'To Me, She Was Like a Groupie'
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 3, 1998; Page A22 Few people, even among his senior advisers, had more frequent or closer physical proximity to President Clinton than Bayani Nelvis and Glen Maes, the two White House stewards who worked in a small pantry just off the Oval Office near where Clinton and Monica S. Lewinsky had their sexual encounters.
But in five grand jury appearances three by Nelvis and two by Maes the two Navy veterans denied ever seeing Clinton and Lewinsky alone in the area, with Maes asserting that he thought it impossible for Lewinsky to be there without him knowing it.
"Are you saying that it's impossible when you're on duty in the pantry for Monica to be in the Oval Office study without [you] knowing it?" Maes was asked by a prosecutor.
"Without me knowing it, right," he replied.
Told by prosecutors later during his April 8 testimony that the investigation had uncovered evidence that Lewinsky spent about 20 minutes in the study the night of Nov. 13, 1997, Maes said: "I did not see and I I doubt I very much doubt that . . . happened."
But Maes did confirm that Lewinsky spent time alone with Clinton in the Oval Office last December, around the time she was subpoenaed to testify in the Paula Jones case. He said Lewinsky was in the office of Betty Currie, Clinton's secretary, and had a gift for the president. When Clinton stepped out of the Oval Office, Maes said, he spotted Lewinsky "and then brings her in the Oval Office. They were in there maybe eight minutes."
Maes said the Oval Office door was closed during this time.
Prosecutors were clearly skeptical about Nelvis's account, in which he repeatedly and steadfastly denied any knowledge that Lewinsky had been alone with the president. At points, Starr's frustrated prosecutors appeared to wonder whether Nelvis thought his Navy oath might require him to lie to protect the commander-in-chief. His sworn testimony was contradicted by two Secret Service officers.
Nelvis specifically denied ever telling Michael McGrath, a White House chef at the time, that he had seen a clearly shaken Lewinsky leave Clinton's study with her hair messed and her lipstick smeared, and of discovering lipstick-stained towels in the private dining room. McGrath gave an account of his conversations with Nelvis to the Star, a tabloid publication.
The two uniformed Secret Service officers, Brent Chinery and Gary Byrne, testified that Nelvis told them of his unhappiness at having to "clean up" after Clinton's trysts with Lewinsky, picking up tissues and towels soiled with lipstick and other substances.
From their testimony, it was clear that Nelvis, 50, who has worked at the White House since 1980, and Maes, 40, with 11 years experience at the White House, were fond of Lewinsky. They described how Lewinsky frequently visited them in the pantry, usually asking how the president was. Maes, the more outgoing of the two stewards, described her as "a cute girl."
But Lewinsky's frequent appearances in the area near the Oval Office did not please other White House aides. Maes described how, immediately after one Lewinsky visit to the pantry area, Evelyn S. Lieberman, a deputy chief of staff, scolded him and told him the practice had to stop.
Both men agreed that it was Nelvis who was the closest to Lewinsky. Nelvis and Lewinsky exchanged Christmas and birthday gifts, including ties that Lewinsky gave to the steward. At Lewinsky's request, Nelvis once delivered M&M candies bearing the presidential seal to her when she worked at the Pentagon.
In early January, Nelvis said, he was preparing to deliver a belated Christmas present to Lewinsky when she sent him a pager message. He said the message was, "Nel, I can't see you today and I cannot talk to you on the phone. I'm in trouble."
Q: You never heard Monica referred to as a clutch while you were there?
Maes: Everybody is referred [to] as a clutch. You are, I am. You know, so, to me a clutch is a clutch. To me anybody outside of the president and the family is a clutch. They're going to get close to the president.
Q: Well, what does "clutch" mean?
A: To me a clutch is a person who gets up to the President of the United States to personally shake his hand, maybe converse with him, and then get a photo of the president. That's a clutch.
Q: Now, was Monica considered to be by you first of all one of those people who is of the ordinary, in the sense that I have said waiting in the hallway
A: To me personally, as in trying to get toward the president to say hi or something, yes. To me she was like a groupie.
A: I mean if you want to put it in context, that's where I'd put her as as a presidential groupie.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company