What Do We Know In The Lewinsky Controversy
By Brooks Jackson/CNN
WASHINGTON (March 13) -- After weeks of scandal, talk, accusations and more talk, what do we really know about Monica Lewinsky's relationship with President Bill Clinton? Maybe less than you think.
Was there obstruction of justice? Perjury? Lying about sex in the Oval Office? The president says no.
"I never told anybody to lie. Not a single time. Never," Clinton said.
Was there sex?
Start by asking, was there sex to lie about? The president has testified under oath there was no sex of any kind.
Monica Lewinsky also swore in an affidavit there was no sex, and her own lawyer says that's still her story.
"We stand by the literal words of the affadavit," Lawyer Bill Ginsburg said on CNN's Larry King Live.
And despite some false news reports about a White House steward and a former Secret Service agent, not a single witness has testified of any first-hand knowledge of anything close to sex between the president and Lewinsky, so far as we know.
There were tapes
We know there were the tapes Linda Tripp made of conversations with her onetime friend Lewinsky. But the only direct quotes from those tapes come from brief excerpts published by Newsweek several weeks ago.
Newsweek listened to one 90-minute tape. But Tripp made 17 tapes, totalling perhaps 20 hours. In the portion Newsweek published, Lewinsky never claims, in so many words, to have had sex with the president.
Lewinsky says, for example, "Nobody saw him give me any of those things and nobody saw anything happen between us."
Several news organizations reported that Lewinsky did claim to Tripp she had oral sex with the president, but it's not on any tape that's come out so far.
There were visits
We do know the 50-something president had a close relationship with the 20-something former intern.
We know there were visits. White House records, shown to reporters, show Lewinsky was cleared to enter the White House 37 times while working at the Pentagon often by the president's personal secretary Betty Currie.
Clinton himself testified he may have seen Lewinsky four or five times, perhaps even alone.
There were gifts
We know the president gave Lewinsky a book of poetry which many have identified as Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." Lewinsky's lawyer has told us that Clinton signed the book.
The president also testified, during his deposition in the Paula Jones civil rights case, he gave Lewinsky trinkets from the Black Dog gift shop on Martha's Vineyard, perhaps including a long tee-shirt.
There was a proffer
We know Lewinsky is offering to testify there was oral sex, if given immunity from prosecution, particularly for committing possible perjury in the earlier affidavit denying any sex. That's in a written proffer her attorney has given to prosecutors, according to undisputed news reports by CNN and many others.
But it's far from clear what else is in the proffer, especially regarding presidential friend Vernon Jordan.
For example, the New York Times reported that Lewinsky is offering to testify that Jordan did not instruct her to lie, but did stand silent when she told him she intended to lie.
Others have reported Lewinsky is ready to accuse Jordan of encouraging her to be evasive. Which is it? The proffer itself remains secret.
Was there a coverup?
If there was sex, was there a coverup?
We know Jordan did go to remarkable lengths for Lewinsky, and kept the president informed. "I helped Monica Lewinsky find private employment in New York," Jordan said on Jan. 23.
Jordan met four times with Lewinsky in his office, and made roughly 10 phone calls on her behalf, according to an authoritative account to reporters by a Jordan associate.
Jordan lined up a lawyer, drove her to meet him, lined up a job offer from Revlon in New York. Jordan says it was Currie who asked him to help Lewinsky find a job, though he presumed the request originated with the president, and he kept the president informed. But Jordan denies even intimating that anyone should lie.
Coverup? Who knows? Unusual? Absolutely.
There is plenty of doubt about the president's story. Doubts he encourages by promising, then failing, to give a full public explanation. But, on the basis of what's really know publicly, there's no strong evidence, let alone proof of any crime.