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Lewinsky: Currie Made First Call

Monica Lewinsky, escorted by attorney Sydney Hoffmann, leaves her hotel for her lawyers' office Tuesday. (AP)

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  • By Ruth Marcus
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, February 5, 1999; Page A24

    Monica S. Lewinsky told House prosecutors that President Clinton never instructed her to turn over gifts subpoenaed in the Paula Jones lawsuit and said she had "no doubt" that presidential secretary Betty Currie made the first call to retrieve the gifts she later put under her bed, according to a source with detailed knowledge of the deposition.

    The White House defense in Clinton's impeachment trial has tried to capitalize on the discrepancies between Lewinsky's testimony and that of Currie about the gift retrieval, but in a deposition Monday Lewinsky did not back off that and other key points in her account.

    The statement is among the new details from her testimony and that of presidential friend Vernon E. Jordan Jr. to emerge yesterday as the Senate voted to release full transcripts of the two sessions, as well as a third with White House aide Sidney Blumenthal, this morning.

    Questioned for the first time since Lewinsky began cooperating with prosecutors last summer, Jordan in his Tuesday deposition gave way on one point -- acknowledging that he had breakfast with Lewinsky on Dec. 31, 1997 -- but contradicted her on several other critical details, the source said.

    For example, Jordan again said he did not recall Lewinsky telling him -- as she says she did -- about any kind of sexual relationship with Clinton. Asked about Lewinsky's statement that she told Jordan she and Clinton had phone sex, Jordan said he never heard that, adding that he would have remembered had Lewinsky used that term.

    Lewinsky's testimony closely tracks her previous grand jury testimony about events that House managers say support their charge that Clinton obstructed justice in the Jones case. In one key exchange, Lewinsky reaffirmed that she was certain Currie called her to arrange the gift pickup, directly contradicting Currie's account. Lewinsky met with Clinton and expressed her concern about the gift subpoena earlier that day, Dec. 28, 1997, and House managers argue that there is no way Currie would have known to retrieve the package if Clinton did not direct her to do it.

    Clinton testified in his grand jury appearance last August that he told Lewinsky "that if they asked her for gifts, she'd have to give them whatever she had, that that's what the law was." But Lewinsky told the House prosecutors she recalled no such statement. Instead, she said, Currie called later that day to say she understood Lewinsky had something for her. Based on what she said was Clinton's earlier response to her gift question -- "I don't know. Let me think about it" -- Lewinsky said she assumed Currie meant the gifts, although Currie never said that directly.

    Lewinsky said she put the gifts from Clinton in a box from The Gap, taped it and gave it to Currie. She said that Currie never asked her about the contents of the box and that she provided the gifts to Currie because she wanted to reassure Clinton that "everything was okay."

    But Lewinsky proved a difficult witness for Rep. Edward G. Bryant (R-Tenn.), who questioned her. At one point, making note of Lewinsky's apparently continuing loyalty to Clinton, Bryant said, "I assume you think he's an intelligent man?"

    "I think he's an intelligent president," Lewinsky retorted.

    When Bryant inquired about their "first so-called salacious occasion," Lewinsky replied, "Can you call it something else? . . . That's not what this was."

    Asked if she still had feelings for Clinton, she said, "I have mixed feelings."

    Lewinsky's account differed in some critical details from that of Jordan. For example, Lewinsky reaffirmed and expanded on her earlier testimony that Jordan reviewed a draft of her affidavit, something that Jordan continued to deny.

    Lewinsky testified that she showed Jordan a draft of the affidavit and that he suggested striking a reference to Lewis & Clark College, from which Lewinsky graduated, as irrelevant. House managers say the issue is important because Jordan, at the same time he was helping Lewinsky get a lawyer in the Jones lawsuit, was going to great lengths in helping her get a job.

    Describing her Dec. 31, 1997, breakfast with Jordan, Lewinsky said she wanted to alert Jordan that Linda R. Tripp knew about her relationship with Clinton. In his testimony, Jordan acknowledged having the breakfast -- something he did not recall when he appeared before the grand jury -- but said Tripp's name never came up.

    In a brief excerpt disclosed by House managers yesterday, Lewinsky said, "I had gotten to a point where Linda Tripp wasn't returning my phone calls, and I felt I needed to devise some way . . . to . . . cushion the shock of what would happen if Linda Tripp testified all the facts about my relationship. So that was sort of my intention in meeting with Mr. Jordan, was hoping that I could give a little information and that would get passed on." In his testimony, Jordan was more definitive than previously in stating that his extensive efforts to get Lewinsky a job were motivated by his belief that the job search was instigated by Clinton: "There is no question but that through Betty Currie I was acting on behalf of the president to get Ms. Lewinsky a job." During his initial grand jury appearance last March, Jordan said he had no clue that Clinton even knew the former intern.

    At a few points in the session, Jordan invoked the phrase "mother wit," saying for example, that "mother wit" would not have permitted him to counsel Lewinsky to destroy notes from Tripp, as she says he told her to do.

    Jordan was also unyielding in responding to questions. For example, presenting Jordan with a receipt from his breakfast with Lewinsky at the Park Hyatt Hotel, Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) said that demonstrated what Jordan had eaten -- only to be contradicted by Jordan, who said the slip merely showed what he had paid for.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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