Grand Jury Convenes Without Lewinsky Testimony
Mrs. Clinton says attack is a 'right-wing conspiracy'
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 27) -- A federal grand jury convened Tuesday to consider whether President Bill Clinton and his confidant Vernon Jordan, a Washington lawyer, urged Monica Lewinsky to lie about an alleged sexual relationship with the president.
But Lewinsky's scheduled appearance before the panel was put off while her lawyer and Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr work on a possible immunity deal.
In another development, a federal judge ruled that a sealed deposition in which Clinton denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky must be turned over to the grand jury in Washington, D.C.
Judge Susan Webber Wright granted Starr's motion to have Paula Jones' lawyers turn over the deposition as well as a Lewinsky affidavit in which the former White House intern denied having a sexual relationship with the president and that Clinton and Jordan tried to get her to lie about an affair.
These documents may help Starr pursue charges of possible perjury, suborning perjury and obstruction of justice against the president.
Meanwhile, the White House is ratcheting up its attacks against Starr as first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton blamed "a vast right-wing conspiracy" for the latest accusations against her husband over his alleged sexual affair with the former White House intern. Starr dismissed the charge as "nonsense."
The Whitewater grand jury received documents and heard testimony Tuesday in apparently its first look at the Lewinsky investigation.
Clinton's private secretary, Betty Currie, who was subpoenaed to appear before Starr's Whitewater grand jury, exited the federal courthouse Tuesday afternoon without comment to the press. The president's friend and advisor Jordan was also subpoenaed, but he is not expected to appear before the panel Tuesday.
Starr had been expected to postpone the testimony of both high-profile figures because he didn't want to be accused of attempting to interfere with the president's State of the Union speech, according to one source.
John Whitehead, an attorney for Paula Jones, delivered the subpoenaed documents to the Washington grand jury, but would not say if Clinton's deposition in the Jones case was included. In the sworn testimony, Clinton denied having an affair with Lewinsky.
Whitehead did not testify before the grand jury. The Washington lawyer is also president of the Rutherford Institute, which is paying Jones' legal bills.
In defending the president, the White House is reverting to a time-tested strategy of denying the charge, attacking the accuser and, finally, making the case that there are more important things at stake than the president's personal conduct and character. While criticizing Lewinsky publicly is taboo at the Clinton White House, administration officials and Democratic allies are upping the volume in questioning Starr's motives.
In an interview on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton blamed her husband's latest troubles on a "vast right-wing conspiracy" that's part of a political agenda that has dogged them for years.
When asked how she could be so calm about the firestorm swirling around her husband, the first lady replied, "I guess I've just been through it so many times."
"I mean," she said, "Bill and I have been accused of everything, including murder, by some of the very same people who are behind these allegations."
"I just believe that a lot of this is deliberately designed to sensationalize charges against my husband because everything else they have tried has failed. And, I also believe that it is part of an effort, very frankly, to undo the results of two elections," she continued.
Mrs. Clinton said when all the facts are known, "some folks are going to have a lot to answer for." "The best thing to do in these cases is to be patient, take a deep breath and the truth will come out," she said. "I'm just willing to wait patiently until the truth comes out."
In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Starr dismissed the charge. He wrote, "The first lady today accused this Office of being part of a 'vast right-wing conspiracy.' That is nonsense."
"Our investigation is being carried out by highly experienced federal prosecutors, FBI agents, and other law-enforcement professionals, with major decisions made through a deliberative process. We are working to complete the inquiry as quickly and thoroughly as possible," Starr said.
But Lewinsky's attorney, William Ginsburg, said he "appreciated Mrs. Clinton's comments this morning." Said Ginsburg: "I thought her performance was dignified. I thought it was very well put and thought her insightful analysis was ethical."
Sources tell CNN no immunity deal has been reached yet between Lewinsky's attorney and Starr's office, but say the two sides are making progress and are getting close.
Ginsburg on Monday gave Starr a summary, or proffer, of what the 24-year-old woman would tell a federal grand jury in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Ginsburg said Tuesday morning he was still waiting for word from Starr's staff about what the special prosecutor intends to do.
After eight hours of discussions with Lewinsky, Ginsburg told reporters Monday the ball was now in Starr's court. "He has indicated he will consider our complete proffer and he will then call us back and tell us what he wants to do," said Ginsburg.
He and Starr both declined to comment on the substance of the proffer or when a decision could be made. Presumably, Lewinsky would be granted immunity in exchange for backing away from her earlier sworn denial of a sexual relationship with the president.
Lewinsky has denied in a previous sworn affidavit for the Jones lawsuit that there was a sexual relationship between her and the president or that the president or his friends asked her to lie about an affair. But she told a friend, ex-White House staffer Linda Tripp, intimate details of such an affair in conversations Tripp tape-recorded, one at the request of Starr.
Starr has issued subpoenas to a number of key figures in the case, including Jordan; Currie, the president's personal secretary; former deputy chief of staff Evelyn Lieberman, who arranged for the intern's transfer to the Pentagon; and several former White House interns who worked with Lewinsky.
His office also has issued a subpoena for a wide range of White House documents linked to the allegations.
As CNN reported last week, Lewinsky visited the White House in December after receiving a subpoena in the Jones case. The New York Times reported Tuesday that Clinton met privately with Lewinsky during that visit.
CNN has reported that administration sources and others involved in the case say the president spoke to Lewinsky last month; it is unclear whether this conversation is the same conversation referred to by the Times.
Sources tell CNN that as the White House compiles a chronology of Lewinsky's comings and goings, Clinton has confirmed to his attorneys that he spoke to Lewinsky but forcefully denied any sexual relationship or effort to get her to lie to lawyers representing Paula Jones.
According to one of these sources, Currie told the president that Lewinsky had been subpoenaed in the Jones lawsuit and was despondent. This source said Clinton "felt sorry she had been dragged into the Jones case" but was unaware of the substance of any conversation the president had with her.
Said this source: "He has adamantly denied telling her to lie, or commit perjury, or anything like that."
The Washington Post on Tuesday reproduced a personal ad allegedly placed in the paper last Valentine's Day by Lewinsky and intended for Clinton.
The paper said the Feb. 14 Valentine's Day ad, addressed to "Handsome" from "M" and quoting "Romeo and Juliet," was placed by Lewinsky, according to a series of secret tapes that former White House employee Linda Tripp made of conversations she had with Lewinsky.
The text of the ad read: "With love's flight wings did/I o'er perch these walls:/For stony limits cannot hold/love out,/And what love can do that/dares love attempt; -- Romeo and Juliet 2:2.
It concluded, "Happy Valentine's Day."
The Dallas Morning News retracted an online article shortly after it was published late Monday, in which an unidentified source told the paper a Secret Service agent was prepared to testify he saw Clinton and Lewinsky in a compromising situation.
The paper said in a statement posted on its online edition that the report was pulled because "the source for the story, a longtime Washington lawyer familiar with the case, later said the information provided for that report was inaccurate."
The grand jury convened a day after Clinton denied with force and anger the allegations of a sexual relationship.
"I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," he said at the White House on Monday, wagging his finger for emphasis.
"I never told anybody to lie, not a single time -- never. These allegations are false and I need to go back to work for the American people," the president said before returning to work on his State of the Union speech to Congress on Tuesday.
Shortly before Clinton began his State of the Union address, a married Portland man who claims he had a five-year affair with Lewinsky emerged to say he's turning documents from her over to Starr's investigation.
Andy Bleiler stood with his wife and lawyer, Terry Giles, who said the affair began after Lewinsky graduated high school and went on for two years while she was at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
Lewinsky, according to Giles, claimed she was having oral sex with a "high-ranking White House official," and that she was "frustrated" that oral sex was all he wanted to have. Lewinsky also said, according to Giles, that after she had left the White House for the Pentagon that she was pregnant and had an abortion.
The lawyer noted that Bleiler and his wife were reluctant to believe Lewinsky because she had a tendency for "twisting facts" to enhance her self-importance.
They declined to describe the items they planned to turn over to Starr on Wednesday, other than to say they were documents and photographs (though none of Lewinsky and the president pictured together).
Lewinsky's lawyer, William Ginsburg, blasted Giles' assertions and criticized Bleiler for "having sex with a teenager." He told CNN: "This reminds me of the Joey Buttafuoco affair. This whole issue was staged and is irrelevant." Ginsburg denied that an abortion occurred.
"This man's credibility and the relevance of what he has to say is so highly questionable that I discount everything that he has stated," said Ginsburg.
CNN's Bob Franken and John King contributed to this report.