Lewinsky Testifies Before Grand Jury
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 7, 1998; Page A01
Monica S. Lewinsky told a federal grand jury yesterday that she engaged in numerous sexual liaisons with President Clinton at the White House, recanting her past statement in the Paula Jones lawsuit and contradicting the president's sworn and televised denials, a source familiar with her testimony said.
Lewinsky, 25, the former White House intern whose ties to Clinton now threaten his presidency, offered the jury the same account she previously provided independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, a tale of an 18-month affair they tried to cover up, the source said. While Clinton never directly asked her to lie in the Jones case, Lewinsky told investigators they developed "cover stories" to hide their involvement.
Lewinsky's long-anticipated arrival at the federal courthouse here capped the 28th week of grand jury proceedings sparked by her tape-recorded descriptions of a sexual relationship that both she and Clinton denied under oath in the Jones case in January. While Lewinsky is hardly the only woman ever alleged to have had an affair with an American president, yesterday she became the first to testify about it in a criminal investigation of the commander-in-chief.
"She answered each question truthfully, completely and honestly that was posed to her by the Office of Independent Counsel and also questions that were posed to her by members of the grand jury," family spokeswoman Judy Smith said after Lewinsky returned to her Watergate apartment at the end of the day. "Monica and her family are relieved that this ordeal finally appears to be coming to an end."
Lewinsky appears to be done testifying, at least until Clinton answers questions from the White House on Aug. 17 in a session that will be transmitted to the grand jury at the courthouse by closed-circuit television. Prosecutors could bring her back after that to address any conflicting statements by the president, legal experts said.
Compared with other central figures in Starr's investigation, Lewinsky had a strikingly brief visit with the grand jurors who had listened to her voice for months on the secretly recorded tapes and apparently were eager to hear her account delivered in person. Clinton's friend Vernon E. Jordan Jr. and presidential secretary Betty Currie, both of whom helped arrange job interviews for Lewinsky, each testified five times. Linda R. Tripp, the former friend who made and gave to Starr the tapes that launched the investigation, spent eight full days before the grand jury.
But Starr's office was familiar with what Lewinsky would have to say, having spent most of eight days debriefing her in excruciating detail. Lewinsky resisted testifying until Starr gave her and her parents full immunity from prosecution last week in exchange for her cooperation.
For Lewinsky, yesterday's session brought her full circle. On Jan. 7, she signed an affidavit in which she said, "I have never had a sexual relationship with the President." Over the last week, she has explained to prosecutors how she came to make that assertion, growing emotional at times as she has done so. Yesterday, when prosecutors quizzed her about the most sensitive of subjects, was particularly difficult.
"It was very hard for her to talk about private matters in public," said a person close to the situation.
Among other things, Lewinsky was asked about her dealings with Jordan and Currie and whether their assistance to her constituted an implicit trade-off for her denial of an affair in the Jones case. Jordan set up job interviews for her in New York and found her the lawyer who helped her draft the Jan. 7 affidavit. Currie accepted back the gifts Clinton had given Lewinsky that were subpoenaed by Jones's lawyers. Sources have said Lewinsky told prosecutors that Clinton suggested hypothetical ways to avoid turning over the gifts to the Jones team. However, she also reportedly said there was no explicit quid pro quo mentioned in relation to the job help.
As part of her immunity agreement, Lewinsky has given Starr telephone message recordings containing Clinton's voice, a photograph with his inscription on it and, most critically, a navy blue dress that is being tested by the FBI for evidence that could be linked to the president.
At the White House yesterday, Clinton and his aides went through the motions of an ordinary day. Shortly after Lewinsky entered the courthouse yesterday morning, Clinton surrounded himself with uniformed police officers in the Rose Garden to call on Congress to extend the handgun purchase waiting-period requirement of the Brady law that is due to phase out soon.
As soon as the program ended, Clinton gave a jaunty salute to a nearby Marine band, which immediately piped up with "Stars and Stripes Forever," drowning out reporters' shouted questions about Lewinsky.
"His mood is very good," spokesman Barry Toiv said later in the day. "Work goes on here every day and it continues to go on and it is unimpeded and unaffected by events outside of here."
Referring to Starr's tenure examining everything from Whitewater to firings in the White House travel office, Toiv said Clinton saw one salutary aspect to Lewinsky's appearance. "If this means that we're coming to the end of this four-year, over $40 million investigation," Toiv said, "then that would be a good thing."
Clinton's lawyers quietly proceeded with their preparations for the president's own testimony. David E. Kendall, Clinton's private attorney on the Whitewater and Lewinsky investigations, tried yesterday to get access to his client's Jan. 17 videotaped deposition in the Jones case when he denied having sex with Lewinsky.
While a transcript of that session is available, the videotape remains in the hands of U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, who dismissed the Jones case in April. Kendall wants to fly down to Little Rock to view the tape in Wright's courthouse personally, but because he does not represent Clinton in the Jones matter, Clinton's other attorney, Robert S. Bennett, had to file a sealed motion yesterday seeking an exception to the "gag" order, said a source familiar with the situation.
Wright is expected to rule after hearing from Jones's lawyers, who unsuccessfully have sought access to the tape themselves and oppose giving Kendall access to it.
In another legal proceeding born out of the Lewinsky case, another grand jury met in Maryland yesterday to hear from a state prosecutor investigating whether Tripp violated the state's wiretapping laws when she taped the phone calls with her onetime Pentagon colleague.
The main action of the day, however, was in Trustee Room 4 at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse on Constitution Avenue, a spare chamber where for the past six months 23 grand jurors have heard from dozens of White House aides, Secret Service officers and others about the young woman they finally met yesterday.
With an hour-long lunch and a few other breaks, Lewinsky spent from 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. answering questions from Starr deputies Michael Emmick, Solomon L. Wisenberg and Mary Anne Wirth. Emmick was Lewinsky's first interrogator from Starr's office when she was confronted in a Jan. 16 FBI sting at the Ritz-Carlton at Pentagon City. Emmick spent nearly 10 hours with Lewinsky that day, including an outing to Crate & Barrel while waiting for Lewinsky's mother to arrive from New York. But Lewinsky refused to cooperate that night.
Wisenberg and Wirth were among the prosecutors who questioned her more than six months later in a secret New York meeting before agreeing to the immunity deal last week.
While she is the star witness, former prosecutor Lawrence Barcella said prosecutors "can cover a whole lot of ground in a whole day" and may prefer to limit how much she says now.
"You don't want to create any more material for a good defense attorney to pick apart than you absolutely have to," he said. At this point, the grand jury has gathered most of the facts and needed only to hear from Lewinsky and Clinton, he said. "It's not discovery any more, it's putting it on the record," he said.
Legal experts said Starr's office certainly would have questioned Lewinsky about her Jones affidavit and asked her to explain why she lied in an effort to bolster her standing with the grand jurors and, more importantly, others who will read the transcript later, such as members of Congress in any impeachment proceeding. "If there is a hearing at which she testifies, her credibility is going to be one of the most important issues," said former U.S. attorney Henry E. Hudson. "It may be the most decisive issue, because it may be a one-on-one case."
Indeed, the Clinton camp has been preparing to undermine Lewinsky's believability if her testimony proves damaging. Private investigators working for Clinton have collected evidence of past deceptions, sources said, and lawyers familiar with the strategy pointed to Lewinsky's own reported statements on Tripp's tapes about having "lied my entire life."
But the president's defenders were holding off yesterday, determinedly declining to cast any aspersions on Lewinsky even as she apparently was becoming the chief witness against Clinton. "We have not criticized her in the past and we have no intention of doing so now," said James E. Kennedy, a spokesman for the White House counsel's office who handles political damage control.
A critical factor in formulating the president's defense may come down to the definition of "sexual relations." When Clinton denied having sex with Lewinsky during his deposition, he was held to an expansive definition developed by Jones's lawyers and approved by Wright.
Under that definition, sexual relations included any "contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person." Contact was defined as "intentional touching, either directly or through clothing." As a result, Clinton's denial in the Jones case would encompass foreplay or other activities short of intercourse.
Staff writers Susan Schmidt, Juliet Eilperin, John F. Harris, Ruth Marcus and Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.
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