Sources: Clinton Admits Sexual Relationship, Refuses To Tell Details
Starr reserves the right to subpoena the president
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 17) -- President Bill Clinton candidly acknowledged a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky during his historic testimony before Independent Counsel Ken Starr's grand jury, sources familiar with Monday's session told CNN. But Clinton refused to give detailed answers to a few questions he considered highly intrusive, the sources say.
Starr informed David Kendall, Clinton's lead attorney, that he reserved the right to review the record and request detailed answers to the questions the president declined to answer, sources say.
If the president again refused to provide the answers, sources say, the independent counsel left open the possibility he would subpoena Clinton.
But Kendall has told White House aides that he considers it highly unlikely that Starr would actually subpoena the president, CNN has learned.
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Kendall does not believe the specifics Starr wants are material to the investigation. He also told White House aides the American people would "find it revolting" if they knew the nature of the details the independent counsel had requested.
Clinton testified voluntarily, the first sitting president to testify for a grand jury looking at his behavior.
On Monday night, the president publicly admitted an "inappropriate" and "wrong" relationship with Lewinsky in a four-minute speech to the nation.
Clinton tells staff, Democrats of his confession
After completing a nearly 5 1/2 hour session before the grand jury, Clinton met with his political advisers to inform them that he had admitted a sexual relationship with Lewinsky.
White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles also telephoned several senior Democrats on Capitol Hill and around the country to tell them about the president's admission, several Democratic sources told CNN.
In what could be the opening salvo of the Lewinsky controversy's next phase, Kendall had harsh words for Starr's investigation immediately after Clinton testified.
"We are hopeful that the president's testimony will finally bring closure to the independent counsel's more than four year, over $40 million investigation, which has culminated in an investigation of the president's private life," Kendall declared.
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Once Starr has wrapped up his investigation, the Independent Counsel statute mandates that he present a report of wrongdoing to Congress if he has found evidence of it.
If Starr does submit a report, the next phase of the Lewinsky scandal will move from the legal arena to the political battlefield and the public's opinion of Starr may weigh heavily on the minds of the electorate.
A grim-faced Starr and his team left the White House Monday without commenting about 6:30 p.m. EDT.
Top aides feel angry and betrayed
Top presidential aides, some of them very angry, said Monday morning that they hoped and fully expected the president would come clean with the American people Monday night.
"He's got to take a deep breath and say it, whatever the truth," said one senior official. "Enough is enough."
Mickey Kantor, a close friend and private attorney to the president, arrives at the White House Monday.
They said the president will continue to insist that in his mind he did not engage in full-scale "sexual relations" with Lewinsky or have an "affair" with her. He denied both in his Jan. 17 deposition for the now-dismissed Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit.
Some of Clinton's senior advisers say they feel deeply disappointed that the president has waited so long to explain his relationship with Lewinsky.
A few even say privately they feel betrayed.
White House aides also say they are hoping Monday's testimony, followed by the televised address to the nation, will mark the beginning of "closure" of this chapter in Clinton's presidency.
A cautious response from Hill Democrats
Senior White House political aides also began calling leading congressional Democrats Monday morning, pushing the idea that the testimony would allow the Clinton Administration to get back to business and asking them to come out in support of the president. But sources tell CNN the initial response was one of caution.
Two top Democratic congressional staffers said they were in an
wait-and-see posture. They said the White House aides contacting them were not able to provide any details of what the president was prepared to say under oath.
"Our members have gone out there on blind faith for seven months and it now appears they are going to be betrayed," said one of the Democratic sources.
On the Republican side, tough talk has been mixed with words of compassion for the president.
"If the president has subverted that system which he was sworn to uphold, any president in that situation, I believe, would be susceptible to impeachment, you know, in my view, any president should consider resigning," says Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.).
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), said Monday if the president tells the truth about his relationship with Lewinsky and was not involved in subornation of perjury, he would not support impeachment.
"I personally hope it works out well for the president, but if he doesn't tell the truth ... let's say that the president testifies today and says that and denies this. Many believe that would be baldface perjury under oath," Hatch warned. "If that happens, Katie bar the door, I don't know what's going to happen."
Security tight for historic testimony
The grand jury and the president sat 13 blocks apart; Clinton in the White House Map Room before a live, closed-circuit TV camera, and the grand jury in the federal courthouse.
The grand jury which normally meets on the third floor of the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse watched the feed from the second-floor courtroom of federal Judge Norma Holloway Johnson.
The president was accompanied by his personal lawyers, as well as White House Counsel Charles Ruff. Normally, witnesses' attorneys are not permitted to be present during grand jury testimony.
The questioning was probably left almost entirely to Starr's more experienced career prosecutors.
In the grand jury room at the courthouse, the witness normally sits at the end of a conference table. On Monday, that spot was occupied by a television set showing a live image of Clinton.
The White House Communications Agency, the military unit which provides the cameras and microphones for all presidential appearances, used sophisticated equipment to keep the television feed secure.
The testimony was sent via fiber optic cable, which runs underground and is far more secure than satellite or microwave transmissions.
There were encryption devices at both ends. The transmission was scrambled at the White House, unscrambled at the courthouse and was virtually impossible to tap.
A White House official says the technology is similar to that used by the Pentagon and the White House for video conferencing on issues of national security.
"It would require a concerted effort of a number of scientists for a long period of time with a very smart computer, with some knowledge of the content of the signals to begin with, to be able to decode it and display it," says Dennis Dunbar, the chief executive of Information Super Station.
If there were any questions from the jurors, they were to be relayed through the prosecutor by telephone to Starr's staff at the White House. Another unique aspect is that the entire testimony was videotaped.
"That's a question of whether that becomes a presidential record or becomes a court document, a grand jury document, which is protected by grand jury Rule 6(e) proceedings," White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said. "Now whether that then becomes a presidential document, I'm not enough of an archivist or presidential historian to know."
Sources tell CNN that Johnson, the presiding judge, was at the courthouse, but was not expected to watch unless a legal battle develops, requiring her to make a ruling.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Bob Franken, John King and Frank Sesno contributed to this report.