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Vernon E. Jordan Jr.'s appearance before a grand jury has been postponed. (AP)

Jordan, Lewinsky Met 4 Times, Source Says

By Susan Schmidt and Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 19, 1998; Page A01

Washington lawyer Vernon E. Jordan Jr. was asked by President Clinton's secretary to help Monica S. Lewinsky find a job three days after lawyers for Paula Jones disclosed that they wanted to question Lewinsky about whether she had a sexual relationship with Clinton, a source familiar with the matter said yesterday.

As a result of the Dec. 8 telephone call by White House secretary Betty Currie, Jordan met four times and conducted seven phone conversations with the 24-year-old former White House intern over the next month, the source said. It was that intervention that ultimately helped Lewinsky secure a job offer from Revlon. Jordan, a close confidant to Clinton, publicly acknowledged last month that he helped Lewinsky find a job as well as a lawyer, but the extent of his efforts to aid Lewinsky and their timing in relation to the Jones sexual harassment case were not previously known.

Jordan was scheduled to appear before the grand jury today, but prosecutors abruptly canceled his appearance late yesterday. Jordan's attorney, William G. Hundley, said independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's office offered no explanation for the postponement and said only that it will be "a considerable period of time" before they reschedule. Hundley said prosecutors earlier canceled an interview with Jordan, again without explanation.

Meanwhile, at the courthouse yesterday, the grand jury heard testimony from Bruce Lindsey, one of President Clinton's closest advisers, who testified for more than 4 1/2 hours and will face further questioning today.

Lindsey, the deputy White House counsel, is a potentially central witness in Starr's probe of Clinton's alleged relationship with Lewinsky. In addition to being one of Clinton's most trusted aides, a status developed over a 30-year friendship, Lindsey is in a position to shed light on reports that Clinton may have had a sexual encounter nearly five years ago with another woman, Kathleen E. Willey, a White House volunteer at the time.

In their efforts to understand Jordan's role, Starr's staff has not yet spoken with him. But they have interviewed secretaries at his law firm and obtained records there to learn details of his discussions with Lewinsky.

Jordan inferred from Currie's call that she was seeking to help Lewinsky find a job at the behest of the president, according to the source familiar with the matter. Three days earlier, Clinton's lawyers had received a list of proposed witnesses -- that included Lewinsky's name -- from lawyers for Paula Jones who were seeking to interview women they suspected of having been sexually involved with or harassed by Clinton. Although Clinton's defense team knew Lewinsky had been included among the potential witnesses, there is no evidence that Jordan knew her testimony was being sought for the Jones case.

On Dec. 11, Jordan and Lewinsky had a meeting in his office, the source said. It was right around that day that Jordan placed a call to American Express, the first of three companies he would approach on Lewinsky's behalf.

In subsequent weeks, three more meetings ensued between Jordan and Lewinsky, the source said. On Dec. 19, the day Lewinsky received a subpoena from the Jones attorneys, Jordan found her a lawyer. A few days later he took her in his chauffeured limousine to the lawyer's office. When he learned of Lewinsky's role in the Jones case, the source said, Jordan asked both Lewinsky and Clinton whether they had had a sexual relationship, the source said, and was assured by each that there had been no such relationship.

The details of a third meeting between the two could not be learned, but Jordan's final meeting with Lewinsky took place the week of Jan. 12, as Starr opened his probe. It was a meeting, the source said, in which Lewinsky thanked Jordan for helping her land a public relations job at Revlon in New York, on whose board Jordan serves. That offer has been revoked, however, in the wake of the allegations against Clinton.

While prosecutors postponed Jordan's scheduled testimony, they proceeded to focus on other members of Clinton's inner circle. Lindsey's grand jury testimony yesterday appeared to produce the first skirmish over the extent to which senior White House officials can be forced to disclose their confidential dealings with the president. The White House has objected to such questioning and suggested that it could invoke "executive privilege" in an attempt to block such inquiries.

Yesterday's testimony by Lindsey was interrupted by a 45-minute hearing before U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, in which attorneys apparently argued over the scope of prosecutors' questioning. Afterward, the White House said that Clinton had not formally claimed the privilege and that it was continuing to seek a compromise over testimony by Clinton's top aides.

The matter of privilege also applies to White House deputy chief of staff John D. Podesta, who already has testified before the grand jury and was originally scheduled to return today. At the request of Currie, Clinton's secretary, Podesta asked U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson to find Lewinsky a job at the United Nations.

Yesterday, prosecutors also appeared to ratchet up the intensity of the grand jury proceedings. For the first time since the panel began hearing testimony involving the Lewinsky allegations three weeks ago, one of Starr's top deputies, Jackie Bennett, appeared in court. Bennett, known to be a highly aggressive prosecutor from his days in the Justice Department's public integrity section, took part in questioning at least one of the day's two witnesses.

In between Lindsey's morning and afternoon sessions on the witness stand, prosecutors questioned Charlie Duncan, the White House's liaison officer to the Defense Department during the time that Lewinsky was transferred there in 1996 from a job as a low-level White House aide.

Also yesterday, an attorney for Lewinsky's mother, Marcia Lewis, met behind closed doors in Judge Johnson's courtroom. After the 30-minute hearing, Lewis's attorney, Billy Martin, declined to say what he had told the judge or whether he was attempting to prevent Starr from calling Lewis for further questioning.

Lewis testified for more than six hours over two days last week, at one point becoming so overwrought that a courthouse nurse was summoned to attend to her. She appeared distraught as she left the courthouse at the end of her second day of testimony, and her lawyer has cited her distress in arguing that a mother should not be forced to testify about what she knows of her daughter's sexual activities.

Yesterday, Martin characterized his client as still "not doing well." He said that she had been excused from testifying yesterday but that she remained under subpoena.

Lindsey arrived at the courthouse shortly after 9 a.m. yesterday with his attorney, Bill Murphy, and White House deputy counsel Cheryl Mills. He appeared to be in good humor during the midday break and, again, when he left the courthouse late in the afternoon. He teased reporters that they "might show up tomorrow and see" whether he would finish his testimony.

He refused, however, to discuss the contents of his testimony or the hearing before the judge.

Lindsey was involved in at least one set of conversations of interest to prosecutors. Last summer, he was sought out by Linda R. Tripp, Lewinsky's friend who later would make secret tape recordings of conversations in which the former intern said she had had an 18-month affair with the president.

But Tripp, who had worked briefly as Lindsey's executive assistant, talked to him about an incident involving Clinton and a different woman -- Willey.

According to a version of the incident that Tripp publicly gave last August, Willey had told her that, one day in 1993 when she had sought Clinton's help in getting a paid White House job, the president had kissed and fondled her in his private study off the Oval Office. Tripp said that she had seen Willey that day near the Oval Office and that she had looked disheveled, with her blouse untucked and her makeup smeared. But a set of talking points that Tripp said she received from Lewinsky last month suggested that Tripp say she now believes Willey had fabricated the encounter.

Starr's prosecutors want to know about Lindsey's talks with Tripp and whether he might have played any role in preparing the talking points, whose author remains unknown. The White House has said he did not.

Until now, the White House has not contested Starr on the question of executive privilege as he has brought before the grand jury a variety of personal aides, secretaries, stewards and former officials from the White House. The White House has indicated that it is considering asserting the privilege only for the testimony of Lindsey and Podesta -- and only for portions of their testimony that the White House considers confidential communications with the president, not their actions regarding Lewinsky.

For example, one official said, White House lawyers object to questions that explore what top aides told the president at certain times or what happened in meetings about how to respond to the Lewinsky allegations.

Yesterday's other witness, Duncan, was the White House liaison officer to the Pentagon during the period when Lewinsky and Tripp were transferred from the White House to the Pentagon's public affairs department. His attorney, Joseph Sellers, said that his client "knew Lewinsky, but very little."

One source close to the case said prosecutors asked Duncan "open-ended questions" focusing on Lewinsky. According to a senior official in the Pentagon's public affairs office, it was Duncan who had sent Lewinsky's name to the Pentagon to fill a low-level public affairs opening. White House officials have said that Lewinsky had been removed from the White House because of inappropriate behavior, including a habit of appearing, uninvited, at presidential events.

In a separate matter, Jones's lawyers fired back at the president, who asked a judge Tuesday to throw out her lawsuit because it had not proved she suffered as a result of any sexual harassment from Clinton. In a statement, Jones's attorneys maintained they would present "substantial proof of Defendant Clinton's pattern and practice of predatory behavior toward women, including state and federal employees, and his vast efforts to silence those who would speak the truth."

Staff writers Peter Baker and Toni Locy contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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