By George Lardner Jr.
Retired Secret Service officer Lewis C. Fox said yesterday that President Clinton told him and a plainclothes agent on duty outside the Oval Office in the fall of 1995 to "close the door" after Monica S. Lewinsky walked in because "she'll be in here for a while."
In his fullest public account of what he saw that weekend day, Fox said he had been expecting Lewinsky to show up because Clinton told him about 10 minutes earlier that he was expecting a young aide from the White House legislative affairs office.
Fox said he assumed it would be Lewinsky and described her to the other agent. "I said she's got dark black hair and I made hand signals indicating a curvaceous figure," Fox said. "It was known she'd been around the Oval Office a lot."
Lewinsky had not emerged when Fox's shift ended about 40 minutes later. He said yesterday he was sure no one else entered the president's office during that period because all the doors were locked and their alarms set.
Any other visitor, Fox said, "would have had to activate an alarm or walk by me."
A veteran of the Secret Service's uniformed branch, Fox said he gave these details and more Feb. 17 in testimony before the grand jury investigating the Lewinsky matter. The retired officer's account was first published in this week's editions of U.S. News & World Report.
Fox said he decided to speak out again now because "I'm trying to get all this washed away." He said his credibility had been questioned by White House "spin doctors" and he wanted to reaffirm his story.
"I've got nothing to hide," said Fox, who spent close to 27 years working for the Secret Service before retiring last year. "I'm telling the truth."
Fox's account could strengthen independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's hand in seeking Secret Service testimony from other officers and agents. After weeks of inconclusive talks, Starr recently filed a sealed motion to compel their testimony despite the Justice Department's assertion of a new and untested privilege to shield Secret Service members from disclosing certain matters important to the protection of the president.
Starr has been attempting to find out what Secret Service officers and agents might have seen or heard as part of his investigation of whether Clinton had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and tried to cover it up.
Fox said he was on weekend duty, filling in for Gary Byrne, the regular Secret Service officer at the post, when Lewinsky showed up. "I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. Byrne also has reportedly been subpoenaed by Starr to testify.
Upon Lewinsky's arrival, Fox said, he knocked on the door, then heard Clinton say "yes" and open it. Clinton said, "Hi, Monica," and Lewinsky said, "Hi, Mr. President," Fox recalled. The president, addressing the plainclothes agent, then "made the statement: 'Close the door. She'll be in here for a while,'" Fox recounted.
Fox said he did not know the plainclothes agent's name.
The White House has contested Fox's account, saying that he couldn't have seen all the entrances to the Oval Office and that access was usually controlled by White House staff members. Fox, however, said he was confident no one else entered and he added that from his post, he could see the pantry. "There was no steward in the pantry," he said. "Not that day."
The former officer, who lives in Waynesburg, Pa., told a local newspaper earlier this year that it would have been difficult for Clinton and Lewinsky to have a sexual encounter in the Oval Office because of its many windows. He reaffirmed that statement yesterday but declined comment when asked about a small study off the Oval Office.
"I was never questioned about the study," he said.
Fox said he encountered Lewinsky again, later in 1995 or perhaps early 1996, when he was on duty in the residence, again on a weekend.
He said he told her "there must be more delight than being in the White House on a weekend," and she told him, "Oh, I've got these papers for the president." Fox said she then proceeded to the West Wing.
Fox's lawyer, Michael Leibig, has told reporters Fox couldn't be sure whether Clinton had in fact been alone with Lewinsky. Asked about that, Fox said, "I think that was a lawyer's way of taking the heat off me. I told Mike what happened."
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