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Marcia Lewis, Billy Martin
Marcia Lewis and her attorney, Billy Martin, refused to comment on what she told the grand jury. (AP)

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Lewinsky's Mother Testifies

By Peter Baker and Toni Locy
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 11, 1998; Page A01

Monica S. Lewinsky's mother testified for about two hours before a Washington grand jury yesterday after a federal judge ordered her to disclose whether she knew if her daughter had an affair with President Clinton and tried to cover it up at his behest.

Marcia Lewis, who shares an apartment at the Watergate with her daughter, was given limited immunity in exchange for her testimony after unsuccessfully resisting a subpoena. Lewinsky reportedly confided in her mother about her relationship with the president, according to several sources, including the young woman's own account on secret recordings of conversations with a onetime friend.

By bringing Lewis before the grand jury, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr apparently hopes to produce corroborating testimony that would point to the existence of a special relationship, going beyond a simple "he said, she said" case. The move might also ratchet up the pressure on Lewinsky to agree to cooperate with prosecutors before she is scheduled to be brought before the grand jury Thursday, when she may be compelled to testify against her will much as her mother was.

The Lewis appearance at the courthouse was just one of several unwelcome developments for the White House yesterday. In Little Rock, a federal judge rejected the president's attempt to speed up his civil trial in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. In Richmond, another federal judge opened the way for Starr to obtain a sealed deposition of a former White House aide alleging a sexual encounter with Clinton. And in Dallas, lawyers for Jones turned over boxes of material about other "Jane Doe" women linked to Clinton in response to a Starr subpoena.

There were, however, no reports of a resolution of the fight over whether Lewinsky would testify voluntarily. Her lawyer, William H. Ginsburg, said Monday he would file a motion as early as yesterday to quash a Starr subpoena requiring her to appear before the grand jury, but Ginsburg would not confirm whether he followed through on that.

Ginsburg indicated that if he loses, his client would not defy a court order to testify and go to jail. If Ginsburg cannot obtain full immunity for Lewinsky as he has sought, Starr can ask a judge to grant limited immunity that would force her to testify, although prosecutors would not be able to use her testimony against her.

"She has no intention of falling on her sword," Ginsburg said in Los Angeles, where he took Lewinsky to stay with her father last week. "She will not defy either a federal court order or a subpoena. . . . She will not go to jail like Susan McDougal," the former Clinton business partner imprisoned for refusing to testify in the Whitewater case.

Lewinsky, the lawyer added, is "absolutely mortified" to have her family caught up in the investigation. "It's a terrible thing to have her mother dragged into this," he said.

Outside the courthouse in Washington, Lewis's lawyer expressed similar sentiments. "Part of what she's feeling is a lot of pain for her daughter's going through this ordeal," said attorney Billy Martin. He added, "She'd like not to be here at all."

Lewis offered no comment, although Martin said she would make a "full statement" after completing her testimony today. "She remains a witness and wants to wait until she's finished her testimony" before speaking publicly, Martin said.

Martin attempted to quash the Starr subpoena ordering Lewis's appearance, but Chief U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson rejected the motion after an hour-long hearing in a locked courtroom, where brown paper was placed over the windows to keep reporters from peeking inside.

Lewis was then granted partial immunity, meaning prosecutors could not use her statements to the grand jury against her if they decide to pursue charges in connection with any attempt to encourage her daughter or anyone else to lie under oath in the Jones case. While spouses cannot be forced to testify against each other, there is no such privilege for a parent.

After leaving the courthouse, Lewis smiled as more than a dozen reporters surrounded her and Martin. Lewis wagged her finger at a reporter and laughed when she caught her checking out the designer markings on her black Gucci handbag.

Lewis, 49, who shortened her name from Lewinsky and wrote a book about male opera stars, spends most of her time in New York but is her daughter's closest confidante, according to people familiar with the family. Indeed, Lewinsky called her mother last month on the day she was confronted by Starr's staff and told she must cooperate or face prosecution.

Lewinsky and a host of lawyers and FBI agents waited for hours at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City on Jan. 16 while Lewis took a train from New York to be at her daughter's side. When she got there and heard what prosecutors were alleging, according to a source close to the case, she was puzzled about why they thought they had a case at all. "What's the big deal?" Lewis reportedly told investigators. "So she lied and tried to convince someone else to lie."

On tapes made by her colleague Linda R. Tripp, Lewinsky said her mother advised her to lie to Jones's lawyers to stay out of trouble, according to sources familiar with the recordings. At one point, Lewinsky told Tripp that her mother agreed it was a "brilliant" idea for Tripp to evade a deposition by going into the hospital with a "foot accident," according to the tapes.

One person who claims to be familiar with the events surrounding Lewinsky said in an interview yesterday that Lewis was fully aware that her daughter was involved with Clinton. "Her mother and her aunt knew it all from the beginning," said Lucianne Goldberg, a literary agent and Tripp friend who heard some of the tapes. "They were practically promoting it."

Lewis also had a conversation about her daughter last year with Evelyn S. Lieberman, the former White House deputy chief of staff who had Lewinsky moved to the Pentagon in April 1996 because she displayed "immature and inappropriate behavior" and loitered around the West Wing too much.

According to two people familiar with the conversation, Lewis approached Lieberman, now director of the Voice of America, at a Sept. 4 reception to dedicate a new studio. Lewis attended the event with her fiance, R. Peter Straus, a former VOA director who said yesterday that Lewis wanted to introduce herself because her daughter had worked with her at the White House. He said he was not present during their chat, which he said lasted less than five minutes, and did not ask what they discussed.

But Straus said he assumed the conversation had not been confrontational because Lewis told him afterward, "That was nice."

While Clinton advisers watched yesterday's legal proceedings here with interest, they also had their eyes on a couple of other courthouses. U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright in Arkansas rejected a Clinton bid to move up the Jones trial from May 27 to March 23, concluding that such a move would be unfair to Jones.

Clinton's lawyers had hoped to speed up the process because of the political damage they feared he would absorb if the case drags on for months. In her order, Wright seemed sympathetic to "the President's admittedly valid concerns about the current state of journalism," but said there are too many pretrial matters to handle first.

Among those matters, Jones's lawyers said they will ask the judge to reopen the evidence-gathering in the case of several witnesses who dodged subpoenas or resisted testifying. Wright also disclosed that Jones attorneys have asked her to reconsider her ruling prohibiting them from using evidence regarding Lewinsky to help prove a pattern of behavior because it might interfere with Starr's probe.

But the judge did suggest she might accelerate the proceedings by starting jury selection before May 27 so the trial itself could begin around that date.

Hundreds of miles away in Virginia, another court handed Starr a victory by rejecting a bid by former White House aide Kathleen E. Willey to keep her secret deposition from being handed over to prosecutors, according to a source familiar with the sealed ruling.

Willey was forced to testify in the Jones case against her will and in her deposition she described going to see Clinton about getting a better job in 1993, only to have him kiss and fondle her, according to sources familiar with her account. Tripp has said she ran into a disheveled Willey moments later and was told about the encounter. Lewinsky last month gave Tripp "talking points" suggesting she change her version of events when asked about them under oath in the Jones case.

Starr had subpoenaed the Texas law firm representing Jones seeking documents related to Willey and other unnamed women whom it investigated for ties to Clinton. The Jones lawyers turned over voluminous material on the other women by yesterday's deadline, according to a source close to the matter, but did not provide the Willey papers pending a Starr motion asking U.S. District Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. to partially lift the confidentiality order covering it.

In a separate matter, no final decisions have been reached at the Justice Department over how to handle an investigation into alleged grand jury leaks in the Lewinsky matter, senior officials said yesterday. "Everything is on the table except the option of doing nothing," said one official.

The options include letting Starr handle it, assigning it to the inspector general or the Office of Professional Responsibility at Justice, or creating some kind of special entity within the Justice Department to handle it.

Staff writers Susan Schmidt, Rene Sanchez, Roberto Suro and Amy Goldstein contributed to this report.


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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