Clinton denies affair, cover-up
But 2 confidants arranged jobs for intern
January 21, 1998
Web posted at: 11:31 p.m. EST (0431 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bill Clinton has denied charges that he had a sexual relationship with a young female White House intern and then encouraged her to lie about the affair during a deposition.
"There is no improper sexual relationship," Clinton said, during an interview Wednesday with PBS. "I did not urge anyone to say anything that is untrue."
In reports that rocked Washington Wednesday, Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr is said to have tapes in his possession of conversations between the intern, Monica Lewinsky, and a friend of hers, Linda Tripp, during which Lewinsky discussed the affair in detail.
A L S O :
Excerpts from tapes, as reported by Newsweek
Lewinsky also reportedly told Tripp that Clinton and his friend, Washington attorney Vernon Jordan, both encouraged her to lie about the affair while being deposed under oath by attorneys for Paula Jones, the former Arkansas state employee who has accused the president of sexual harassment.
Lewinsky's attorney says she's 'devastated'
Lewinsky is said to have urged Tripp to back up her denial during Tripp's own deposition. Tripp refused, and at one point, at Starr's request, wore a wire to record conversations with Lewinsky.
Last year, Lewinsky signed an affidavit denying that she had an affair by Clinton. But Wednesday, her attorney, William Ginsburg, refused to confirm or deny whether they had an affair. He said she was "devastated" by the charges.
"If the allegations are true, then (Clinton) is a misogynist, and I question his ability to lead," Ginsburg said. "If they are not true, then why is the independent prosecutor ravaging the life of a 23-year-old girl?"
Lewinsky is scheduled to give a deposition Friday in the Jones case. CBS News was reporting that she plans to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Hyde: If charges proven, impeachment 'option'
Underscoring the potential political impact if the charges are proven to be true, Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Illinois, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, says that if Starr "verifies these charges, impeachment might very well be an option."
It would be in Hyde's committee where impeachment proceedings would likely be initiated.
If the allegations are sustained, legal grounds for impeachment could involve obstruction of justice, for urging someone else to lie in a court proceeding, or perjury. Clinton, under oath last Saturday in a deposition in the Jones case, reportedly denied he had an affair with Lewinsky.
Jordan, Richardson arranged job offers
Reports also came to light Wednesday that around the time that Lewinsky was preparing the affidavit denying the affair, both Jordan and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson helped obtain job offers for her in New York.
Mike McCurry refused to expand the White
House's reaction to the new allegations
Officials confirm that Richardson went to the young woman's apartment at the Watergate complex in Washington to interview her for a junior job in public affairs at the U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York.
Richardson acted at the request of the White House, but his spokesman, Calvin Mitchell, said there was "no pressure" to hire her and that the decision to offer her a job was based "on her qualifications, initiative and reputation as a hard worker."
The cosmetics company, Revlon, on whose board Jordan sits, also offered her a public relations job. She was referred for an interview by Jordan, the company said in a statement Wednesday. However, the company said the job offer has been withdrawn "in light of (Wednesday's) events."
First lady offers spirited defense
In separate interviews with PBS's "The Newshour With Jim Lehrer," National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and Roll Call, Clinton strongly denied the charges and pledged to cooperate with Starr's inquiry into the matter.
"It's almost impossible to prove your innocence," he said. "I'll try to do that."
Robert Bennett at the White House |
He also denied ever encouraging Jordan to approach Lewinsky with a request to lie under oath. Jordan and his attorney both declined to comment on the allegations.
While Clinton said he was "furious" about the charges, he declined to offer a possible motivation behind them. But first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton showed no such reticence while speaking to reporters during a train trip from Baltimore to Washington.
"From the time my husband announced he was going to run for president, for reasons that I don't fully understand, he was considered a threat to certain ideological and political positions that are held by certain people deeply in our country," she said.
"And there has been a concerted effort to undermine his legitimacy as president, to undo much of what he's been able to accomplish, to attack him personally when he could not be defeated politically."
Starr sets press conference for Thursday
Late last week, Starr received permission of Attorney General Janet Reno and a panel of federal judges to expand his Whitewater investigation to include events surrounding Lewinsky.
Starr offered no comment after news of the tapes became public, but he scheduled a press conference for Thursday morning. He also issued a subpoena for all White House documents and phone records involving Lewinsky, as well as logs showing any visits she made to the White House.
Two sources told CNN that Lewinsky was a frequent visitor to the West Wing of the White House, often arriving alone and sometime after midnight. She usually signed in as visiting a White House secretary, Betty Currie.
The West Wing is where executive offices, including the Oval Office, are located.
Lewinsky came to the White House three years ago, fresh out of Lewis and Clark College in Oregon. Her job as an intern was to answer phones in the office of then-Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, whose office is also in the West Wing.
According to sources familiar with the tapes, Lewinsky is heard to say that her affair with Clinton began sometime in 1995, after she ran into him during her duties in the White House.
In April 1996, she left the White House and took a job at the Pentagon, where she was an assistant to Ken Bacon, the chief Pentagon spokesman.
Traveling with Defense Secretary William Cohen Wednesday in South Korea, Bacon said he hired Lewinsky on the recommendation at somebody at the White House -- he does not recall who -- but he said the White House did not make "a big push" for Lewinsky.
Lewinsky met Tripp at Pentagon
It was at the Pentagon where Lewinsky became friendly with Tripp, who was a White House aide during the Bush administration and now works in an administrative job in the Pentagon. Lewinsky reportedly took Tripp into her confidence about the alleged affair.
Tripp recorded their conversations and turned them over to Starr. She was also the source for an article in Newsweek magazine last year that alleged a sexual encounter between Clinton and a former White House employee, Kathleen Willey.
Tripp is described by sources as being angry about comments made by Clinton's lawyer, Robert Bennett, in discounting the truthfulness of the allegations surrounding Willey.
Lewinsky left the Pentagon in December 1997. Bacon said he departure had been planned but was not related to any deficiencies in her job performance. He said she wanted to move to New York to be nearer to her mother.
Mood at White House one of 'shock'
This latest upheaval left many White House staffers shaken.
From powerful members of the senior staff to low-level White House clerks, there was a genuine sense of shock. During Clinton's PBS interview, which has been previously scheduled, staffers were glued to their sets.
Some reacted as skeptically as the president's harshest critics.
"We'll see," one mid-level White House official said glumly soon after the broadcast. "It's going to take a while to figure out what I feel."
Corespondents Wolf Blitzer, John King, Gene Randall and Jaime McIntyre and Reuters contributed to this report.