An affair of state
At the heart of Kenneth Starr's explicit but coldly clinical report is a furtive sex drama
The sexual encounters between the President and Monica Lewinsky are rendered in explicit though chilly language. While graphic descriptions may be necessary for Kenneth Starr to prove that Clinton had sex with the former intern under any definition (and thus committed perjury), the referral's bald, footnoted narrative reveals even more complex human intimacies. Initiated the week a budget impasse shut down the government, the furtive, sterile affair has brought Washington to a standstill once again. Excerpts from the report:
NOVEMBER 15, 1995
At about 8 p.m., she passed George Stephanopoulos' office. The President was inside alone, and he beckoned her to enter. She told him that she had a crush on him. He laughed, then asked if she would like to see his private office... Ms. Lewinsky testified: "We talked briefly and sort of acknowledged that there had been a chemistry that was there before and that we were both attracted to each other and then he asked me if he could kiss me." Ms. Lewinsky said yes. In the windowless hallway adjacent to the study, they kissed. Before returning to her desk, Ms. Lewinsky wrote down her name and telephone number for the President.
... He invited her to rendezvous again in Mr. Stephanopoulos' office in a few minutes, and she agreed. (Asked if she knew why the President wanted to meet with her, Ms. Lewinsky testified: "I had an idea.") ... According to Ms. Lewinsky, she and the President kissed. She unbuttoned her jacket; either she unhooked her bra or he lifted her bra up; and he touched her breasts with his hands and mouth. Ms. Lewinsky testified: "I believe he took a phone call...and so we moved from the hallway into the back office... [H]e put his hand down my pants and stimulated me manually in the genital area." While the President continued talking on the phone (Ms. Lewinsky understood that the caller was a Member of Congress or a Senator), she performed oral sex on him. He finished his call, and, a moment later, told Ms. Lewinsky to stop. In her recollection: "I told him that I wanted...to complete that. And he said...that he needed to wait until he trusted me more. And then I think he made a joke...that he hadn't had that in a long time."
DECEMBER 31, 1995
Sometime between noon and 1 p.m., in Ms. Lewinsky's recollection, she was in the pantry area of the President's private dining room talking with a White House steward, Bayani Nelvis. She told Mr. Nelvis that she had recently smoked her first cigar, and he offered to give her one of the President's cigars. Just then, the President came down the hallway from the Oval Office and saw Ms. Lewinsky. The President dispatched Mr. Nelvis to deliver something to Mr. Panetta.
According to Ms. Lewinsky, she told the President that Mr. Nelvis had promised her a cigar, and the President gave her one. She told him her name--she had the impression that he had forgotten it in the six weeks since their [previous two] encounters because, when passing her in the hallway, he had called her "Kiddo." The President replied that he knew her name; in fact, he added, having lost the phone number she had given him, he had tried to find her in the phone book.
According to Ms. Lewinsky, they moved to the study [where they had a sexual encounter, their third].
JANUARY 7, 1996
According to Ms. Lewinsky, the President telephoned her early that afternoon. It was the first time he had called her at home... "[W]e made an arrangement that...he would have the door to his office open, and I would pass by the office with some papers and then...he would sort of stop me and invite me in. So, that was exactly what happened. I passed by and that was actually when I saw [Secret Service Uniformed Officer] Lew Fox, who was on duty outside the Oval Office, and stopped and spoke with Lew for a few minutes, and then the President came out and said, oh, hey, Monica...come on in... And so we spoke for about 10 minutes in the [Oval] office. We sat on the sofas. Then we went into the back study and we were intimate in the bathroom."
... Afterward, she and the President moved to the Oval Office and talked. According to Ms. Lewinsky: "[H]e was chewing on a cigar. And then he had the cigar in his hand and he was kind of looking at the cigar in...sort of a naughty way. And so... I looked at the cigar and I looked at him and I said, we can do that, too, sometime."
JANUARY 21, 1996
According to Ms. Lewinsky, she questioned the President about his interest in her. "I asked him why he doesn't ask me any questions about myself, and...is this just about sex...or do you have some interest in trying to get to know me as a person?" The President laughed and said, according to Ms. Lewinsky, that "he cherishes the time that he had with me." She considered it "a little bit odd" for him to speak of cherishing their time together "when I felt like he didn't really even know me yet."
They continued talking as they went to the hallway by the study. Then, with Ms. Lewinsky in mid-sentence, "he just started kissing me." ... At one point during the encounter, someone entered the Oval Office. In Ms. Lewinsky's recollection, "[The President] zipped up real quickly and went out and came back in... I just remember laughing because he had walked out there and he was visibly aroused..."
MARCH 31, 1996
On this occasion, according to Ms. Lewinsky, "he focused on me pretty exclusively," kissing her bare breasts and fondling her genitals. At one point, the President inserted a cigar into Ms. Lewinsky's vagina, then put the cigar in his mouth and said: "It tastes good." After they were finished, Ms. Lewinsky left the Oval Office and walked through the Rose Garden.
She and the President spoke by phone (and had phone sex) but saw each other only at public functions... According to Ms. Lewinsky, she had no physical contact with the President for the rest of 1996. "I wasn't alone with him so when I saw him it was in some sort of event or group setting," she testified.
... Ms. Lewinsky and the President did talk by telephone, especially in her first weeks at the new job [at the Pentagon]. By Ms. Lewinsky's estimate, the President phoned her (sometimes leaving a message) four or five times in the month after she started working at the Pentagon, then two or three times a month thereafter for the rest of 1996.
During the fall 1996 campaign, the President sometimes called from trips when Mrs. Clinton was not accompanying him. During at least seven of the 1996 calls, Ms. Lewinsky and the President had phone sex.
According to Ms. Lewinsky, the President telephoned her at about 6:30 a.m. on July 19, the day he was leaving for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and they had phone sex, after which the President exclaimed, "[G]ood morning!" and then said: "What a way to start a day." ... In Ms. Lewinsky's recollection, she and the President also had phone sex on May 21, July 5 or 6, Oct. 22, and Dec. 2, 1996. On those dates, Mrs. Clinton was in Denver (May 21), Prague and Budapest (July 5-6), Las Vegas (Oct. 22), and en route to Bolivia (Dec. 2).
Ms. Lewinsky repeatedly told the President that she disliked her Pentagon job and wanted to return to the White House. In a recorded conversation, Ms. Lewinsky recounted one call:
"[A] month had passed and--so he had called one night, and I said, "Well," I said, "I'm really unhappy," you know. And [the President] said, "I don't want to talk about your job tonight. I'll call you this week, and then we'll talk about it. I want to talk about other things"--which meant phone sex.
In 1997, with the presidential election past, Ms. Lewinsky and the President resumed their one-on-one meetings and sexual encounters. The President's secretary, Betty Currie, acted as intermediary.
... Ms. Currie testified that she suspected impropriety in the President's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. She told the grand jury that she "had concern." In her words: "[H]e was spending a lot of time with a 24-year-old young lady. I know he has said that young people keep him involved in what's happening in the world, so I knew that was one reason, but there was a concern of mine that she was spending more time than most." Ms. Currie understood that "the majority" of the President's meetings with Ms. Lewinsky were "more personal in nature as opposed to business."
Ms. Currie also testified that she tried to avoid learning details of the relationship between the President and Ms. Lewinsky. On one occasion, Ms. Lewinsky said of herself and the President, "As long as no one saw us--and no one did--then nothing happened." Ms. Currie responded: "Don't want to hear it. Don't say any more. I don't want to hear any more."
Ms. Currie helped keep the relationship secret. When the President wanted to talk with Ms. Lewinsky, Ms. Currie would dial the call herself rather than go through White House operators, who keep logs of presidential calls made through the switchboard. When Ms. Lewinsky phoned and Ms. Currie put the President on the line, she did not log the call, though the standard procedure was to note all calls, personal and professional. According to Secret Service uniformed officers, Ms. Currie sometimes tried to persuade them to admit Ms. Lewinsky to the White House compound without making a record of it.
FEBRUARY 28, 1997
Wearing a navy blue dress from the Gap, Ms. Lewinsky attended [Clinton's weekly] radio address at the President's invitation (relayed by Ms. Currie), then had her photo taken with the President. Ms. Lewinsky had not been alone with the President since she had worked at the White House, and, she testified, "I was really nervous." President Clinton told her to see Ms. Currie after the photo was taken because he wanted to give her something. "So I waited a little while for him and then Betty and the President and I went into the back office," Ms. Lewinsky testified... Once they had passed from the Oval Office toward the private study, Ms. Currie said, "I'll be right back," and walked on to the back pantry or the dining room, where, according to Ms. Currie, she waited for 15 to 20 minutes while the President and Ms. Lewinsky were in the study. Ms. Currie (who said she acted on her own initiative) testified that she accompanied the President and Ms. Lewinsky out of the Oval Office because "I didn't want any perceptions, him being alone with someone."
In the study, according to Ms. Lewinsky, the President "started to say something to me and I was pestering him to kiss me, because...it had been a long time since we had been alone." The President told her to wait a moment, as he had pres- ents for her. As belated Christmas gifts, he gave her a hat pin and a special edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass... Ms. Lewinsky testified that after the President gave her the gifts, they had a sexual encounter:
"... I wanted to perform oral sex on him...and so I did. And then...I think he heard something, or he heard someone in the office. So, we moved into the bathroom.
"And I continued to perform oral sex and then he pushed me away, kind of as he always did before he [ejaculated], and then I stood up and I said...I care about you so much; ... I don't understand why you won't let me...; it's important to me; I mean, it just doesn't feel complete, it doesn't seem right."
Ms. Lewinsky testified that she and the President hugged, and "he said he didn't want to get addicted to me, and he didn't want me to get addicted to him." They looked at each other for a moment. Then, saying that "I don't want to disappoint you," the President consented. For the first time, she performed oral sex through completion.
When Ms. Lewinsky next took the navy blue Gap dress from her closet to wear it, she noticed stains near one hip and on the chest. FBI Laboratory tests revealed that the stains are the President's semen.
MARCH 29, 1997
At the White House, Ms. Currie took her to the study to await the President. He came in on crutches, the result of a knee injury in Florida two weeks earlier.
According to Ms. Lewinsky, their sexual encounter began with a sudden kiss: "[T]his was another one of those occasions when I was babbling on about something, and he just kissed me, kind of to shut me up, I think." The President unbuttoned her blouse and touched her breasts without removing her bra. "[H]e went to go put his hand down my pants, and then I unzipped them because it was easier. And I didn't have any panties on. And so he manually stimulated me." According to Ms. Lewinsky, "I wanted him to touch my genitals with his genitals," and he did so, lightly and without penetration. Then Ms. Lewinsky performed oral sex on him, again until he ejaculated.
According to Ms. Lewinsky, she and the President had a lengthy conversation that day. He told her that he suspected that a foreign embassy (he did not specify which one) was tapping his telephones, and he proposed cover stories. If ever questioned, she should say that the two of them were just friends. If anyone ever asked about their phone sex, she should say that they knew their calls were being monitored all along, and the phone sex was just a put-on.
MAY 24, 1997
According to Ms. Lewinsky, she got a call from Ms. Currie at about 11 a.m. that day, inviting her to come to the White House at about 1 p.m. Ms. Lewinsky arrived wearing a straw hat with the hat pin the President had given her, and bringing gifts for him, including a puzzle and a Banana Republic shirt. She gave him the gifts in the dining room and they moved to the area of the study.
According to Ms. Lewinsky, the President explained that they had to end their intimate relationship. Earlier in his marriage, he told her, he had had hundreds of affairs; but since turning 40, he had made a concerted effort to be faithful. He said he was attracted to Ms. Lewinsky, considered her a great person, and hoped they would remain friends. He pointed out that he could do a great deal for her. The situation, he stressed, was not Ms. Lewinsky's fault. Ms. Lewinsky, weeping, tried to persuade the President not to end the sexual relationship, but he was unyielding, then and subsequently. Although she and the President kissed and hugged thereafter, according to Ms. Lewinsky, the sexual relationship was over.
According to Betty Currie, the President instructed her and [Deputy Assistant to the President] Marsha Scott to help Ms. Lewinsky find a White House job. Ms. Currie testified that she resisted the request, because her opinion of Ms. Lewinsky had shifted over time. At first, she testified, she considered Ms. Lewinsky "a friend" who "had been wronged" and had been "maligned improperly." But "[l]ater on, I considered her as a pain in the neck, more or less." The change of heart resulted in part from Ms. Currie's many phone calls in 1997 from Ms. Lewinsky, who was often distraught and sometimes in tears over her inability to get in touch with the President. Deeming her "a little bit pushy," Ms. Currie argued against bringing Ms. Lewinsky back to work at the White House, but the President told her and Ms. Scott, in Ms. Currie's words, "to still pursue her coming back." Indeed, according to Ms. Currie, the President "was pushing us hard" on the matter. To the best of Ms. Currie's recollection, it was the only time the President instructed her to try to get someone a White House job.
"[V]ery frustrated" over her inability to get in touch with the President to discuss her job situation, Ms. Lewinsky wrote him a peevish letter on July 3, 1997. Opening "Dear Sir," the letter took the President to task for breaking his promise to get her another White House job. Ms. Lewinsky also obliquely threatened to disclose their relationship. If she was not going to return to work at the White House, she wrote, then she would "need to explain to my parents exactly why that wasn't happening."
... On Friday, July 4, 1997, Ms. Lewinsky had what she characterized as a "very emotional" visit with the President ... [T]heir meeting began contentiously, with the President scolding her: "[I]t's illegal to threaten the President of the United States." He then told her that he had not read her July 3 letter beyond the "Dear Sir" line; he surmised that it was threatening because Ms. Currie looked upset when she brought it to him. (Ms. Lewinsky suspected that he actually had read the whole thing.) Ms. Lewinsky complained about his failure to get her a White House job after her long wait. Although the President claimed he wanted to be her friend, she said, he was not acting like it. Ms. Lewinsky began weeping, and the President hugged her. While they hugged, she spotted a gardener outside the study window, and they moved into the hallway by the bathroom.
There, the President was "the most affectionate with me he'd ever been," Ms. Lewinsky testified. He stroked her arm, toyed with her hair, kissed her on the neck, praised her intellect and beauty. In Ms. Lewinsky's recollection: "[H]e remarked...that he wished he had more time for me. And so I said, well, maybe you will have more time in three years. And I was...thinking just when he wasn't President, he was going to have more time on his hands. And he said, well, I don't know, I might be alone in three years. And then I said something about.. us sort of being together. I think I kind of said, oh, I think we'd be a good team, or something like that. And he...jokingly said, well, what are we going to do when I'm 75 and I have to pee 25 times a day? And... I told him that we'd deal with that..."
Ms. Lewinsky testified that "I left that day sort of emotionally stunned," for "I just knew he was in love with me."
Just before leaving, according to Ms. Lewinsky, she told the President "that I wanted to talk to him about something serious and that while I didn't want to be the one to talk about this with him, I thought it was important he know." She informed him that Newsweek was working on an article about Kathleen Willey, a former White House volunteer who claimed that the President had sexually harassed her during a private meeting in the Oval Office on Nov. 23, 1993...
The President responded that the harassment allegation was ludicrous, because he would never approach a small-breasted woman like Ms. Willey.
AUGUST 16, 1997
Ms. Lewinsky testified that she brought birthday gifts for the President (his birthday is August 19): "I had set up in his back office, I had brought an apple square and put a candle and had put his birthday presents out. And after he came back in and I sang happy birthday and he got his presents, I asked him...if we could share a birthday kiss in honor of our birthdays, because mine had been just a few weeks before. So, he said that that was okay and we could kind of bend the rules that day. And so...we kissed."
Ms. Lewinsky touched the President's genitals through his pants and moved to perform oral sex, but the President rebuffed her. In her recollection: "[H]e said, I'm trying not to do this and I'm trying to be good... [H]e got visibly upset."
[On October 11, 1997] Ms. Lewinsky met with the President in the study, and they discussed her job search. Ms. Lewinsky told the President that she wanted to pursue jobs in the private sector, and he told her to prepare a list of New York companies that interested her. Ms. Lewinsky asked the President whether Vernon Jordan, a well-known Washington attorney who she knew was a close friend of the President and had many business contacts, might help her find a job. According to Ms. Lewinsky, the President was receptive to the idea.
... Later, Ms. Lewinsky and [Linda] Tripp discussed their concerns about the President's involvement in Ms. Lewinsky's job search. Specifically, Ms. Lewinsky was nervous about involving the President's chief of staff [Erskine Bowles]:
Ms. Lewinsky: "Well, see, I don't really think--I'm going to tell him that I don't think Erskine should have anything to do with this. I don't think anybody who works there should."
Ms. Tripp: "I don't see how that's--how that's a problem."
Ms. Lewinsky: "Because look at what happened with Webb Hubbell."
... Ms. Tripp: "Well, I don't remember during the Webb Hubbell thing, was Vernon mentioned?"
Ms. Lewinsky: "Yeah, but there's a big difference. I think somebody could construe, okay? Somebody could construe or say, 'Well, they gave her a job to shut her up. They made her happy... And he [Mr. Bowles] works for the government and shouldn't have done that.' And with the other one [Mr. Jordan] you can't say that."
[By early November, unhappy about being pushed into a U.N. job] Ms. Lewinsky asked Ms. Currie to speak to the President about her problem: "If you feel it's appropriate, maybe you could ask 'the big guy' what he wants me to do. Ahhhhh...anxiety!!!!!" Ms. Lewinsky also mentioned the President's promise to involve Vernon Jordan in her job search:
"I don't think I told you that in my conversation last Thursday night with him that he said that he would ask you to set up a meeting between VJ and myself, once VJ got back. I assume he'll mention this to you at some point--hopefully sooner rather than later!"
... At 8:50 a.m. on November 5, Mr. Jordan spoke with the President by telephone for five minutes. Later that morning, Mr. Jordan and Ms. Lewinsky met in his office for about 20 minutes... Mr. Jordan said that he had spoken with the President about her and that she came "highly recommended." Concerning her job search, Mr. Jordan said: "We're in business."
NOVEMBER 10, 1997
In addition to making frequent calls to Ms. Currie, she sent the President a note asking for a meeting.
She hoped to see him on Tuesday, November 11 (Veterans Day), but he did not respond. By courier, she sent the President another note: "I asked you three weeks ago to please be sensitive to what I am going through right now and to keep in contact with me, and yet I'm still left writing notes in vain. I am not a moron. I know that what is going on in the world takes precedence, but I don't think what I have asked you for is unreasonable."
She added: "This is so hard for me. I am trying to deal with so much emotionally, and I have nobody to talk to about it. I need you right now not as President, but as a man. PLEASE be my friend."
That evening, November 12, according to Ms. Lewinsky, the President called and invited her to the White House the following day.
After the President returned from the Army-Navy Golf Course in the late afternoon, Ms. Lewinsky told Ms. Currie that she was coming to the White House to give him some gifts. Ms. Currie suggested that Ms. Lewinsky wait in Ms. Currie's car in the White House parking lot. Ms. Lewinsky went to the White House only to find that the doors to Ms. Currie's car were locked. Ms. Lewinsky waited in the rain. Ms. Currie eventually met her in the parking lot, and, in Ms. Lewinsky's words, they made a "bee line" into the White House, sneaking up the back stairs to avoid other White House employees... Ms. Lewinsky left two small gifts for the President with Ms. Currie, then waited alone for about half an hour in the Oval Office study...
The President finally joined Ms. Lewinsky in the study, where they were alone for only a minute or two. Ms. Lewinsky gave him an antique paperweight in the shape of the White House. She also showed him an e-mail describing the effect of chewing Altoid mints before performing oral sex. Ms. Lewinsky was chewing Altoids at the time, but the President replied that he did not have enough time for oral sex. They kissed, and the President rushed off for a State Dinner with President Zedillo [of Mexico].
DECEMBER 6, 1997
Ms. Lewinsky arrived at the White House at approximately 10:00 a.m. She told the Secret Service uniformed officers at the Northwest Gate that she had gifts to drop off for the President, but that Ms. Currie did not know she was coming. Ms. Lewinsky and the officers made several calls in an attempt to locate Ms. Currie. The officers eventually invited Ms. Lewinsky inside the guard booth. When Ms. Currie learned that Ms. Lewinsky was at the Northwest Gate, she sent word that the President "already had a guest in the [O]val," so the officers should have Ms. Lewinsky wait there for about 40 minutes.
While Ms. Lewinsky was waiting, one officer mentioned that Eleanor Mondale was in the White House. Ms. Lewinsky correctly surmised that the President was meeting with Ms. Mondale, rather than his lawyers, and she was "livid." She stormed away, called and berated Ms. Currie from a pay phone, and then returned to her Watergate apartment.
Hands shaking and almost crying, Ms. Currie informed several Secret Service officers that the President was "irate" that someone had disclosed to Ms. Lewinsky whom he was meeting with. Ms. Currie told Sergeant Keith Williams, a supervisory uniformed Secret Service officer, that if he "didn't find out what was going on, someone could be fired." She also told Captain Jeffrey Purdie, the Secret Service watch commander for the uniformed division at the time, that the President was "so upset he wants somebody fired over this."
Later that day...the uniformed Secret Service officers at the Northwest Gate were told that no one would be fired--so long as they remained quiet. According to Sergeant Williams, Ms. Currie said that if the officers did not "tell a lot of people what had happened, then nothing would happen."
The President told Captain Jeffrey Purdie, the Secret Service watch commander for the uniformed division at the time, "I hope you use your discretion." Captain Purdie interpreted the President's remark to mean that Captain Purdie "wasn't going to say anything," and he in turn told all of the officers involved not to discuss the incident. One officer recalled that Captain Purdie told him and other officers, "Whatever just happened didn't happen."
DECEMBER 11, 1997
... At one point in the conversation, according to Ms. Lewinsky, Mr. Jordan said, "[Y]ou're a friend of the President." This prompted Ms. Lewinsky to reveal that she "didn't really look at him as the President"; rather, she "reacted to him more as a man and got angry at him like a man and just a regular person." When Mr. Jordan asked why Ms. Lewinsky got angry at the President, she replied that she became upset "when he doesn't call me enough or see me enough." Ms. Lewinsky testified that Mr. Jordan advised her to take her frustrations out on him rather than the President. According to Ms. Lewinsky, Mr. Jordan summed up the situation: "You're in love, that's what your problem is."
DECEMBER 19, 1997
... Ms. Lewinsky was served with a subpoena [in the Paula Jones case] at her Pentagon office...
Ms. Lewinsky testified that, after being served with the subpoena, she "burst into tears," and then telephoned Mr. Jordan from a pay phone at the Pentagon. Mr. Jordan confirmed Ms. Lewinsky's account; he said he tried to reassure Ms. Lewinsky: "[C]ome and talk to me and I will see what I can do about finding you counsel."
... Mr. Jordan arranged for Ms. Lewinsky to meet with attorney Francis Carter at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, December 22. On that morning, according to Ms. Lewinsky, she called Mr. Jordan and asked to meet before they went to Mr. Carter's office. She testified: "I was a little concerned. I thought maybe [Mr. Jordan] didn't really understand...what it was that was happening here with me being subpoenaed and what this really meant." She also wanted to find out whether he had in fact told the President of her subpoena. Mr. Jordan said that he had. Ms. Lewinsky also told Mr. Jordan that she was worried that someone might have been eavesdropping on her telephone conversations with the President. When Mr. Jordan asked why she thought that would be of concern, Ms. Lewinsky said, "Well, we've had phone sex."
JANUARY 9, 1998
... Ms. Lewinsky interviewed with Allyn Seidman, senior vice president [of Revlon's parent company]...and two individuals at Revlon. Ms. Lewinsky testified that the interviews went well and that Ms. Seidman called her back that day and "informally offered [her] a position, and [she] informally accepted."
Ms. Lewinsky then called Mr. Jordan and relayed the good news. When shown records of a seven-minute call at 4:14 p.m., Mr. Jordan testified: "I have to assume that if she got the job and we have a seven-minute conversation and the day before I had talked to the chairman [Ronald Perelman], I have to assume the Jordan magic worked."
According to Mr. Jordan, he believed that he notified Ms. Currie and the President as soon as he learned that Ms. Lewinsky had obtained an offer: "I am certain that at some point in time I told Betty Currie, 'Mission accomplished.'" Mr. Jordan testified that he also told the President directly that "Monica Lewinsky's going to work for Revlon," and his response was, "Thank you very much."
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