New Details Of Clinton's Jones Deposition Leaked
President reacts critically while his lawyers threaten legal action
By John King/CNN
WASHINGTON (March 5) -- New details from President Bill Clinton's deposition in the Paula Jones lawsuit show Monica Lewinsky featured prominently in the questioning of the president. The leaked information has angered the White House, and Clinton's personal lawyers are threatening legal action.
Sources close to the White House legal team confirm to CNN that during his sworn testimony, Clinton acknowledged he was aware of efforts by his friend Vernon Jordan to find Lewinsky a private sector job and that he had a relationship with her that included gift exchanges and possibly some meetings alone.
The president also acknowledged he had at least one conversation with Lewinsky about the Jones case.
But these sources say the president ruled out any sexual relationship with Lewinsky, and that his denial was based on a written definition of sexual relations provided to him by attorneys for Jones near the outset of the deposition.
The Washington Post reported in detail on Clinton's deposition in Thursday's editions, and CNN confirmed much of the report in two subsequent conversations with sources close to the White House legal team.
One of these sources said administration officials were "stunned" that such a detailed accounting of the deposition was made public and suggested the initial leak must have come from either the office of Independent Counsel Ken Starr or the Jones legal team.
Starr denied that his office was responsible for leaks in a statement Thursday. "This office has received questions about whether we were the source of today's Washington Post story. We categorically deny that we were either directly or indirectly the source of the story," the statement said.
Clinton neither confirmed or denied the reported details of his testimony, but reacted angrily to the violation of Judge Susan Webber Wright's gag order. "The court has made it absolutely clear that it is illegal to leak or to discuss it," the president told reporters Thursday afternoon. (288K wav sound)
Clinton said he had not read the Post article, so could not comment on its accuracy. "Whether it is [accurate] or not, it is against the law. The judge has ordered us neither to release such materials or discuss them. Somebody in this case ought to follow the law. I intend to be that person, so that I can go back to work," Clinton said. (352K wav sound)
The president's private attorneys are threatening legal action against those responsible. "We intend to seek appropriate judicial relief," attorneys Robert Bennett, David Kendall and Mickey Kantor said in a joint statement.
Clinton's attorneys intend to file formal complaints with the judges overseeing the Jones case as well as the Lewinsky grand jury investigation over the leaked report.
"The leaking of the President's sealed deposition, obviously by antagonists of the President, is a reprehensible and unethical act," they said. "It is disrespectful to Judge Wright who placed the deposition under seal because she is trying to conduct a fair proceeding and protect the impartiality of the jury. It also interferes with the ability of Chief Judge [Norma Holloway] Johnson to maintain the requisite secrecy of grand jury matters."
The president's lawyers deny they were the source of the leaked story. "We are obviously not the source either directly or indirectly of today's Washington Post story," they said. "We have and will continue to reject the requests for a copy of Paula Jones's deposition because we respect the wishes of the courts and play by the rules."
Jones attorney David Pyke also denied being the source. "We did not release any portion of the president's deposition and tire of these continued unfounded accusations," Pyke told CNN.
Bennett admitted that tracing the source of a leak is difficult. "As all of you know, it is almost impossible to determine how these things get leaked but there can be doubt that the antagonists of the president -- those who want to hurt him and hurt him badly -- have done this," the president's attorney told reporters while leaving the federal courthouse Thursday afternoon on unrelated business.
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said he had no knowledge of the source of the leaks, but Clinton's response was appropriate.
"I am going to stick with the president," McCurry said. "The president has made it clear the reasons why we can't talk about this. The judge has specifically forbid discussion of what's in depositions in that case because of her gag order. I can't talk about it."
The detailed accounting of Clinton's testimony is not inconsistent in any major way with previously known details of the Lewinsky investigation. But it paints a vivid picture of how questioning about Lewinsky was a major, if not dominant topic, of the president's extraordinary sworn testimony in the Jones case.
It also points up how Jones' lawyers were able to question the president in detail because of their meeting the night before with Lewinsky's Pentagon co-worker, Linda Tripp.
Among the details included in the Post account and confirmed
Clinton testified that Jordan kept him informed of his
efforts to help Lewinsky find a job, an account consistent,
sources tell CNN, with Jordan's grand jury testimony. But
Clinton said Jordan's efforts were initiated by his White
House secretary, Betty Currie, who had befriended Lewinsky.
Jordan has told associates he inferred that Clinton
asked Currie to seek his help.
Clinton testified that Lewinsky on several occasions sent
him gifts and notes through Currie, including a tie and at
least one book, and he reciprocated by sending her
gifts, possibly including a hat pin, brooch and other items,
among them a book of Walt Whitman poetry that White House
sources previously have said was also sent to other White
Clinton flatly denied having any sexual relationship with
Lewinsky but said he recalled meeting her on a handful of
occasions and that it was possible they were alone a few
times, though Currie or others were nearby.
Near the outset of the deposition, as has been previously
reported, Jones' lawyers provided Clinton with a written
definition of what they would consider sexual relations for
the context of the deposition. It included fondling, oral
sex and physical contact designed to cause sexual arousal,
but not kissing or hugging.
That definition was used not only in regard to Lewinsky;
Clinton also denied any sexual relationship with Shelia
Lawrence, the widow of former ambassador and Democratic
fund-raiser Larry Lawrence.
As previously reported, Clinton acknowledged a sexual
encounter with Gennifer Flowers in the late 1970s but denied
her allegations of a 12-year relationship. Clinton also
denied groping former White House aide Kathleen Willey, who
has given a sworn statement in the Jones case.
Sources tell CNN Clinton's account confirms a
chronology of events that shows he discussed with Lewinsky
in late December the possibility she might be called as a
witness in the Jones case. One of the sources confirmed the
Post account that Clinton testified he was first told of
that possibility by confidant Bruce Lindsey. The president
testified that his conversation with Lewinsky about testifying was
brief and in the presence of Currie.
The Post said Clinton recalled that his last meeting
with Lewinsky was just before Christmas, while sources have
told CNN and other news outlets they met on Dec. 28.
One of the sources contacted by CNN early Thursday said "the
president has subsequently seen the records and had his
memory refreshed.It was an innocent mistake over a couple
CNN's Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.