Clinton Committed To Testify
WASHINGTON (Aug. 10) -- President Bill Clinton's closest aides insist he has absolutely no intention of backing out of his commitment to testify next Monday before Independent Counsel Ken Starr's grand jury.
"It's going to happen," says one top aide.
Clinton strongly rejected the urging of a few influential outside advisers to back out because of their fear of what could be on ex-White House intern Monica Lewinsky's dress. When the president agreed to testify, he did not know that the dress even existed.
The advisors even raised possible excuses: the terrorist bombings in Africa or the weapons standoff with Iraq.
They also cited the investigation into Starr's allegedly leaking secret grand jury information to the news media. The advisors claim Starr can't be trusted to keep what the president says in confidence.
But there's a problem: the president's own words.
"I am looking forward to the opportunity in the next few days of testifying. I will do so completely and truthfully. I am anxious to do it," Clinton said on July 31.
Clinton would face a political and legal firestorm if he canceled.
His lawyers fear he eventually would be compelled by the Supreme Court to testify, unless he took the Fifth Amendment.
"The signal that that sends, though that's his right, the signal that sends to the public as a political matter is quite devastating: 'I can't testify because I might incriminate myself,' " says Bobby Burchfield, former counsel for the Republican National Committee.
Presidential aides also reject, for now, two other strategic moves proposed by some outside supporters:
- Release the so-called "dirt" they have collected on Lewinsky to undermine her credibility;
- Warn Republicans on Capitol Hill that their sex lives also will be fair game if they go after the president's.
One top presidential adviser says those ideas would be "utterly crazy,
strategically stupid and morally repugnant."
That strategy, say lawyers familiar with the investigation, could backfire. For one thing, they say, Lewinsky's secret grand jury testimony included details of her relationship with the president that, if released, could prove even more personally embarrassing and politically destructive to the president.
Presidential friend Thomason to testify
Harry Thomason with his wife,|
Meanwhile, television producer and presidential friend Harry Thomason is scheduled to be among the witnesses appearing Tuesday before the grand jury investigating the Lewinsky allegations.
For more than a month, right after the Lewinsky matter erupted in January, Thomason moved into the White House.
According to White House insiders, Thomason coached the president how to clench his jaw while delivering his strongest denial.
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," Clinton said during a White House ceremony on Jan. 26.
Thomason reportedly feels the president actually flubbed one of the lines. The president wasn't supposed to refer to Lewinsky as "that woman."
Sources have told CNN that Thomason can thank a July New Yorker magazine article about the Lewinsky image-managing machine for his grand jury appearance.
Apparently it raised a number of questions for prosecutors, including did he have any telling conversations with his old friend, the president, some reportedly in the wee hours of the morning walking the grounds of the White House?
Thomason is the producer of such television series as "Designing Women" and "Hearts Afire."
In the past Thomason has taken an active role as image consultant for his friends from Arkansas. He and his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, produced the famous "Man From Hope" video that introduced Clinton to a nationwide audience in 1992.
He also orchestrated the Clintons' New York walk into the 1992 Democratic convention, and was also influential in choreographing the 1996 Chicago convention. Thomason's name has also come up in connection to the infamous firings of White House travel office personnel.
The grand jury will meet only twice this week, Tuesday and Thursday.
While that had been its normal schedule, the frequency had been increased to three sessions a week recently to accommodate the accelerated investigation.
Still to be heard from this week are members of the White House counsel's office. Lewinsky is not expected to resume her testimony, after her appearance last week.
Starr's grand jury is investigating accusations that Clinton had a sexual relationship with the former White House intern and asked her to lie about it under oath.
Clinton has publicly denied the charges, and is expected to repeat those denials during his Aug. 17 testimony. The questioning will take place at the White House, and will be watched live by the grand jury on closed-circuit television.
Meanwhile, in related news, White House aides are taking advantage of the one piece of good news they received last week. A federal appeals court released papers Friday ruling there is evidence that Starr's office is responsible for illegal leaks of grand jury information.
In a not-so-subtle jab, the answering machine of White House counsel Jim Kennedy recently intoned, "This is Jim Kennedy. If you're looking for secret grand jury information you've come to the wrong place. Call 1-800-STARR-LEAKS extension 6E. Otherwise please leave a message. Thank you." (137K wav sound)
Rule 6(e) is the regulation that makes disclosing grand jury secrets illegal.
The U.S. Court of Appeals Friday released details of its ruling that an investigation of alleged news leaks from Starr's office could continue. The ruling requires Starr to counter the allegations that he improperly leaked information from the grand jury probe.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Bob Franken contributed to this report.