what we had talked about on Sunday you know, 'I was never alone with her' that sort of thing."
In his grand jury testimony, Clinton argued that in talking to Currie he meant to deny that he had any contact with Lewinsky in 1997 only although he never mentioned that time frame to her and it is unclear why he would think the Jones deposition would cover only that year. He also testified to the grand jury that "he did not remember having a second conversation with her along these lines."
His discussions with Currie, the president testified, were spurred by his concern that Lewinsky's name would become public as a result of the Jones deposition. "I was trying to get the facts and try to think of the best defense we could construct in the face of what I thought was going to be a media onslaught."
Lying to Top Aides
In another obstruction count, Starr accused the president of seeking to obstruct justice by lying to his senior aides knowing that they would then repeat his lie to the grand jury. Specifically, the report documented Clinton's denials to four top advisers in the days immediately after the Lewinsky story broke: Bowles, deputy chief of staff John D. Podesta, special assistant Sidney Blumenthal and then-deputy chief of staff Harold M. Ickes.
The report hinted at the speed with which Clinton moved to personally make his denials to the top aides as the political storm grew in the first days of the scandal. On Jan. 21, the day the news broke, Clinton told Bowles in an Oval Office meeting, "Erskine, I want you to know that this story is not true," according to Podesta.
Two days later, Podesta said, Clinton told him that he did not have sex of any "kind, shape or manner" with Lewinsky.
Starr argued these denials by Clinton to his closest advisers "had the effect of presenting a false view of events to the grand jury" and the president knew what he was doing in lying to potential grand jury witnesses.
In several instances, the Starr report detailed what it claims is the White House's lack of full compliance with its subpoenas in the Lewinsky probe.
For example, it noted that Lewinsky gave the president a copy of Nicholson Baker's novel about phone sex, "Vox," which was found on an inventory of the books Clinton kept on the shelf in his private study. But it was never turned over to Starr.
Clinton, the report contended, tried to obstruct justice by helping Lewinsky get a private-sector job in New York "at a time when she would have been a witness against him were she able to tell the truth during the Jones case."
The presidential assistance began after Lewinsky sent him a letter by courier expressing frustration about her job search last October. Two days later, on Oct. 9, Lewinsky got a late-night call from Clinton, who told her he would help her find a job in New York, according to her testimony.
She met with Clinton for over an hour two days later. Clinton agreed to get her a White House reference, enlisting Bowles in the effort, and at Lewinsky's suggestion he called Vernon E. Jordan Jr. to garner his aid.
Lewinsky told Tripp in a taped conversation that she had concerns about involving Bowles in her job search: "Somebody could construe or say, 'Well, they gave her a job to shut her up. . . . And [Bowles] works for the government and shouldn't have done that.' And with the other one [Jordan] you can't say that."
Lewinsky met with Jordan Nov. 5, but the well-connected presidential confidant did not step up efforts on her behalf until December, after the Jones lawyers identified her as a potential witness, the report said. During their second meeting Dec. 11, Lewinsky told Jordan she became upset when Clinton did not "call me enough or see me enough." Lewinsky told the grand jury that Jordan replied, "You're in love, that's what your problem is."
Jordan kept Clinton closely apprised of his substantial efforts on Lewinsky's behalf, and when she landed an offer in early January notified Clinton with the news: "Mission accomplished." Clinton testified in his Jones deposition that he knew only vaguely through his secretary that Jordan was helping Lewinsky look for a job.
Kendall, Clinton's lawyer, told reporters the president "never, never advised her to testify falsely. He has admitted a wrongful relation. And the fact is that in all such wrongful, improper relations, there is a concomitant concealment by its very nature. That's all that is involved here. The independent counsel has extravagantly exaggerated that to try and make allegations of obstruction of justice."
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