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Grounds for Impeachment, No. VI

From independent counsel Kenneth Starr's report to the House on President Clinton. Some of the language in these documents is sexually explicit.

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VI. There is substantial and credible information that

(i) President Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky had an understanding that they would lie under oath in the Jones case about their relationship; and

(ii) President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice by suggesting that Ms. Lewinsky file an affidavit so that she would not be deposed, she would not contradict his testimony, and he could attempt to avoid questions about Ms. Lewinsky at his deposition.

Based on their conversations and their past practice, both the President and Ms. Lewinsky understood that they would lie under oath in the Jones case about their sexual relationship, as part of a scheme to obstruct justice in the Jones case. In pursuing this effort:

A. Evidence Regarding Affidavit and Use of Affidavit

  • Monica Lewinsky testified that President Clinton called her at around 2:00 or 2:30 a.m. on December 17, 1997,(270) and told her that her name was on the Jones case witness list.(271) As noted in her February 1 handwritten statement: "When asked what to do if she was subpoenaed, the Pres. suggested she could sign an affidavit . . . ."(272) Ms. Lewinsky said she is "100% sure" that the President suggested that she might want to sign an affidavit.(273)

    Ms. Lewinsky understood the President's advice to mean that she might be able to execute an affidavit that would not disclose the true nature of their relationship. In order "to prevent me from being deposed," she said she would need an affidavit that "could range from anywhere between maybe just somehow mentioning, you know, innocuous things or going as far as maybe having to deny any kind of relationship."(274)

    Ms. Lewinsky has stated that the President never explicitly told her to lie. Instead, as she explained, they both understood from their conversations that they would continue their pattern of covering up and lying about the relationship. In that regard, the President never said they must now tell the truth under oath; to the contrary, as Ms. Lewinsky stated:

    [I]t wasn't as if the President called me and said, "You know, Monica, you're on the witness list, this is going to be really hard for us, we're going to have to tell the truth and be humiliated in front of the entire world about what we've done," which I would have fought him on probably. That was different. And by him not calling me and saying that, you know, I knew what that meant.(275)

    Ms. Jones's lawyers served Ms. Lewinsky with a subpoena on December 19, 1997. Ms. Lewinsky contacted Vernon Jordan, who in turn put her in contact with attorney Frank Carter.(276) Based on the information that Ms. Lewinsky provided, Mr. Carter prepared an affidavit which stated: "I have never had a sexual relationship with the President."(277)

    After Mr. Carter drafted the affidavit, Ms. Lewinsky spoke to the President by phone on January 5th.(278) She asked the President if he wanted to see the draft affidavit. According to Ms. Lewinsky, the President replied that he did not need to see it because he had already "seen 15 others."(279)

    Mr. Jordan confirmed that President Clinton knew that Ms. Lewinsky planned to execute an affidavit denying a sexual relationship.(280) Mr. Jordan further testified that he informed President Clinton when Ms. Lewinsky signed the affidavit.(281) Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit was sent to the federal court in Arkansas on January 16, 1998 -- the day before the President's deposition -- as part of her motion to quash the deposition subpoena.

    Two days before the President's deposition, his lawyer, Robert Bennett, obtained a copy of Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit from Mr. Carter.(282) At the President's deposition, Ms. Jones's counsel asked questions about the President's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. Mr. Bennett objected to the "innuendo" of the questions, noting that Ms. Lewinsky had signed an affidavit denying a sexual relationship, which according to Mr. Bennett, indicated that "there is absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form."(283) Mr. Bennett said that the President was "fully aware of Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit."(284) Mr. Bennett affirmatively used the affidavit in an effort to cut off questioning. The President said nothing -- even though, as he knew, the affidavit was false. Judge Wright overruled the objection and allowed the questioning to continue.

    Later, Mr. Bennett read Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit denying a "sexual relationship" to the President and asked him: "Is that a true and accurate statement as far as you know it?" The President answered: "That is absolutely true."(285)

    B. Summary of President's Grand Jury Testimony

    The President told the grand jury: "[D]id I hope [Ms. Lewinsky would] be able to get out of testifying on an affidavit? Absolutely. Did I want her to execute a false affidavit? No, I did not."(286) The President did not explain how a full and truthful affidavit -- for example, an affidavit admitting that they engaged in oral sex and that Vernon Jordan had been involved, at the President's request, in late 1997 and early 1998 in obtaining Ms. Lewinsky a job -- would have helped her avoid a deposition.

    When questioned about his phone conversation with Ms. Lewinsky on December 17, 1997 -- during which the President suggested filing an affidavit -- the President testified that he did not remember exactly what he had said.(287) The President also maintained that Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit, as it ultimately was filed denying a "sexual relationship," was not necessarily inaccurate. He testified that, depending on Ms. Lewinsky's state of mind, her statement denying a sexual relationship could have been true.

    I believe at the time that she filled out this affidavit, if she believed that the definition of sexual relationship was two people having intercourse, then this is accurate. And I believe that is the definition that most ordinary Americans would give it.(288)

    At his grand jury appearance, the President also was asked about his counsel's statement to Judge Wright that Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit denying a "sexual relationship" was equivalent to saying "there is absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form" with President Clinton. Given the President's interpretation of the term "sexual relationship" to require sexual intercourse, the President was asked how he lawfully could have sat silent while his attorney -- in the President's presence and on his behalf -- made a false statement to a United States District Judge in an effort to forestall further questioning. The President offered several responses.

    First, the President maintained that he was not paying "much attention" when Mr. Bennett said that there is "absolutely no sex of any kind" between the President and Ms. Lewinsky."(289) The President further stated: "That moment, that whole argument just passed me by. I was a witness."(290) The President's explanation is difficult to reconcile with the videotape of the deposition, which shows that the President was looking in Mr. Bennett's direction when his counsel made this statement.

    Alternatively, the President contended that when Mr. Bennett said that "there is absolutely no sex of any kind," Mr. Bennett was speaking only in the present tense and thus was making a completely true statement. The President further stated: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is,"(291) and that "actually, in the present tense that is an accurate statement."(292) Before the grand jury, counsel for the OIC then asked the President: "Do you mean today that because you were not engaging in sexual activity with Ms. Lewinsky during the deposition that the statement of Mr. Bennett might be literally true?"(293) The President responded: "No, sir. I mean that at the time of the deposition, it had been -- that was well beyond any point of improper contact between me and Ms. Lewinsky."(294) The President's suggestion that he might have engaged in such a detailed parsing of the words at his deposition is at odds with his assertion that the "whole argument passed me by."

  • Finally, the President took issue with the notion that he had any duty to prevent his attorney from making a false statement to Judge Wright: "Mr. Bennett was representing me. I wasn't representing him."(295) That is a truism. Yet when a witness is knowingly responsible for a misstatement of fact to a federal judge that misleads the Court and attempts to prevent questioning on a relevant subject, that conduct rises to the level of an obstruction of justice.

    C. Evidence Regarding Cover Stories

    The affidavit was not the only part of the scheme in which both the President and Ms. Lewinsky would lie under oath. Ms. Lewinsky testified that, as part of their mutual concealment efforts, she and President Clinton formulated "cover stories" to explain Ms. Lewinsky's presence in the West Wing and Oval Office. When Ms. Lewinsky worked at the White House, she and the President agreed that Ms. Lewinsky would tell people that she was coming to the Oval Office to deliver papers or to have papers signed, when in truth she was going to the Oval Office to have a sexual encounter with the President.(296)

    While employed at the White House, Ms. Lewinsky used this cover story on several occasions.(297) It worked: Several Secret Service officers testified that they understood that Ms. Lewinsky was at the Oval Office to deliver or to pick up papers.(298) In fact, however, Ms. Lewinsky stated that her White House job never required her to deliver papers or obtain the President's signature, although she carried papers as a prop.(299)

    After she was transferred to the Pentagon, Ms. Lewinsky testified that she and the President formulated a second "cover story": that Ms. Lewinsky was going to the White House to visit Betty Currie rather than the President. Ms. Lewinsky testified that she and the President discussed how "Betty always needed to be the one to clear me in so that, you know, I could always say I was coming to see Betty."(300) Ms. Lewinsky testified that she met with the President privately on ten occasions after she left her job at the White House.(301) Ms. Currie signed her in for each of those private visits.(302)

    Ms. Lewinsky has stated that her true purpose in visiting the White House on these occasions was to see President Clinton, not Ms. Currie.(303) President Clinton agreed that "just about every time" that Ms. Lewinsky came to see Ms. Currie when he was there, Ms. Lewinsky saw him as well.(304)

    Ms. Lewinsky testified that President Clinton encouraged her to continue to use the cover stories to conceal their relationship after her name appeared on the witness list in the Jones case. In her early-morning phone conversation with President Clinton on December 17, 1997 -- the same conversation in which the President told her that her name was on the witness list and suggested that she file an affidavit if subpoenaed(305) -- Ms. Lewinsky discussed cover stories with the President:

    ML: At some point in the conversation, and I don't know if it was before or after the subject of the affidavit came up, he sort of said, "You know, you can always say you were coming to see Betty or that you were bringing me letters." Which I understood was really a reminder of things that we had discussed before.

    Q: So when you say things you had discussed, sort of ruses that you had developed.

    ML: Right. I mean, this was -- this was something that -- that was instantly familiar to me.

    Q: Right.

    ML: And I knew exactly what he meant.

    Q: Had you talked with him earlier about these false explanations about what you were doing visiting him on several occasions?

    ML: Several occasions throughout the entire relationship. Yes. It was the pattern of the relationship, to sort of conceal it.(306)

    President Clinton used those same deceptive cover stories during his deposition in the Jones case. In the civil deposition, when asked if he had met with Ms. Lewinsky "several times" while she worked at the White House, the President responded that he had seen her on two or three occasions during the government shutdown, "and then when she worked at the White House, I think there was one or two other times when she brought some documents to me."(307) When asked if he was ever alone with Ms. Lewinsky in the Oval Office, the President stated:

    [W]hen she worked at the legislative affairs office, they always had somebody there on the weekends. . . . Sometimes they'd bring me things on the weekends. In that case, whatever time she would be in there, drop it off, exchange a few words and go, she was there. . . . It's possible that she, in, while she was working there, brought something to me and that at the time she brought it to me, she was the only person there, That's possible.(308)

    The pattern of devising cover stories in an effort to forestall an inquiry into the relationship continued even after Ms. Lewinsky was subpoenaed to testify. On January 5, 1998, she met with her attorney, Frank Carter, and discussed questions that she might be asked at a deposition. One of the questions was how she had obtained her Pentagon job. Ms. Lewinsky worried that if the Jones lawyers checked with the White House about the transfer, some at the White House would say unflattering things about why she had been terminated.(309) Ms. Lewinsky spoke to President Clinton on the phone that evening and asked for advice on how to answer the question. Ms. Lewinsky testified that the President responded, "[Y]ou could always say that the people in Legislative Affairs got it for you or helped you get it" -- a story that Ms. Lewinsky stated was misleading because Ms. Lewinsky in fact had been transferred because she was around the Oval Office too much.(310) President Clinton knew the truth.

    D. The President's Grand Jury Testimony on Cover Stories

    The President testified that before he knew that Ms. Lewinsky was a witness in the Jones case, he "might well" have told Ms. Lewinsky that she could offer the cover stories if questioned about her presence in the West Wing and Oval Office:

    Q: Did you ever say anything like that, you can always say that you were coming to see Betty or bringing me letters? Was that part of any kind of a, anything you said to her or a cover story, before you had any idea she was going to be part of Paula Jones?

    WJC: I might well have said that.

    Q: Okay.

    WJC: Because I certainly didn't want this to come out, if I could help it. And I was concerned about that. I was embarrassed about it. I knew it was wrong.(311)

    However, no doubt aware of the significance of the question, the President testified that he did not remember whether he had discussed the cover stories with Ms. Lewinsky during the December 17, 1997, conversation,(312) or at any time after Ms. Lewinsky's name appeared on the Jones witness list:

    Q: Did you tell [Ms. Lewinsky] anytime in December something to that effect: You know, you can always say that you were coming to see Betty or you were bringing me letters? Did you say that, or anything like that, in December '97 or January '98, to Monica Lewinsky?

    WJC: Well, that's a very broad question. I do not recall saying anything like that in connection with her testimony. I could tell you what I do remember saying, if you want to know. But I don't -- we might have talked about what to do in a nonlegal context at some point in the past, but I have no specific memory of that conversation.

    I do remember what I said to her about the possible testimony.

    * * * *

    Q: Did you say anything like [the cover stories] once you knew or thought she might be a witness in the Jones case? Did you repeat the statement, or something like it to her?

    WJC: Well, again, I don't recall, and I don't recall whether I might have done something like that, for example, if somebody says, what if the reporters ask me this, that or the other thing. I can tell you this: In the context of whether she could be a witness, I have a recollection that she asked me, well, what do I do if I get called as a witness, and I said, you have to get a lawyer. And that's all I said. And I never asked her to lie.

    Q: Did you tell her to tell the truth?

    WJC: Well, I think the implication was she would tell the truth.(313)

    E. Summary

    There is substantial and credible information that the President and Ms. Lewinsky reached an understanding that both of them would lie under oath when asked whether they had a sexual relationship (a conspiracy to obstruct justice or to commit perjury, in criminal law terms). Indeed, a tacit or express agreement to make false statements would have been an essential part of their December and January discussions, lest one of the two testify truthfully in the Jones case and thereby incriminate the other as a perjurer.

    There also is substantial and credible information that President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice by suggesting that Ms. Lewinsky file an affidavit to avoid her deposition, which would "lock in" her testimony under oath, and to attempt to avoid questions at his own deposition -- all to impede the gathering of discoverable evidence in the Jones v. Clinton litigation.(314)

    During the course of their relationship, the President and Ms. Lewinsky also discussed and used cover stories to justify her presence in and around the Oval Office area. The evidence indicates -- given Ms. Lewinsky's unambiguous testimony and the President's lack of memory, as well as the fact that they both planned to lie under oath -- that the President suggested the continued use of the cover stories even after Ms. Lewinsky was named as a potential witness in the Jones litigation. At no time did the President tell Ms. Lewinsky to abandon these stories and to tell the truth about her visits, nor did he ever indicate to her that she should tell the truth under oath about the relationship. While the President testified that he could not remember such conversations about the cover stories, he had repeated the substance of the cover stories in his Jones deposition. The President's use of false cover stories in testimony under oath in his Jones deposition strongly corroborates Ms. Lewinsky's testimony that he suggested them to her on December 17 as a means of avoiding disclosure of the truth of their relationship.

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