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Report of Intimate Encounter Complicates Lewinsky Immunity Negotiations

By Mark Potts
Special to
Sunday, January 25, 1998; 1:00 p.m. EST

ABC News said today that Whitewater prosecutors are investigating reports that White House intern Monica Lewinsky was caught in an intimate encounter with President Clinton. Her attorney said such an incident would make it more difficult for him to win her full immunity from prosecution.

The attorney, William Ginsburg, made the remarks on ABC's "This Week," shortly after the network broadcast the report. ABC offered few details, but said that Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's office was investigating the alleged incident, which was said to have occurred in early 1996.

President Clinton meanwhile spent Sunday quietly worshipping at church. He and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton gave reporters the slip and sped away from the White House by limousine, arriving at Foundry United Methodist Church seven minutes early and settling into a front pew about 30 feet from the pulpit.

After services, the Clintons warmly greeted the Rev. J. Philip Wogaman, and the president lifted his Bible in a wave to a few onlookers before ducking into his limousine. They did not speak to reporters about the current controversy.

Lewinsky is alleged to have had an 18-month affair with the president and reportedly has said the president asked her to lie about the relationship. Lewinsky has said in a sworn affidavit she did not have an affair with the president, but Starr's office is investigating comments that Lewinsky allegedly made to a friend boasting that she indeed had a sexual relationship with Clinton.

Because of those conflicting accounts, the Whitewater prosecutors have been investigating whether Lewinsky committed perjury in her affidavit. If there are witnesses to an intimate encounter with the president, that could further bolster the perjury allegations.

The crisis surrounding the president was the dominant subject on the Sunday morning talk shows, as friends of the president fanned out across the shows to defend Clinton against the allegations of an affair and cover-up.

"There is an investigation. It will clear the president," Clinton adviser Paul Begala said on "This Week." "He didn't have any relationship with her that I would consider improper."

"Regardless of the facts, this thing is spinning out of control," White House Communications Director Ann Lewis told "Fox News Sunday." "Let's go back to the facts."

"There's another side of this story, and hang in there, America, because it will be coming," former Clinton campaign manager James Carville said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I think the president is going to come out of this thing just fine."

Begala, Lewis, Carville and other Clinton partisans pointed out that the president had pointedly denied the allegations against him last week, and they blamed the continuing furor on politically motivated leaks from Starr's office. "There's this concerted effort to, quote, get the president," Carville said. "This is a scuzzy investigation, and I guarantee you one thing, that when the facts come out, people are going to be repulsed by this thing."

"This is a very serious moment in our history, and it has been brought on, in some respects, by this investigation, which has been unfettered," former Clinton speechwriter and communications director Don Baer said on "Fox News Sunday."

Ginsburg's appearances on the Sunday news show circuit were almost as widespread as those of Clinton's defenders. He was interviewed on the CBS, CNN and NBC programs in addition to ABC's "This Week." He offered few specifics, citing attorney-client privilege, but he reiterated his client's desire to cooperate with prosecutors, most likely by striking a deal for immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony.

"We are frozen in place, like a doe in the headlights, until we get immunity," Ginsburg said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "She wants to tell her story and unload everything she knows."

Ginsburg did offer a few fresh tidbits of news. He said Lewinsky's mother, author Marcia Lewis, also is being investigated by Starr's office, although he did not say why. He denied earlier reports that Lewinsky had tapes of telephone calls she received from the president. And he said he had no knowledge of Lewinsky's notorious blue dress, which she reportedly had saved because it was stained with the President's semen. "I would assume that if Monica had a dress that was sullied or dirty, she would have had it cleaned," he told "Meet the Press."

Carville said Clinton's friends would continue to speak out in his defense, part of what he described as a "war" against Starr's efforts. "The friends of the president are disgusted by these kinds of tactics," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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