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Starr to Get President's Deposition

Betty Currie
Betty Currie, the president's personal secretary, and her attorney (left) outside the U.S. courthouse in Washington on Tuesday. (AP)


By Peter Baker and Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 28, 1998; Page A01

President Clinton agreed yesterday to turn over his sealed deposition in the Paula Jones case to the independent counsel looking into whether he lied under oath by denying a sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky.

By consenting to the release of the deposition, Clinton effectively handed prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr a critical piece of evidence that Starr will need if he proceeds with a perjury investigation of the president. Sources have said Clinton denied a sexual liaison with Lewinsky in the Jan. 17 deposition.

Agreement to turn over the deposition -- which Starr had sought from lawyers in the Jones case -- came as prosecutors appeared closer to reaching a cooperation arrangement with Lewinsky. Under terms sought by Starr, she would testify about the nature of her involvement with the president, and whether he or his friend, Washington attorney Vernon E. Jordan Jr., urged her to deny under oath to Jones's lawyers that she had an intimate relationship with Clinton. Lewinsky reportedly told a onetime friend in tape-recorded conversations about an 18-month-long affair and efforts by Clinton and Jordan to cover it up.

As they struggle to shape their legal strategy in the Jones case in response to the Lewinsky controversy, the Clinton team has subpoenaed Starr's office seeking the tapes made secretly by her colleague, Linda R. Tripp, as well as any statements Tripp has given to prosecutors. Tripp is scheduled to be deposed in Jones's civil case on Friday as Jones seeks to establish a pattern of sexual behavior by Clinton that would buttress her claim of sexual harassment.

Lewinsky, 24, swore in a Jan. 7 affidavit in the Jones case that she had had no intimate relations with Clinton, despite what she apparently had told Tripp privately. Lawyers for Lewinsky have sought total immunity from Starr from possible perjury and other charges in exchange for her testimony.

On Monday, her lawyers presented Starr with an oral version of how she would testify if protected from prosecution. Starr had rejected a previous offer out of hand, but the new proposal, which apparently closely coincided with what she said in the tapes, was considered serious enough that prosecutors were meeting well into the evening to review it.

If prosecutors believe the information in the proffer conforms sufficiently to the tapes, Starr's next step would be to interview Lewinsky in detail to resolve any inconsistencies. Her story would have to be put on paper before any plea agreement or immunity deal is reached.

William H. Ginsburg, Lewinsky's lawyer, has been sparring with Starr's office for more than a week over what would come first -- a proffer in writing, or an immunity offer.

"We're still waiting" for Starr's response to Monday's oral proffer, Ginsburg said late yesterday. "We've heard nothing. We didn't realistically expect to hear anything until after the State of the Union," which Clinton presented last night.

Meanwhile, Ginsburg did not dispute a report that Lewinsky met with Clinton in the West Wing of the White House shortly after Christmas, even as she was considering her response to a Dec. 17 subpoena to testify in the Jones case. "It's not unreasonable to say she's had visits to the White House," he said.

Sources familiar with Secret Service entry logs have said they show that Lewinsky visited the White House "a bunch" of times after she left her job there to move to the Pentagon in April, 1996.

The post-Christmas visit was first reported by the New York Times yesterday and confirmed by a knowledgeable source. But the White House refused to confirm or deny the episode and continued to refuse to publicly release records that would document her presence in the White House.

The entry logs were among the documents the White House turned over to Starr and a Washington federal grand jury that began hearing evidence in the Lewinsky matter yesterday. The first witness was Betty Currie, Clinton's personal secretary, who appeared for three hours behind closed doors. Currie, the gatekeeper outside the Oval Office, cleared Lewinsky into the White House for visits and helped her line up interviews for jobs in New York.

When she left the courthouse, Currie immediately was encircled by dozens of television cameramen and reporters. Her lawyer, Lawrence Wechsler, said "She won't be talking . . . she's going back to work."

John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, a foundation footing some of the legal bills for Jones, delivered documents to the grand jury yesterday regarding Lewinsky, including materials dealing with the Jones investigation into whether Lewinsky was sexually involved with Clinton.

But Whitehead did not give the grand jury a copy of Clinton's deposition in the Jones case as Starr had sought. Parties to the Jones case have been operating under a confidentiality order imposed by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, who is hearing that case in Little Rock, and they had to seek her consent before turning over the deposition.

Wright conducted a telephone conference call yesterday about the matter and Clinton's attorney, Robert S. Bennett, told her he had no objection to releasing the transcript of the nearly six hours of questioning by Jones's attorneys. In part, that reflected Bennett's recognition of the fact that he would have had a difficult time resisting an order to produce the deposition. But Bennett said in an interview last night that the development illustrated how closely Starr and Jones are operating.

"This is confirmation that they're working hand in glove and we just aren't going to contest it because we didn't have an adequate legal basis and we're not worried about it," Bennett said.

Lawyers for Jones and Starr have denied working together, although their civil and criminal inquiries have been moving along parallel tracks.

Sources who have listened to the Tripp tape recordings have said Lewinsky was alarmed over the possibility of having to testify in the Jones case, and recounted to Tripp how she called Clinton to ask what to do. Lewinsky told Tripp that Clinton said she should deny the affair. In her Jan. 7 affidavit, Lewinsky argued she should not have to testify because she never had a sexual relationship with the president.

Staff writer Toni Locy contributed to this report.


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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