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Transcript

Clinton Interview: NPR's "All Things Considered"

January 21, 1998

SPEAKERS: WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
MARA LIASSON, NPR
ROBERT SIEGEL, NPR

SIEGEL: Mr. President, welcome to the program.

Many Americans woke up to the news today that the Whitewater independent counsel is investigating an allegation that you or you and Vernon Jordan encouraged a young woman to lie to lawyers in the Paula Jones civil suit. Is there any truth to that allegation?

CLINTON: No, sir. There's not. It's just not true.

SIEGEL: Is there any truth to the allegation of an affair between you and the young woman?

CLINTON: No. That's not true either, and I have told people that I would cooperate in the investigation and I expect to cooperate with it.

I don't know any more about it than I've told you and any more about it than you do, but I will cooperate. The charges are not true. And I haven't asked anybody to lie.

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: Yes. But you -- you're not able to say whether you've had any conversations with her about her testimony, about any conversations at all?

CLINTON: I think it would be -- 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: 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 -- does that disturb you? Do you regard that Mr. Starr is playing the inquisitor here in this case?

CLINTON: Well, that's a question that 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.

CLINTON: I just have to cooperate, and I'll do that.

SIEGEL: And a broader question, I understand that you don't want to comment on this. There are some commentators on our network, it would be Kevin Phillips, who said that the moral leadership of the presidency justifies the kind of scrutiny that you're receiving. Do you agree with that?

CLINTON: Well, I think there is a lot of scrutiny, and there should be. And I think that's important. I leave it to others to define whether the kind we have received in volume, nature and accuracy and honesty -- sometimes downright honesty -- is appropriate, that's for others to determine.

You know, I just have a certain number of days here. I came here as not a Washington person. I came here to try to change the country and to work to build the future of America in a new century, and I just have to try to put this in a little box like I have every other thing that has been said and done, and go on and do my job. That's what I'm going to work at.

LIASSON: Mr. President, earlier today you said you tried your best to contain your natural impulses and get back to work. Were you furious? Is that what you were referring to?

CLINTON: I was. I was.

LIASSON: And what were you furious about?

CLINTON: Well, I worked with Prime Minister Netanyahu until 12:30 last night. I'm getting ready for Mr. Arafat. I'm working on the State of the Union. And we've got a lot of big issues out there within and beyond our borders. And I don't think any American questions the fact that I work very hard at this job.

And anything that's a distraction I dislike. And...

LIASSON: Do you see this as a partisan attack? Is that what...

CLINTON: I didn't say that.

LIASSON: ... you were angry about?

CLINTON: I don't know what the facts are. I don