Defense, prosecution plot best use of videotapes
Lewinsky's deposition both helps and hurts Clinton
February 5, 1999
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, February 5) -- President Bill Clinton's lawyers and the House prosecution team are making their final preparations for Saturday's battle of the sound bites, when both sides will use excerpts from the videotaped witness depositions to make their summations of the evidence.
Judging from the transcripts of Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan and Sidney Blumenthal's testimony released Friday, both sides will have material to offer the Senate impeachment trial, as the few new details revealed during the depositions both help and hurt the president.
While the House managers plans to use excerpts from all three depositions to make their case that Clinton committed perjury and obstruction of justice, their focus will be on the Lewinsky tape.
"For the first time, the Senate and the people of the United States of American are going to get a chance to meet Monica Lewinsky the person," Rep. James Rogan (R-California) said.
In some areas the former intern helped the prosecution's case, casting doubt on Clinton's sworn grand jury testimony in which he told her she might have to turn over gifts he gave her if they were subpoenaed. Lewinsky also insisted that it was indeed Clinton's secretary Betty Currie who initiated the hiding of the gifts.
But in testimony that should be beneficial to the president, Lewinsky insisted that the president did not coach her to file a false affidavit in the Paula Jones case and refused to say that Clinton lied in his testimony concerning the nature of their relationship.
Lewinsky admitted in her testimony that she has "mixed feelings" for Clinton.
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White House officials who have reviewed the videotaped depositions say they are not worried about any dramatic reaction from senators or the American public.
One source close to the White House legal team said Lewinsky had several exchanges with Rep. Ed Bryant that the White House was considering showing in the Senate to support its argument that Republicans are unfairly biased against the president. This source said Bryant several times suggested Lewinsky was shading her testimony to protect the president, and that she calmly responded that she was telling the truth.
Of the three witnesses, the officials said Jordan's tone is most troublesome for the White House. The source says, "From an information standpoint there is nothing dramatically new, and not much different in the visual version than the written transcript." But this source said Jordan in several exchanges comes across as "agitated and arrogant."
White House officials had worried Blumenthal might lose his cool or come across as irritable, but the source said, "Sidney did more than fine. Everyone is impressed at how Sidney stayed low key."
From an evidence standpoint, Jordan and Blumenthal stuck closely to their testimony in previous grand jury appearances as well.
Jordan did admit he had breakfast with Lewinsky on December 31 when confronted with a receipt from the meal. He denied, though, that he told Lewinsky to destroy notes she had drafted to the president. Lewinsky testified that she interpreted a remark from Jordan as a suggestion that she get rid of the notes.
During her deposition Monday -- the twenty-third time she has been questioned in the scandal -- Lewinsky was careful in her testimony. "Her words were carefully chosen and relatively few," said Bryant (R-Tennessee), who deposed the former intern.
Still, Lewinsky revealed a conflict in previous testimony about the gifts the president gave to her. Clinton told the grand jury that he had told her to turn over whatever she had. Lewinsky, however, said she could not recall him saying that.
Asked about a December 28, 1997, meeting with Clinton, during which they discussed what to do with the gifts, Lewinsky replied, "And as I've testified numerously, his response was either ranging from no response to 'I don't know' or 'Let me think about it.'"
Later that day, Currie came to Lewinsky's apartment to pick up the gifts. House prosecutors concluded that Clinton sent his secretary to get them, but there is no direct testimony to support that. In Currie's version, Lewinsky called her to initiate the gift exchange.
The White House has attacked the prosecution case on the gift retrieval, especially the House's reliance on a brief phone call from Currie to Lewinsky about 3:30 p.m. that day. White House lawyers noted Lewinsky testified that the transfer took place about 2 p.m.
But in her deposition, Lewinsky said she had additional phone conversations with Currie that day and they discussed "when she was coming." She said her 2 p.m. estimate may have been wrong.
In her testimony, Lewinsky also said that in a middle-of-the-night telephone call initiated by Clinton on December 17, 1997, the president told her she was a potential witness in the Jones suit and suggested that if Lewinsky filed an affidavit, she might not have to testify.
But when asked whether the president suggested what she might say in the affidavit, Lewinsky responded, "There was no discussion of what would be in an affidavit.
"I don't think I necessarily thought at that point it would have to be false," Lewinsky added.
House prosecutors are trying to prove the president's efforts to find Lewinsky a job were linked to her filing a false affidavit denying their affair and that the hiding of gifts he had given her was part of a scheme by Clinton to obstruct justice.
Jordan, Lewinsky conflict on notes
Lewinsky repeated her testimony that she "got rid of some notes" she had written to the president after she got the impression during a December 31, 1997 breakfast with Jordan that he wanted her to destroy them.
"I believe he (Jordan) said something like, 'Well, go home and make sure they're not there,'" Lewinsky testified. And that's what she did.
In his Tuesday deposition, Jordan was questioned about that meeting for the first time. He had previously denied having breakfast with Lewinsky at Washington's Park Hyatt hotel, but a credit card receipt backed her version.
Jordan still swore he couldn't remember it, but did testify, "I do not deny, despite my testimony before the grand jury, that on December 31st that I was there with Ms. Lewinsky."
In any case, Jordan strongly denied he suggested Lewinsky destroy evidence. "I'm a lawyer and I'm a loyal friend, but I'm not a fool," he testified. "And the notion that I would suggest to anybody that they destroy anything just defies anything that I know about myself. So the notion that I said to her go home and destroy notes is ridiculous."
Prosecutor: Lewinsky bent truth
Bryant said Friday Lewinsky's testimony was "tainted" by her desire to protect the president.
"She told the truth as she could," Bryant told CNN, "but ... where she could bend something or slant something, she certainly did that because she still remains a very loyal supporter of the president."
During the deposition, Bryant pressed Lewinsky time and again to agree with the managers' interpretations that Clinton perjured himself when he denied he had sexual relations with Lewinsky, as defined in the Jones case. Lewinsky refused, though, to characterize the president's testimony as false, even where it conflicted with hers.
In her testimony, Lewinsky was asked whether she still had "feelings for the president," a year after she was thrust unwillingly into the impeachment drama.
"I have mixed feelings," she replied. She answered "yes" twice when asked if she still admired the president and appreciated "what he is doing for this country as the president."
On another occasion, Lewinsky bristled at the way Bryant referred to her relationship with Clinton. He said, "I want to refer you to the first so-called salacious occasion ..."
Lewinsky interrupted, saying, "Can -- can we -- can you call it something else? ... I mean, this is -- this is my relationship."
Bryant said House prosecutors on Saturday will play videotape excerpts that "we think proves our case" that Clinton should be removed from office.
"Certainly, the White House will have the opportunity to ... use in their presentation what they think is in their best interest," he said.
House prosecutors have contended that Clinton portrayed Lewinsky as a "stalker."
When Bryant asked, "You never stalked the president, is that correct?" Lewinsky said, "I, I don't think so."
Her answer creates a conflict between Lewinsky and Blumenthal, who told a grand jury Clinton told him Lewinsky was known as a stalker by her peers. Blumenthal also said Clinton told him that Lewinsky came on to him and that he had rebuffed her.
However, when asked if the president was correct when he testified that he had rebuffed her, Lewinsky said that on more than one occasion, the president had rebuffed her.
Rogan asked Blumenthal if "... you believe the president lied to you about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky?" asked Rogan.
"I do," said Blumenthal, who also said Clinton never told him that his initial description of his relationship with Lewinsky was wrong.
CNN's Bob Franken, John King and Brooks Jackson contributed to this report.
Friday, February 5, 1999
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