Lewinsky's Entree Rare Among Interns
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, January 24, 1998; Page A15
Lisa Jennings remembers the heart-thumping surge on those rare days when she would overhear that President Clinton was to walk past Room 145 of the Old Executive Office Building, where she and the half-dozen other interns of the White House advance office toiled in obscurity.
"You'd hear these little rumblings. 'POTUS is coming. POTUS is coming,' " she said, using the internal White House lingo for the President of the United States. "So you'd run into the hall and try not to be conspicuous."
Such fleeting glimpses of power during Jennings's five-month internship in 1995 were a marked contrast to the gifts, telephone calls and public hugs that former White House intern Monica Lewinsky alleged that Clinton showered on her.
And judging by their own experiences, a variety of former White House interns said yesterday, the treatment Lewinsky says she received from Clinton's friends and aides sounded nothing like their own lowly status in the White House's typically rigid hierarchy.
"There was no interaction at all," said Michelle Von Euw, 23, who worked near Lewinsky during her own 1995 internship in the office of presidential letters and messages. "We were in the basement of the Old Executive Office Building, and we did our job. I'm pretty sure we weren't supposed to hound senior officials if we ran into them."
But for Lewinsky, life as an intern meant exchanges of gifts with the president. According to sources, Clinton has given her a dress, a pin, souvenirs from bars and a copy of a Walt Whitman book of poetry, "Leaves of Grass."
She reciprocated, giving the president several presents that included the necktie he wore to the State of the Union address last year, Lewinsky has said. From early October to early December of last year, sources said, she sent him at least eight packages of varying sizes by courier from her job at the Pentagon.
They displayed their familiarity in other ways, too. At a White House reception last year, witnesses said, Clinton saw Lewinsky across the room and strode over to embrace her.
Like some of the 1,000 interns taken in by the White House each year -- in classes of 250 at a time -- Lewinsky was hired on the recommendation of a family friend. In her case, the recommendation came from Walter Kaye, a wealthy retired insurance executive who has been a large contributor to the Democratic Party.
After about six months as an intern starting in the summer of 1995, she was given a permanent job in December 1995 handling correspondence at the Office of Legislative Affairs. According to a White House spokesman, the offer of a paying job was not itself exceptional; about one-quarter of the interns stay on in full-time positions.
She left in April 1996 after supervisors feared she was somehow infatuated with Clinton. Even after she started a new job as an aide to the Defense Department's top spokesman, she returned to the White House numerous times and was "waved in" by the president's secretary, Betty Currie.
She also has said she has been in frequent telephone contact with the president. Lewinsky told her friend Linda R. Tripp, who it turned out was secretly tape-recording her, that the president called her often. Tripp also has said she listened to a voice-mail message at Lewinsky's home left by a man whose voice closely resembles the president's.
After she was subpoenaed by lawyers for Paula Jones on Dec. 17, Lewinsky said on the tapes, she called Clinton for advice. He told her he would send his close friend, Washington lawyer Vernon E. Jordan Jr., to advise her further, Lewinsky said in the tapes. In fact, Jordan did help her, picking her up in his car at one point and recommending she retain lawyer Francis Carter.
Jordan furnished her with another form of help, as well. After she gave Clinton and Jordan a list of New York companies for which she would like to work in public relations, Jordan placed telephone calls to arrange a round of job interviews.
Jordan was not the only one who intervened. White House officials have acknowledged that John D. Podesta, the deputy chief of staff, and Currie arranged an interview for her with United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson, who met her for breakfast one day last fall at the Watergate, where she lived. He offered her a public-affairs job, but she turned him down, saying she would prefer to work in the corporate world.
Although he had less entree than Lewinsky, another former intern said that he also had found Jordan "very approachable -- very, very much so." Like the other interns of the summer of 1995, Adrion Howell, 27, was invited to Clinton's 50th birthday party that August. It was a thrill for Howell, who had just completed his first year at Howard University Law School and was spending the summer across the street from OEOB at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
He was even more delighted when Jordan lifted the rope to allow a few interns into the area reserved for dignitaries, passed out his business card, and told them to "keep in touch."
But in most interns' experience, such brushes with the powerful are rare. "Within OEOB, I could go to the cafeteria or go upstairs, but I wasn't allowed to walk into the West Wing," said Shannon Joyce, 22, a Georgetown senior, who worked as an intern alongside Lewinsky during the fall of 1995 in the office of Leon E. Panetta, the chief of staff at the time.
As for Jordan, Joyce said, "I didn't even know who he was until all this [scandal] broke."
Staff writer Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.
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