Clinton Prepares For His Historic Grand Jury Testimony
Panel hears from more Secret Service personnel in Lewinsky inquiry
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 13) -- President Bill Clinton hunkered down with his private attorneys Thursday afternoon to prepare for graphic questions about his personal life, as the Lewinsky inquiry headed toward a what could be an important turning point.
As the countdown toward his grand jury testimony Monday continues, the frustration level among Clinton's top political aides appears to be growing.
"We anticipate being in the same position we've been in all along," said White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry. "We suffer at the mercy of the lawyers, and if they've got information to pass on, we pass it on. We press them to try to get answers."
The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll shows 71 percent of the American public believe it would be relevant if the president lied under oath in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. And more than half -- 56 percent -- say that alone would be enough to consider removing Clinton from office. In his Jones deposition, Clinton denied a sexual relationship with ex-White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Peter Kostopulos, a former federal prosecutor, said if Clinton changes his story next week, he would be legally liable for perjury in the Jones case, "but the perjury is not of sufficiently egregious nature to warrant an impeachment of the president, whereas on the other hand if he lies to the grand jury on Monday, that would be grounds for impeachment."
The White House agrees with recent poll results that the public is tired of the Lewinsky story, accusing reporters of simply playing a game.
"Does the president think this is a game?" McCurry was asked.
"I don't know," McCurry said. "I haven't talked to him about it, but I think most people around here think a lot of this is a game and sometimes they think it's pretty childish."
A presidential adviser says the latest poll numbers are consistent with internal White House polls and tend to strengthen the hand of those arguing against any full-scale presidential explanation or confession after Clinton testifies. | Voter's Voice: What Should Clinton Say?
For Independent Counsel Ken Starr, the president's testimony could well be the final piece of the puzzle. Now, say sources familiar with the investigation, comes the anticipated report to Congress required by law if Starr thinks there is enough to warrant consideration of impeachment.
An individual familiar with the internal discussions in the independent counsel's office says Starr's recent leave of absence from his private law firm was motivated at least in part by his intense desire "to get this done."
CNN has been told that Starr is personally pushing his staff to finish the report by the time Congress returns from its August recess.
But congressional leadership sources tell CNN they are 99 percent certain that the House will take only initial steps toward a congressional inquiry this year, even if Starr's report contained significant evidence of wrongdoing.
Given the potential explosive nature of pursuing impeachment, House Speaker Newt Gingrich is said to be in no rush to deal with Starr's report. In fact, the speaker told lawmakers before the August recess to "...just listen when this issue comes up. Don't say anything reckless."
Sources confirm to CNN there is already a draft report "several hundred pages" long, held under heavy security. Its main thrust, sources say, is overwhelmingly the Monica Lewinsky matter, not the Whitewater real estate development land deal, not the firings of White House travel office employees and not the FBI files matter. All are areas that Starr also was charged with investigating.
"The likelihood is that whatever he found in that area does not directly implicate the president in any serious activity sufficient to warrant legal action," said Mark Biros, former Watergate committee counsel.
Legal sources point out that the potential report to Congress must focus singularly on Clinton's conduct. Almost all of the allegations directed at the president have to do with accusations about a sexual relationship Lewinsky claims she had with Clinton, and whether the president lied under oath about it in his January deposition to Paula Jones' attorneys, as well as whether Clinton directed efforts to illegally cover up a relationship.
Of course, there is always the possibility there will be no report to Congress, that Starr will decide there were no indications of impeachable offenses, but sources say that unless the president's testimony causes some amazing turnaround, the possibility of no report is slim indeed.
The Lewinsky grand jury resumed its work Thursday, with more testimony from Secret Service personnel. Four members of the agency appeared in rapid-fire fashion.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Bob Franken contributed to this report.