By Susan Schmidt and Peter Baker
Kathleen E. Willey -- who, like Monica S. Lewinsky, is a former aide in the White House -- could be called before the grand jury as early as this week to answer questions about whether she was urged to deny that President Clinton made an unsolicited sexual advance toward her in late 1993 when she met with him seeking a job, the sources said.
In other developments yesterday, the judge overseeing the Jones lawsuit rejected a request by major news organizations to lift her gag order in the case and assailed the media for showing "a callous disregard of the right of the parties to a fair trial." U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright yesterday also reaffirmed her decision to bar the introduction of the Lewinsky matter at trial because it might interfere with Starr's investigation of whether Clinton sought to influence Lewinsky's testimony in the Jones case.
The independent counsel's office issued a subpoena for Willey's appearance two weeks ago, sources said, but it was subsequently withdrawn and Willey is not now under subpoena. Her lawyer has been negotiating terms of her testimony with Starr's staff, a source familiar with the matter said.
ABC News and Newsweek have reported in recent weeks that Nathan Landow, a wealthy Montgomery County Democratic Party fund-raiser, urged Willey to deny that Clinton made a sexual advance toward her. The news organizations, citing sources familiar with Willey's account, have reported that prior to Willey's January deposition in the Jones case, Landow called her and met with her repeatedly.
Landow has denied that he did so. "I have never talked to her about the Jones case," he said in an interview earlier this month. "I have never had a conversation with her on the details or her relationship with anyone," he said, nor has he ever counseled her on "any aspect of her involvement in any legal proceedings."
Citing the gag order in the Jones case, Willey's lawyer, Daniel Gecker, of Richmond, said he could not comment on Landow's dealings with Willey.
Landow, a real estate developer who has political ties to Vice President Gore, said he met Willey through his daughter, Harolyn Cardozo, a White House volunteer, and his son-in-law, Michael Cardozo, trustee of the president's first legal defense fund. Landow said he has talked to Willey, who lives in Richmond, "maybe a half-dozen times in five years," and that she has visited a Landow family home on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
There was a period of about two years when he did not hear from Willey, Landow said, but she got in touch with him last summer, and over the last three months, Landow said he has "had a couple of calls" from her. Willey's alleged Oval Office encounter with President Clinton first became public in news accounts last summer.
Landow said Willey had been suffering from "mental anguish" and a painful neck ailment, and he told her "if I can ever help you, call me." That's the only offer of assistance he ever made to her, Landow said. "I have never given her anything in any way, shape or form," he said.
Former White House aide Linda R. Tripp said in a sworn statement in the Jones case that Willey told her about a sexual encounter she allegedly had with the president in November 1993. That account is important to the Jones team in its effort to show a pattern of sexual harassment by the president because Willey was seeking a job at the White House at the time. Willey has given a similar account in her deposition in the Jones case, sources have said.
When contacted about Willey by a Newsweek reporter last summer, Tripp got in touch with senior presidential aide Bruce R. Lindsey, according to sources close to Tripp. Subsequently, Tripp told Newsweek that she encountered Willey outside the Oval Office with her makeup smeared and clothing disheveled. But Tripp told Newsweek that Willey appeared happy about the alleged advance. After Tripp gave her account to the magazine, Clinton's lawyer publicly questioned her truthfulness and the Jones lawyers became interested in getting her under oath to bolster their case.
Willey is also relevant to Starr's prosecutors as they investigate the origins of the so-called talking points, a document Tripp has said she got from Lewinsky in January. The talking points directed Tripp to tell the Jones lawyers that she now does not believe Willey was groped by the president, "that you now find it completely plausible that she herself smeared her lipstick, untucked her blouse, etc."
Because of Lindsey's earlier discussions with Tripp about the Willey incident, prosecutors appear to be trying to learn whether he had any role in helping Lewinsky prepare the three-page document. Lindsey, who has been summoned twice before the grand jury already, has denied any connection to the talking points.
In his Jan. 17 deposition in the Jones case, Clinton said he remembered the meeting with Willey vividly because she was so upset about family financial problems and told him she needed money. At the time, she was a White House volunteer. In Clinton's version, according to a detailed account of the deposition obtained by The Washington Post, he asked if she wanted a drink and the two walked through a short corridor to his private dining room, where he gave her something to sip and she sat down at a table. All told, the meeting lasted 10 minutes or more, he estimated.
Clinton vigorously disputed that he groped her in the hallway between the Oval Office and his dining room. Because she was so distraught, the president said, he embraced Willey and may have kissed her on the forehead, but not in a sexual manner.
After seeking job help from Clinton, Willey got a paid position in the White House Counsel's Office as well as several other political appointments.
In the gag order ruling, Judge Wright rejected a motion joined by the New York Times, USA Today, Time, CBS, ABC and CNN, among others, that she withdraw her order barring parties in the Jones case from discussing it publicly. She harshly criticized the media's conduct, complaining of "intense and often inaccurate media coverage of virtually every aspect of this civil case."
Wright continued: "The saturation of the public (including the possible jury pool) in recent weeks with salacious details that are purported to have originated in this case have only served the confirm" the reasons for the order.
In a separate decision benefiting Clinton, Wright rejected a request by Jones's lawyers to reconsider her earlier ruling to exclude evidence of a Lewinsky affair during the trial. Wright said, "It simply is not essential to the core issues in this case of whether [Jones] herself was the victim of . . . sexual harassment."
The Jones team can appeal, and lawyer T. Wesley Holmes said last night that the Lewinsky matter is critical to their case not only because it would show a pattern of sexual conduct by Clinton but also attempts by his side to suppress evidence.
Staff writers Howard Kurtz and Toni Locy contributed to this report.
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