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Aides: No Plans to Limit Clinton Testimony

President Clinton on Tuesday. (Reuters)

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Text of President Clinton's Jan. 17 Deposition

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 13, 1998; Page A04

With unsolicited advice cascading in from all sides, the White House tried to stamp out speculation yesterday that President Clinton might not answer certain questions about Monica S. Lewinsky during his grand jury testimony Monday.

Despite Clinton's pledge to testify "completely and truthfully," some former advisers and legal analysts have suggested in recent days that he could limit his testimony, either by refusing to discuss his sex life or by giving a carefully worded statement on his relationship with Lewinsky without answering further questions.

But none of those scenarios comport with the president's pledge, according to aides who insisted they knew of no plans to follow such recommendations. Asked during the daily news briefing yesterday if Clinton was saying he would answer all questions when he vowed to testify "completely," White House deputy press secretary Joe Lockhart said, "That's what it suggests to me, yes."

Another senior official who did not want to be named said resisting some questions was not known to be under consideration, unless the president has discussed it with his personal attorney, David E. Kendall.

Clinton returned to Washington from a fund-raising trip early yesterday morning for what will be several days of intensive preparations with his lawyers, sessions that will extend into the weekend leading up to Monday's encounter with independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr at the White House.

Lockhart said that he could not say whether Clinton agreed with Hillary Rodham Clinton's comment this week attributing much of their problems to prejudice against Arkansas, but added that the president sympathized with the view. "The president has heard that when he has gone home and I think he understands that," Lockhart said. Friends from there "feel like they were singled out because they were from Little Rock or they were from Arkansas."

The notion of restricting Clinton's testimony has some appeal among advisers who believe it could minimize his legal exposure in a way that could be politically defensible if couched in terms of privacy concerns. And yet while they publicly explore such options, nearly all of them have been kept out of the loop as Clinton limits his consultations to his private attorneys and the first lady -- virtually the only people he can talk with who would not be subject to subpoenas by Starr.

As a result, numerous suggestions offered during television appearances or in newspapers are not based on a full knowledge of the facts. "It's all just the inevitable chattering in this kind of pre-testimony buildup," said James E. Kennedy, of the White House counsel's office.

Much of the speculation appears based on confusion or disagreement about the definition of sex used in the Paula Jones case, in part because the publicly released portion of Clinton's deposition transcript does not include a full account of how the lawyers involved came to define the term. The definition is key to whether Clinton can be accused of perjury.

At the beginning of the Jan. 17 deposition, Jones's lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright to allow them to use a section of federal law to define the term "sexual relations" whenever it came up during the questioning. This was done for two reasons: to avoid having to ask the president salacious questions in explicit detail and to make clear to everyone exactly what was meant by the term "sexual relations."

The definition presented by Jones's lawyers included three parts: "For the purposes of this deposition, a person engages in 'sexual relations' when the person knowingly engages in or causes (1) contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person; (2) contact between any part of the person's body or an object and the genitals or anus of another person; or (3) contact between the genitals or anus of the person and any part of another person's body. 'Contact' means intentional touching, either directly or through clothing."

Wright declined to accept the whole definition, deeming it too broad. Instead, according to an authoritative account, she limited it to the first point and excluded points two and three.

When Clinton was asked whether he had an affair with Lewinsky, to avoid confusion or ambiguity, Jones's attorney referred to the definition approved by the judge. Clinton lawyer Robert S. Bennett objected, saying he was not sure that the president could remember the definition.

"Well, it's real short," Wright responded. "I will permit the question and you may show the witness definition number one."

Shown that definition, Clinton then answered, "I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. I've never had an affair with her."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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