By Peter Baker and Susan Schmidt
A week after they were hired to take over her case, Washington attorneys Plato Cacheris and Jacob A. Stein met with Starr and three of his senior deputies for about an hour in the first round of talks designed to obtain the immunity arrangement that eluded their combustible predecessor, William H. Ginsburg.
The discussions amount to a worrisome development for President Clinton, who faces the prospect of being implicated in perjury or obstruction of justice if Lewinsky agrees to cooperate. During Ginsburg's unsuccessful talks with Starr months ago, sources familiar with the situation said she offered to testify that she had sex with the president, contrary to both of their previous denials under oath in the now-dismissed Paula Jones civil lawsuit.
Stein and Cacheris paid a courtesy call on Starr's office after being retained last week, but yesterday's session was their first substantive meeting and was intended to set the framework for future discussions. While prosecutors left little doubt they are preparing to indict Lewinsky, both sides signaled their interest in an amicable resolution, according to people familiar with the situation.
The conversation, which included Starr deputies Jackie M. Bennett Jr., Robert Bittman and Solomon L. Wisenberg, dealt with few specifics. The defense attorneys offered no new proffer of Lewinsky's proposed testimony and did not press for access to the secret tapes of Lewinsky made by onetime friend Linda R. Tripp, the sources said.
But with a possible indictment looming, Lewinsky's attorneys are looking for ways to demonstrate their client's willingness to cooperate. Starr has insisted that he be allowed to interview Lewinsky before any grand jury appearance -- which Ginsburg refused -- but her new attorneys appear open to considering, according to knowledgeable sources.
Starr presumably also will insist on clarifying elements in the Lewinsky proffer submitted by Ginsburg. According to sources, that version of events was muddled about whether Lewinsky was encouraged to lie about having an affair with Clinton and did not identify the origins of the "talking points" she gave Tripp instructing her friend on how to change her own story in the Jones case.
Ginsburg was dumped last week, according to people close to the case, after Lewinsky's family became convinced that his unpredictable behavior, contradictory statements and constant TV bookings had left the former White House intern in danger of being charged and brought to trial. Stein and Cacheris, both veterans of high-profile cases in Washington scandals, were recruited for their skills in negotiating deals, but they must deal with the complicated legal situation Ginsburg left them.
Jordan's appearance before the grand jury yesterday likely focused at least in part on his dealings with Lewinsky's first lawyer, Francis D. Carter, who submitted to about nine hours of questioning by Starr's staff last week for the first time.
Carter is an important witness because he was referred to Lewinsky by Jordan after she was subpoenaed to testify in the Jones case; Carter helped her draft the Jan. 7 affidavit in which she denied having a sexual relationship with Clinton. After Ginsburg lost a court battle to prevent Carter from testifying on the grounds of attorney-client privilege, Carter was ordered to appear before the grand jury last Thursday, but because of a backlog of witnesses ended up spending the day in interviews with prosecutors at the independent counsel's office instead.
Prosecutors quizzed Carter in detail about his interactions with Jordan, including how many times they talked and how Jordan explained why he was sending Lewinsky over to see him, according to a source familiar with the situation. Carter told prosecutors that neither Lewinsky nor Jordan told him the affidavit would be false and added he knew nothing about the Tripp talking points, the source said.
Carter, the source said, also said he was unaware of any attempt by Lewinsky to ensure that she got a new job arranged by Jordan before filing the affidavit, a quid pro quo scenario that Starr's office is probing. Carter is tentatively slated to testify before the grand jury next Tuesday, although that may be rescheduled.
Emerging from the D.C. federal courthouse yesterday after his fifth day of testimony, Jordan repeated his denials of wrongdoing and said he was told by prosecutors that "barring any unforeseen circumstances," he would not have to return.
"When I came here in March . . . I said that I helped Ms. Lewinsky get a lawyer, I helped her get a job, I had assurances that there was no sexual relationship, and I did not tell her to lie," Jordan said, sounding vexed at his repeated appearances. "That was the truth then and that is the truth today. And I have testified five times, over and over again, to those truths."
Staff researcher Ben White contributed to this report.
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