Clinton denies affair with intern, coverup
Starr expands his investigation; his informant reportedly wore a hidden microphone
By Wolf Blitzer/CNN
January 21, 1998
Web posted at: 6:37 p.m. EST (2337 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics) -- In a stunning twist, Whitewater investigators have expanded their inquiry to examine if President Bill Clinton had a sexual relationship with a former White House intern and then tried to get her to lie about the alleged affair. Clinton denied both allegations in interviews today.
Asked by PBS newscaster Jim Lehrer, "You had no sexual relationship with this young woman?" Clinton replied, "There is not a sexual relationship."
Clinton also said he never told anyone to say anything other than the truth.
Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr won permission last Friday to expand his probe into the new allegations and subpoenaed the White House for supporting documents late this afternoon. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said White House counsels were reviewing the request. "We intend to cooperate," he told reporters.
Specifically, Starr is investigating whether the president participated in a conspiracy to suborn perjury, make false statements and obstruct justice.
Clinton appeared even-tempered in both the PBS and a National Public Radio interview. Both had been arranged long before the new allegations and the resulting media feeding frenzy at the White House. But Clinton told NPR he was furious about the allegations.
"Anything that's a distraction, I dislike," Clinton said.
Mike McCurry refused to expand the White
House's reaction to the new allegations
When asked about a White House statement earlier in the day that denied any "improper relationship" with the intern, Clinton told PBS the statement meant that "there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship, or any other improper relationship."
Press Secretary Mike McCurry had said the president "never had any improper relationship" with the former intern, Monica S. Lewinsky, 24. "He has made it clear he wants people to tell the truth in all these matters," McCurry said. (384K wav sound)
The furor was fueled by reports of covert audio tapes that might cast doubt on Clinton's denials. CNN has learned that Starr asked another former White House aide, Linda Tripp, to wear a "wire," a tape recording device, when she discussed the alleged affair with Lewinsky.
The 17 tapes Tripp recorded are said to contain detailed and graphic
descriptions by Lewinsky of her sexual affair with the president. The tapes are also said to contain suggestions that Lewinsky talked to the president and his friend Vernon Jordan about the denial of allegations of an affair.
Tripp has an $88,173-a-year job with top-secret clearance at the
Pentagon, but was working at home in Maryland today.
Tripp, according to well-placed sources, began taping her telephone
conversations with Lewinsky months ago. She later brought some to Starr. More recently, CNN has learned, Starr had Tripp "wired" to gather information secretly.
Sources also told CNN that Tripp has told associates she
has heard audio tapes of Clinton leaving telephone messages for Lewinsky.
One of those sources, who is familiar with the Paula Jones defense team, says Tripp told the Jones legal team that Lewinsky played the tapes for her when challenged about her claims of a sexual relationship with the president. (Jones has filed a lawsuit against Clinton, alleging he propositioned her in 1991.)
Separately, another source familiar with the investigation says Starr does not have those tapes. This source says Lewinsky still has them, and gave an account corroborating the source close to the Jones team about the content of the tapes. They are said to have brief snippets from the president; one of the sources said it appeared he was returning telephone calls.
Anger At Bennett
Bob Bennett at the White House |
Tripp was described by sources as having been angered by comments made by the president's private lawyer, Bob Bennett, who had accused her of lying about another alleged sexual encounter between Clinton and Kathleen Willey, then a White House volunteer worker.
Lewinsky's attorney, William Ginsburg of Los Angeles, said his client has signed a sworn affidavit denying she had an affair with Clinton and stands by that. Lewinsky was described as "devastated" and "very upset" by the allegations.
Two sources told CNN Lewinsky was a frequent visitor to the
West Wing of the White House, often late in the evening, usually
signing in as visiting secretary Betty Curry.
One of these sources said Lewinsky was almost always alone,
and often at the White House past midnight.
Bennett, the president's personal attorney, said the president "adamantly denies" there was an affair. Bennett blamed attorneys for Jones, saying that as her civil rights lawsuit against the president nears trial there will be "all kinds of gross distortion" leaked to the media.
Lewinsky is due to give a deposition on Friday to attorneys for Jones, whose suit goes to trial at the end of the May. Jones' attorneys are attempting to show a pattern of sexual misconduct by the president to bolster their case.
Bennett came to the White House this morning to meet with the president.
Asked if he knew about reports that there are tape recordings in which Lewinsky reportedly told another former White House aide about the alleged affair, Bennett said, "I know nothing about that, before I comment on it I want to investigate. What I do know is that he adamantly denies it, and she under oath denies it."
The Washington Post, which first reported on the expanded Starr inquiry in an article released on its Web page early today, said the allegations are the result of secretly recorded conversations between the former intern and Tripp. The tapes were said to have been made after both left the White House.
Tripp had worked in the White House during the Bush Administration but was retained as an administrative secretary working in the counsel's office when Clinton took office in 1993. She later took an administrative job in the Pentagon.
The Post quoted sources as saying that Tripp provided Starr with 10 tapes of conversations she had with Lewinsky, who worked as a White House intern when she was 21. The tapes allegedly describe an affair with the president and his effort to convince her later to lie about it.
Jordan's attorney stays mum
The Post said Starr is also investigating whether Jordan, a close Clinton friend, also urged Lewinsky to lie and participated in the alleged conspiracy. Sources told The Associated Press said the tapes also suggest that Jordan helped arrange a new job for Lewinsky in New York.
Jordan's attorney, Bill Hundley said, "I'm sorry, we're just not commenting on it. Either one of us."
Lewinsky moved to the Defense Department in April 1996. She was hired as a confidential assistant to Pentagon Spokesman Ken Bacon. She was hired at the GS-9 level, making about $30,000 a year. She was promoted once and left the Defense Department in December 1997. Her salary was almost $33,000 at the time she left.
Sources at the Pentagon said her departure in December had been planned for some time and was not a surprise. One source who knew her told CNN that he understood that she was taking a job at a public relations firm New York City to be closer to her mother.
Jones' lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial May 27 in Little Rock,
Ark. In a suit filed in 1994, Jones alleged that Clinton exposed himself and asked for oral sex in a Little Rock hotel room in 1991, and then punished her for refusing his advances. At the time Clinton was governor of Arkansas and Jones was a state employee.
The president has denied Jones' claims and has said he does not ever
remember meeting her.
AllPolitics' Craig Staats and CNN's Wolf Blitzer, John King and Bob Franken contributed to this report.