Clinton Accused Special Report
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Clinton: 'There Is No Improper Relationship'

Federal News Service
Wednesday, January 22, 1998; Page A13

Following are excerpts of President Clinton's remarks yesterday about allegations that Clinton and his close friend Vernon E. Jordan Jr. encouraged a 24-year-old former White House intern to lie to lawyers for Paula Jones about whether the intern had an affair with the president. Clinton made the comments in previously scheduled interviews with Jim Lehrer for PBS and with Mara Liasson and Robert Siegel for NPR and in a telephone interview with Roll Call:

LEHRER: The news of this day is that Kenneth Starr, independent counsel, is investigating allegations that you suborned perjury by encouraging a 24-year-old woman, former White House intern, to lie under oath in a civil deposition about her having had an affair with you. Mr. President, is that true?

CLINTON: That is not true. That is not true. I did not ask anyone to tell anything other than the truth. There is no improper relationship. And I intend to cooperate with this inquiry. But that is not true.

LEHRER: "No improper relationship" – define what you mean by that.

CLINTON: Well, I think you know what it means. It means that there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship, or any other kind of improper relationship.

LEHRER: You had no sexual relationship with this young woman?

CLINTON: There is not a sexual relationship; that is accurate. The – we are doing our best to cooperate here, but we don't know much yet. And that's all I can say now.

What I'm trying to do is to contain my natural impulses and get back to work. I think it's important that we cooperate, I will cooperate, but I want to focus on the work at hand.

LEHRER: Just for the record, to make sure I understand what your answer means, so there's no ambiguity about it --

CLINTON: There is no –

LEHRER: All right. You had no conversations with this young woman, Monica Lewinsky, about her testimony or possible testimony before – in giving a deposition?

CLINTON: I did not urge – I did not urge anyone to say anything that was untrue. I did not urge anyone to say anything that was untrue. That's my statement to you. And beyond that –

LEHRER: Did you talk to her about it? Excuse me, I'm sorry.

CLINTON: – I think it's very important that we let the investigation take its course.

The – the – but I want you to know that that is my clear position. I didn't ask anyone to go in there and say something that's not true.

LEHRER: What about your having had – another one of the allegations is that – that you may have asked, or the allegation that's being investigated is that you asked your friend Vernon Jordan –

CLINTON: To do that.

LEHRER: – to do that.

CLINTON: I absolutely did not do that. I can tell you, I did not do that. I was – I did not do that, he is in – in no way involved in trying to get anybody to say anything that's not true at my request. I didn't do that.

Now, I don't know what else to tell you. I've – I – I don't even know – all I know is what I have read here. But I'm going to cooperate. I didn't ask anybody not to tell the truth. There is no improper relationship. The allegations I have read are not true. I do not know what the basis of them is, other than just what you know. We'll just have to wait and see. And I will be vigorous about it, but I have got to get back to the work of the country.

I was up past midnight with Prime Minister Netanyahu last night. I've got Mr. Arafat coming in. We've got action all over the world and a State of the Union to do. I'll do my best to cooperate with this, just as I have through every other issue that's come up over the last several years, but I have got to get back to work.

LEHRER: Would you acknowledge, though, Mr. President, this is very serious business, this charge against you that's been made.

CLINTON: And I will cooperate in the inquiry of it.

LEHRER: Mm-hmm. What's going on? What – what – if it's not true, that means somebody made this up. Is that – . . .

CLINTON: Look. You know as much about this as I do right now. We'll just have to look into it and cooperate, and we'll see. But meanwhile, I've got to go on with the work of the country. I got hired to help the rest of the American people. . . .

LEHRER: But on a more personal level, Mr. President, you're beginning – you're a week from your State of the Union address, and here . . . you're under investigation for a very, very serious crime and – allegation of a serious crime. I mean, what does that do to your ability to do all of these things that we've been talking about, whether it's the Middle East or whether it's child-care reform or what?

CLINTON: Well, I've got to do my best. You know, I'd be – I'd be less than candid if I said it was, you know, just hunky dory. You know, these – but I've been living with this sort of thing for a long time. And my experience has been, unfortunately, sometimes, you know, when one charge dies, another one just lifts up to take its place.

But I can tell you, whatever I feel about it, I owe it to the American people to put it in a little box and keep working for them. This job is not like other jobs, in that sense. You can't – it's not – you don't get to take a vacation from your obligations to the whole country. You just have to, you know, remember why you ran, understand what's happening and why, and, you know, go back and hit it tomorrow. That's all you can do.

LEHRER: But going back to what we said at the beginning when we were talking about it, isn't this one different than all the others? This one isn't about a land deal in Arkansas, or it's not even about sex, it's about other things, about a serious matter. Do you – I mean –

CLINTON: Well, but all the others, a lot of them were about serious matters. They just faded away.

LEHRER: I'm not suggesting that they weren't serious. But I mean –

CLINTON: I don't mean – I just – all I can tell you is, I'll do my best to help them get to the bottom of it. I did not ask anybody to lie under oath. I did not do that. That's the allegation. I didn't do it. And we'll just get to the bottom of it, we'll go on.

And meanwhile, I've got to keep working at this. I can't just – you know, ignore the fact that every day that passes is one more day that I don't have to do what I came here to do. And I think the results that America has enjoyed indicates it's a pretty good argument for doing what I came here to do.

LEHRER: That whatever the personal things may be, the polls show that the people approve of your job as president, even though they may not have that high regard – that high regard of you as a person.

CLINTON: Well, hardly anyone has ever been subject to the level of attack I have. You know, it made a lot of people mad when I got elected president. And the better the country does, it seems like the madder some of them get.

But that's – you know, that's not important. What's important here is what happens to the American people. I mean, there are sacrifices to being president, and in some periods of history, the price is higher than others. I'm just doing the best I can for my country.

LEHRER: We're sitting here in the Roosevelt Room in the White House. It's 4:15 Eastern Time. All of the cable news organizations have been full of this story all day. The newspapers are probably going to be full of it tomorrow. And the news may – this story is going to be there and be there and be there. The Paula Jones trial coming up in May. And you're going to be –

CLINTON: I'm looking forward to that.


CLINTON: Because I believe that the evidence will show what I have been saying; that I did not do what I was accused of doing.

It's very difficult. You know, one of the things that people learn is you can charge people with all kinds of things; it's almost impossible to prove your innocence. That's almost impossible to do. I think I'll be able to do that. We're working hard at it.

LEHRER: What about the additional element here? You're the president of the United States. Certainly you've got personal things that you want to prove or disprove, et cetera. But when does it, just the process, become demeaning to the presidency? I mean, somebody said – in fact, just said it on our program, that this trial in May will be tabloid nirvana and –

CLINTON: Well, I tried to spare the country that. That's the only reason that we asked the Supreme Court to affirm that absent some terrible emergency the president shouldn't be subject to suits so that he wouldn't become a political target. They made a different decision. And they made a decision that this was good for the country. And so I'm taking it and dealing with it the best I can.

LEHRER: And the new thing? They're going to be – you know, pour it on, nothing's going to change?

CLINTON: I have got to go to work every day. You know, whatever people say about me, whatever happens to me, I can't say that people didn't tell me they were going to go after me because they thought I represented a new direction in American politics and they thought we could make things better. And I can't say that they haven't been as good as their word every day, you know. Just a whole bunch of them are trying to make sure that get done. But I just have to keep working at it.

You know, I didn't come here for money or power or anything else. I came here to spend my time, to do my job, and go back to my life. That's all I want to do, and that's what I'm trying to do, for the best interests of America. And so far the results have been good, and I just hope the people keep that in mind. . . .

Following are excerpts from the NPR interview:

LIASSON: Mr. President, where do you think this comes from? Did you have any kind of relationship with her that could have been misconstrued?

CLINTON: Mara, I'm going to do my best to cooperate with the investigation. I want to know what they want to know from me. I think it's more important for me to tell the American people that there wasn't improper relations, I didn't ask anybody to lie, and I intend to cooperate. And I think that's all I should say right now so I can get back to the work of the country.

LIASSON: Mm-hm. But you're not able to say whether you had any conversations with her about her testimony, had any conversations at all.

CLINTON: I think, given the state of this investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to say more. I've said everything, I think, that I need to say now. I'm going to be cooperative and we'll work through it.

SIEGEL: But is the fact that in this case, as we understand it, a close friend of this young woman was outfitted with a wire, with a microphone, to record conversations with her at the instruction of the Whitewater counsel, does that disturb you? Do you regard that Mr. Starr is playing the inquisitor here in this case?

CLINTON: Well, that's a question the American people will have to ask and answer, and the press will have to ask and answer, the bar will have to ask and answer; but it's inappropriate for me to comment on it at this time. I just have to cooperate, and I'll do that. . . .

--Federal Document Clearing House

Following are excerpts of the Roll Call interview, as released by the White House:

ROLL CALL: Some Republicans have been talking about impeachment for months now. And even your former adviser, George Stephanopoulos, mentioned it this morning, that it could lead to that. What is your reaction to the suggestion that this may lead to impeachment?

CLINTON: Well, I don't believe it will. I'm going to cooperate with this investigation. And I made it very clear that the allegations are not true. I didn't ask anybody not to tell the truth. And I'll cooperate. So I think that there will be a lot of stirring and there will be a lot of speculation about how this all was done and what it means and what it portends, and you all will handle it however you will. I'm just going to go back to work and do the best I can. . . .

ROLL CALL: Let me just ask you one more question about this. You said in a statement today that you had no improper relationship with this intern. What exactly was the nature of your relationship with her?

CLINTON: Well, let me say, the relationship was not improper, and I think that's important enough to say. But because the investigation is going on and because I don't know what is out – what's going to be asked of me, I think I need to cooperate, answer the questions, but I think it's important for me to make it clear what is not. And then, at the appropriate time, I'll try to answer what is. But let me answer – it is not an improper relationship and I know what the word means. So let's just. . . .

ROLL CALL: Was it in any way sexual?

CLINTON: The relationship was not sexual. And I know what you mean, and the answer is no.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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