Clinton Allies Defend President
Lewinsky's lawyer: 'We are dying to tell the story'
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 25) -- As the Monica Lewinsky scandal engulfing the White House continued to grow, President Bill Clinton spent a quiet Sunday going to church and working on his State of the Union address. He left it to his political team to come out fighting on the Sunday talk show circuit.
The president's aides and allies reiterated denials that anything improper took place. Senior policy adviser Rahm Emanuel told CNN's "Late Edition" today, "Did the president have a sexual relationship with this young lady? No. Did the president ask this young lady to lie? No. That's what matters in a media frenzy about rumor and gossip. (You've) got to get back down to the facts."
The White House also issued a statement denying that former top aides had witnessed or received reports of an "intimate encounter" between the president and the former White House intern.
Such tough talk masked the behind-the-scenes anxiety at a White House where few aides know the full story behind the president's relationship with Lewinsky and worry about what they will learn next.
Aides waited nervously as ongoing negotiations between Lewinsky's lawyers and independent counsel Kenneth Starr continued. So far the sporadic negotiations have yielded no agreement.
But one offensive on behalf of the president is being mounted, as veteran Clinton adviser James Carville vowed that "a war" will be waged between the president's friends and Starr over what Carville called the "scuzzy, slimy tactics" the Whitewater prosecutor used in the probe of allegations surrounding Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky.
Starr is planning to call Lewinsky and other potentially explosive witnesses before his grand jury on Tuesday, just hours before the president's State of the Union address to Congress.
CNN has learned that Lewinsky's attorney plans to seek a delay in grand jury testimony she is supposed to give Tuesday. A delay would give Starr's office and Lewinsky's team more time to negotiate.
Lewinsky's lawyer, William Ginsburg, has said she would take the Fifth Amendment unless Starr promised not to prosecute her. Ginsburg said on NBC's "Meet The Press" Sunday, "We are delighted, we are dying to tell the story," but Lewinsky must first be granted immunity.
Key sticking points in the ongoing negotiations include Starr's demand that Lewinsky provide a written "proffer" -- a description of exactly what she knows about her claim that the president and his close friend Vernon Jordan asked her to lie.
Ginsburg has so far refused. "They want to know what we can corroborate. I don't see a need for a proffer."
Another complication: For Starr, Lewinsky could become a witness with serious credibility problems.
If she agrees to say she did have a sexual relationship, that would contradict an affidavit in the Paula Jones lawsuit in which she swore that she didn't.
When asked on CNN's "Late Edition" if he would accept a plea bargain for Lewinsky, Ginsburg said, "I don't think so. I think we're prepared to defend her. I can't imagine that this investigation and this effort being put forth by the office of independent counsel really has anything to do with Monica Lewinsky."
Clintons leave church on Sunday
Lewinsky's lawyer's decision to seek the delay in testimony was prompted in part by a news report alleging a previously undisclosed encounter in the White House between Clinton and Lewinsky.
The White House is denying that two key former White House aides witnessed or heard reports that others saw the alleged encounter.
ABC News reported Sunday that, "Several sources have told us that in the spring of 1996 the president and Lewinsky were caught in an intimate encounter in a private area of the White House."
The ABC report did not name who may have witnessed the encounter. Some news organizations apparently asked the White House if former Chief of Staff Leon Panetta or Deputy Chief of Staff Evelyn Lieberman had seen or heard of an encounter.
"We understand that both Mr. Panetta and Ms. Lieberman categorically deny that either of them were given any verbal or other reports concerning, or witnessed, any sexual or intimate encounter between the president and Ms. Lewinsky," said the statement read by White House spokesman Joe Lockhart.
In a similar incident, several sources -- including current and former White House staffers -- told CNN that Clinton and Lewinsky were spotted alone in the East Wing Theater of the White House in 1996, an episode that prompted Lewinsky's transfer soon after to the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, the president's friends hit the airwaves to attempt something of a White House offensive.
Fierce Clinton defender Carville accused Starr of engaging in a campaign against the president, telling NBC's "Meet The Press" Sunday, "There's going to be a war ... between the friends of the president and the independent counsel."
"The friends of the president are disgusted by these kinds of tactics and we're going to fight and we're going to fight very hard to defend this president," Carville said.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Roy Romer urged the public to reserve judgment until the president is able to defend himself. Clinton has "denied these charges and I believe him," Romer told CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday.
"We need to have facts on table. The president has said that he's going to cooperate. and I think we all need to reserve judgment. You know the single most important thing I can say is slow down the rush to judgment," Romer said.
First lady Hillary Clinton is still taking charge of strategy on the White House response to the allegations. Sources say she is a strong proponent of an early and visible response, and they confirm she is advising Clinton aides and friends who have been seen on various talk shows throughout the weekend.
According to one source, Mrs. Clinton is "calm and positive" when taking calls from friends who want to help by networking or through the media. She reminds them they have been through this before and that her husband has "opponents." Friends are then reaching out to those appearing in the media to aid in the response.
Nevertheless, some of Clinton's closest friends in and out of government are wondering if the president can survive this scandal.
Sources tell CNN that Clinton has told aides he had a "special" and "emotional" relationship with Lewinsky, and that he called her several times.
Several sources have told CNN they believe the president almost certainly did have a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and have begun to talk among themselves about the possibility of a resignation.
Still, they say the president and the first lady are determined to fight the allegations and, according to CNN sources, no one has recommended that Clinton resign.
Since Friday, CNN has talked with more than a dozen close Clinton associates who have concluded that the president probably did engage in sex with Lewinsky. At the same time, they say they do not believe he conspired with Jordan to encourage her to lie about it under oath.
Those associates consider the Clinton presidency to be in deep peril.
"Things are moving so quickly, it's almost getting out of control," said one associate of the president.
However, senior White House officials Saturday denied there is any talk of resignation and say they believe the president.
In a dramatic move, the president reached out to some of his closest former advisers for urgent help. Among them is former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, who has agreed to become a lead counsel in the president's defense, and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes.
Meanwhile, Republicans say they will continue to withhold judgment on the allegations and on whether the controversy affects Clinton's ability to govern. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said, "Certainly all of this has got to be a distraction to any human being."
And a key Republican said evidence of a sexual relationship between the president and the intern would be shocking but most likely not grounds for impeachment proceedings.
Rep. Henry Hyde told CNN's "Late Edition," "I think suborning perjury, I think tampering with witnesses, I think obstructing justice might well be considered impeachable offenses, but a matter of having sex in the White House, I don't think so."
CNN correspondents Bob Franken and John King contributed to this report.