By Peter Baker and Lena H. Sun
Marsha Scott, a Clinton friend since their youth and now chief of staff in the White House personnel office, and Nancy Hernreich, an aide to Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas and now director of Oval Office operations, are emerging as among the witnesses who have been forced to spend the most time before the grand jury.
Both declined to discuss their testimony as they left the federal courthouse. But each has a unique vantage point in the White House to know about key events being examined by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr as part of his investigation into possible obstruction of justice. Aside from her personnel post, Scott is known as one of the president's best friends; they often talk several times a day. Hernreich controls the all-important access to the Oval Office and keeps close tabs on comings and goings.
Scott already testified last week and Hernreich appeared for two days last month. Both indicated they are not through. Only two other witnesses have appeared three times -- White House deputy counsel Bruce R. Lindsey and presidential steward Bayani Nelvis.
Beyond anything they may know about Lewinsky -- such as how frequently she visited the Oval Office or the circumstances of her unwanted transfer to the Pentagon in April 1996 -- information has surfaced in recent weeks about connections between both aides and two other women who have alleged sexual encounters with Clinton.
In court documents filed in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, Clinton said Scott was a witness to an unpleasant conversation he had with childhood friend Dolly Kyle Browning at their 1994 high school reunion. Browning has asserted that she and Clinton had a long-running love affair, which he has denied.
In his Jan. 17 deposition, Clinton testified that Browning confronted him at the reunion and launched into a jealous rage, threatening to publish a book that she would describe as a barely fictionalized account of their affair. Worried, Clinton said, he pulled Scott over to listen to the conversation, then later wrote out two pages of notes recalling the details of the talk and asked Scott to write her own notes, in which she generally agreed with his account. Clinton testified that he put the notes in a briefcase that he then stored under his desk in the Oval Office.
Browning, a Dallas lawyer, testified that Clinton sought her out at the reunion and expressed regret for treating her badly. She disputed Clinton's recollection of a jealous tirade and said she never said her allegations of an affair were false, as the president testified. Moreover, she insisted that Scott was not privy to the discussion.
Hernreich is a figure in the allegations by Kathleen E. Willey that the president kissed and groped her against her will in a private hallway attached to the Oval Office when she went to see him about a job in 1993. Willey testified that Hernreich got her in to see Clinton on that and other occasions, and she said on "60 Minutes" that Hernreich was the intermediary when Clinton had her transferred before the incident from the White House correspondence office to the social office.
In addition to hearing from Scott and Hernreich, grand jurors yesterday apparently also watched videotapes. Investigators from Starr's office were seen taking a television set and videotape machine into the grand jury room at the courthouse yesterday morning, although they would not disclose what would be played. "Basketball," FBI agent Ed Roach joked when reporters asked if movies were in store.
The White House complained yesterday about a new subpoena from Starr seeking records from Jones's lawyers about four other women, including Browning, whom they tried to question about any sexual contacts with Clinton. "This really appears to represent an unprecedented blending of the Starr investigation and the Jones case and that itself raises troubling questions -- questions about tactics and motivations involved here," said a White House official who declined to be identified.
In a separate action yesterday, the Pentagon said that Linda R. Tripp will keep her security clearance and remain in her current position, after an internal review of allegations that she failed to report a prior arrest on her security clearance form.
Pentagon spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon refused to provide details of the review, which was sparked by a New Yorker magazine article reporting that Tripp failed to disclose during a 1987 Defense Department security review that she was arrested in 1969 on a grand larceny charge. Tripp, who was 19 at the time, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of loitering. Her current lawyer, James Moody, said she had been "set up," and a man who was with Tripp at the time said she was the victim of a "spoof" gone wrong.
Bacon said Tripp, who makes $88,000 a year, continues to work outside the office in a "flex-time" arrangement. She has currently been assigned to compile a manual of procedures for a civilian orientation program, he said. In addition, Bacon noted, "She's spending a lot of time dealing with the Office of the Independent Counsel."
Staff writer Jeff Leen contributed to this report.
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