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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly
Investigating The President

K. January 15: The Isikoff Call

In the grand jury, Betty Currie testified that on Thursday, January 15, 1998, she received a telephone call from Michael Isikoff of Newsweek, who inquired about courier receipts reflecting items sent by Ms. Lewinsky to the White House.(1014)

Ms. Currie called Mr. Jordan and asked for guidance in responding to Mr. Isikoff's inquiry because, in her words, she had a "comfort level with Vernon."(1015) After Ms. Currie arranged to meet with Mr. Jordan at his office,(1016) Ms. Lewinsky drove her there.(1017)

Mr. Jordan confirmed in the grand jury that Ms. Currie expressed concern about a call from Mr. Isikoff.(1018) He invited her to his office but advised her to "talk to Mike McCurry and Bruce Lindsey . . . because I cannot give you that advice."(1019)

In a recorded conversation that day, January 15, Ms. Lewinsky encouraged Ms. Tripp not to disclose her (Lewinsky's) relationship with the President. Ms. Lewinsky tried to persuade Ms. Tripp to lie by telling her that others planned to lie: "I'm not concerned all that much anymore because I'm not going to get in trouble because you know what? The story I've signed . . . under oath is what someone else is saying under oath." When Ms. Tripp asked, "Who?" Ms. Lewinsky responded: "He will," referring to the President.(1020) Ms. Lewinsky stated that she did not think the President would "slip up" at his deposition because she was not a "big issue" like Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones. In contrast, she regarded herself as nothing more than "rumor and innuendo."(1021)

One of Ms. Lewinsky's friends, Natalie Ungvari, testified that, when Ms. Lewinsky was implicated in the Jones case, "it seemed to me that Monica was just confident everybody would say the right thing, that everything would be orchestrated to come out a secret."(1022)

L. January 15-16: Developments in the Jones Law Suit

On January 15, 1998, President Clinton's counsel served Ms. Jones's attorneys with the President's responses to Ms. Jones's document requests.(1023) One of the requests specifically sought all documents reflecting communications between the President and Monica Lewinsky.(1024) President Clinton objected to the scope of this request, but, notwithstanding his objection, he stated that he did not have any responsive documents.

Also on January 15, Mr. Carter drafted a motion to quash the subpoena issued by Paula Jones's attorneys to Ms. Lewinsky. Attached to the motion was Ms. Lewinsky's signed affidavit.(1025) At the request of Katherine Sexton, one of the President's personal attorneys, Mr. Carter faxed a copy of the affidavit to her law offices. Mr. Carter testified that he asked Ms. Sexton why she needed the affidavit that day:

I said, "Well, Katie, you're going to get it tomorrow because I'm filing it, and it's going to be attached as an exhibit to the motion." She said, "Well, but you've already provided it to the other side, so can I get a copy" -- words to that effect. I said, "I have no problem." And so I faxed it to her.(1026)

On January 16, 1998, Mr. Carter arranged for the overnight delivery of the motion to quash and the accompanying affidavit to Judge Susan Webber Wright's law clerk and Paula Jones's attorneys.(1027)

XIV. January 17, 1998-Present:

The Deposition and Afterward

The President was asked a number of questions about Ms. Lewinsky during his January 17, 1998, deposition in the Jones case. In sworn testimony, the President denied having a sexual affair or sexual relations with her. That evening, the President called Ms. Currie and asked her to meet him the following day to discuss Ms. Lewinsky. After allegations that the President had an affair with a White House intern became public, the President emphatically denied the reports to aides and to the American public.

A. January 17: The Deposition

On Saturday, January 17, 1998, the President testified under oath at a deposition in the Jones case.(1028) Judge Susan Webber Wright traveled from Little Rock, Arkansas, to preside at the deposition in Washington, D.C.(1029)

Prior to any questions, Judge Wright reminded the parties about her standing Protective Order. She specifically stated: "[I]f anyone reveals anything whatsoever about this deposition,

. . . it will be in violation of the Protective Order. This includes the questions that were asked, . . . You may acknowledge that [the deposition] took place, but that is it."(1030) Judge Wright accepted the following definition of the term "sexual relations:"

For the purposes of this deposition, a person engages in "sexual relations" when the person knowingly engages in or causes . . . contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person . . . . "Contact" means intentional touching, either directly or through clothing.(1031)

After the President had answered a few questions about Ms. Lewinsky, his attorney, Robert Bennett, urged Judge Wright to limit further inquiries. Mr. Bennett stated that Ms. Lewinsky had executed an affidavit "saying that there is absolutely no sex of any kind of any manner, shape or form, with President Clinton."(1032) When Judge Wright cautioned Mr. Bennett not to make remarks that "could be arguably coaching the witness," Mr. Bennett represented to Judge Wright: "In preparation of the witness for this deposition, the witness is fully aware of Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit, so I have not told him a single thing he doesn't know . . . ."(1033) President Clinton, who was present when Mr. Bennett made his objection, did not contradict his attorney's comment. Rejecting Mr. Bennett's argument, Judge Wright permitted the questioning about Ms. Lewinsky to continue.(1034)

Over the course of extensive questioning, the President testified that he had seen Ms. Lewinsky "on two or three occasions" during the government shutdown in the fall of 1995, including one occasion when she brought pizza to him, and one or two other occasions when she delivered documents to him.(1035) He could not recall whether he had been alone with Ms. Lewinsky on such occasions, although he acknowledged that it was possible.(1036) The President further testified that he could not remember the subject of any conversations with Ms. Lewinsky.(1037)

President Clinton recalled that he received only a couple of unremarkable personal messages from Ms. Lewinsky, and he could not recall ever having received a cassette tape from her.(1038) He received presents from her "[o]nce or twice" -- a book or two and a tie.(1039) The President originally testified that he could not recall any gifts he might have given her; later in the deposition, however, he remembered that some merchandise he had purchased from a Martha's Vineyard restaurant might have reached her through Ms. Currie.(1040) The President stated that he might have given Ms. Lewinsky a hat pin, though he could not recall for certain.(1041)

The President testified that his last conversation with Ms. Lewinsky had been before Christmas, when she had visited the White House to see Ms. Currie. The President stated: "I stuck my head out, said hello to her."(1042) He said it was also possible that, during that encounter, he had joked with Ms. Lewinsky that the plaintiff's attorneys were going to subpoena "every woman I ever talked to" and Ms. Lewinsky "would qualify."(1043)

The President testified that he was unaware that Mr. Jordan had talked with Ms. Lewinsky about the Jones case, in which she had also been subpoenaed to testify at a deposition.(1044)

The President emphatically denied having had sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky.(1045)

At the conclusion of the deposition, Judge Wright said: "Before [the President] leaves, I want to remind him, as the witness in this matter, and everyone else in the room, that this case is subject to a Protective Order regarding all discovery, . . . and . . . all parties present, including . . . the witness are not to say anything whatsoever about the questions they were asked, the substance of the deposition, . . . any details, . . . and this is extremely important to this Court."(1046)

Sometime after the President's deposition, Mr. Podesta saw Bruce Lindsey, Deputy White House Counsel, at the White House and inquired how the deposition went. According to Mr. Podesta, Mr. Lindsey said that the President had been asked about Monica Lewinsky.(1047) Mr. Lindsey testified that, during a break in the President's deposition, the President had told him that Ms. Lewinsky's name had come up.(1048)

That same evening, Mr. Lindsey met with the President in the Oval Office, where they discussed the deposition.(1049) Mr. Lindsey, relying on the attorney-client, presidential communication, deliberative process, and work-product privileges, declined to say what specifically was discussed at this meeting.

B. The President Meets with Ms. Currie

Soon after the deposition, the President called Ms. Currie and asked her to come to the White House the next day.(1050) Ms. Currie acknowledged that, "It's rare for [the President] to ask me to come in on Sunday."(1051) The President wanted to discuss Ms. Lewinsky's White House visits.(1052)

At approximately 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 18, 1998, Ms. Currie met with the President.(1053) The meeting took place at her desk outside the Oval Office. According to Ms. Currie, the President appeared "concerned."(1054) He told Ms. Currie that, during his deposition the previous day, he had been asked questions about Monica Lewinsky.(1055) Ms. Currie testified: "I think he said, 'There are several things you may want to know.'"(1056) He proceeded to make a series of statements,(1057) one right after the other:(1058)

  • "You were always there when she was there, right?"
  • "We were never really alone."
  • "Monica [Lewinsky] came on to me, and I never touched her, right?"
  • "You can see and hear everything, right?"(1059)

Ms. Currie testified that, based on his demeanor and the way he made the statements, the President wanted her to agree with them.(1060)

Ms. Currie testified that she did, in fact, agree with the President when he said, "You were always there when she was there, right?"(1063) Before the grand jury, however, Ms. Currie acknowledged the possibility that Ms. Lewinsky could have visited the President when she was not at the White House.(1064)

With respect to whether the President was "never really alone" with Ms. Lewinsky, Ms. Currie testified that there were several occasions when the President and Ms. Lewinsky were either in the Oval Office or in the study without anyone else present.(1065)

Ms. Currie explained that she did not consider the President and Ms. Lewinsky to be "alone" on such occasions because she was at her desk outside the Oval Office; accordingly, they were all together in the same "general area."(1066) Ms. Currie testified that "the President, for all intents and purposes, is never alone. There's always somebody around him."(1067)

As to whether Ms. Lewinsky "came on" to him, Ms. Currie testified that she "would have no reason to know" whether Ms. Lewinsky ever "came on" to the President because Ms. Currie was not present all the time.(1068) Finally, as to whether she "could see and hear everything," Ms. Currie testified that she should not have agreed with the President.(1069) She testified that when the President and Ms. Lewinsky were alone together in the study, while Ms. Currie was at her desk, she could "hear nothing."(1070)

The President also made the following statement during their January 18, 1998 meeting, according to Ms. Currie: "[Monica Lewinsky] wanted to have sex with me, but I told her I couldn't do that."(1071)

When the President was questioned about this meeting with Ms. Currie in the grand jury, he testified that he recalled the conversation, but he denied that he was "trying to get Betty Currie to say something that was untruthful."(1072) Rather, the President testified that he asked a "series of questions" in an effort to quickly "refresh [his] memory."(1073) The President explained: "I wanted to establish . . . that Betty was there at all other times in the complex, and I wanted to know what Betty's memory was about what she heard, what she could hear . . . . [a]nd I was trying to figure [it] out . . . in a hurry because I knew something was up."(1074)

In his grand jury testimony, the President acknowledged that, "in fairness," Ms. Currie "may have felt some ambivalence about how to react" to his statements.(1075) The President maintained that he was trying to establish that Ms. Currie was "always there," and could see and hear everything.(1076) At the same time, he acknowledged that he had always tried to prevent Ms. Currie from learning about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.(1077) "[I] did what people do when they do the wrong thing. I tried to do it where nobody else was looking at it."(1078)

The President was also asked about his statement that Ms. Currie was always in the Oval Office when Ms. Lewinsky visited. He explained that he may have intended the term "Oval Office" to include the entire Oval Office complex.(1079) The President further explained, "I was talking about 1997. I was never, ever trying to get Betty Currie to claim that on the occasions when Monica Lewinsky was there when she wasn't anywhere around, that she was."(1080) When asked whether he restricted his remarks to the year 1997, the President responded, "Well, I don't recall whether I did or not, but . . . I assumed [Ms. Currie] knew what I was talking about."(1081)

When questioned about his statement to Ms. Currie, "you

could see and hear everything," the President responded:

My memory of that was that, that she had the ability to hear what was going on if she came in the Oval Office from her office. And a lot of times, you know, when I was in the Oval Office, she just had the door open to her office. Then there was -- the door was never completely closed to the hall. So, I think there was -- I'm not entirely sure what I meant by that, but I could have meant that she generally would be able to hear conversations, even if she couldn't see them. And I think that's what I meant.(1082)

Finally, when asked about his statement to Ms. Currie that "Monica came on to me and I never touched her," the President refused to answer.(1083)

C. January 18-19: Attempts to Reach Ms. Lewinsky

In the wake of her Sunday afternoon session, Ms. Currie paged Ms. Lewinsky four times.(1084) She testified that the President "may have asked me to call [Ms. Lewinsky] to see what she knew or where she was or what was happening."(1085) Later that evening, at 11:02 p.m., the President called Ms. Currie to ask whether she had spoken to Ms. Lewinsky.(1086)

Over a two-hour span the next morning, Monday, January 19, 1998, Ms. Currie made eight unsuccessful attempts to contact Ms. Lewinsky, by either pager or telephone.(1087) After speaking with the President to let him know that she was unable to reach Ms. Lewinsky, Ms. Currie again paged her.(1091) The purpose of these calls, according to Ms. Currie, was to tell Ms. Lewinsky that her name had been mentioned in the President's deposition.(1092)

Mr. Jordan also tried unsuccessfully to reach Ms. Lewinsky that morning.(1094) That afternoon, Mr. Jordan met with the President in the Oval Office.(1095) Later, Ms. Lewinsky's attorney, Frank Carter, called Mr. Jordan and told him that Ms. Lewinsky had obtained new counsel, William Ginsburg and Nathaniel Speights.(1096) Mr. Jordan passed this information on to the President that evening in a seven-minute phone conversation.(1097)

D. January 20-22: Lewinsky Story Breaks

After the publication of an article alleging a sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, President Clinton conferred with his attorneys and issued a number of denials to his aides and to the American public.

1. "Clinton Accused"

On Wednesday, January 21, 1998, the Washington Post published a story entitled "Clinton Accused of Urging Aide to Lie; Starr Probes Whether President Told Woman to Deny Alleged Affair to Jones's Lawyers."(1098) The White House learned the essentials of the Post story on the night of January 20, 1998.(1099)

President Clinton placed a number of phone calls that night and the following morning.(1100) From 12:08 a.m. to 12:39 a.m., he spoke with his personal attorney, Robert Bennett. Mr. Bennett would be quoted in the Post article as saying, "The President adamantly denies he ever had a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky and she has confirmed the truth of that."(1101) He added: "This story seems ridiculous and I frankly smell a rat."(1102)

Immediately after his call to Mr. Bennett, President Clinton called Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey; they spoke for about half an hour, until 1:10 a.m.(1103)

At 1:16 a.m., the President called Ms. Currie at home and spoke to her for 20 minutes. Ms. Currie testified that the President was concerned that her name was mentioned in the Post article.(1104) Soon after this call, the President called Mr. Lindsey.(1105)

A few hours later, at approximately 6:30 a.m., the President called Mr. Jordan in New York City to tell him, according to Mr. Jordan, that the Post story was untrue.(1106) From 7:14 a.m. to 7:22 a.m., the President spoke again with Mr. Lindsey.(1107)

Responding to the Post story that day, the White House issued a statement, personally approved by the President, declaring that he was "outraged by these allegations" and that "he has never had an improper relationship with this woman." White House spokesperson Mike McCurry said that the statement "was prepared by the Counsel's office, and I reviewed it with the President to make sure that it reflected what he wanted me to say . . . He looked at it, and he said fine. . . . It was prepared in consultation between the lawyers and the President. The Counsel's Office gave it to me. I wanted to, of course, verify that that's exactly what the President wanted me to say."(1108)

2. Denials to Aides

According to Mr. Lindsey, the remainder of the morning was spent in a series of meetings about the Lewinsky matter, including preparing the President for anticipated Lewinsky-related questions in three previously scheduled media interviews.(1109) At these meetings, President Clinton denied the allegations to several of his top aides.

The President met with Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, along with his two deputies, John Podesta and Sylvia Matthews. According to Mr. Bowles, the President told them, "I want you to know I did not have sexual relationships with this woman, Monica Lewinsky. I did not ask anybody to lie. And when the facts come out, you'll understand."(1110) The President made a similar denial that morning to Harold Ickes, his former Deputy Chief of Staff.(1111) The President also discussed the matter with Ms. Currie for a second time.(1112) According to Ms. Currie, the President called her into the Oval Office and gave a "sort of a recapitulation of what we had talked about on Sunday -- you know, 'I was never alone with her' -- that sort of thing."(1113) The President spoke with the same tone and demeanor that he used during his previous session with her.(1114) Ms. Currie testified that the President may have mentioned that she might be asked about Ms. Lewinsky.(1115)

Later that day, the President summoned Sidney Blumenthal to the Oval Office. They spoke for about 30 minutes.(1116) The President said to Mr. Blumenthal, "I haven't done anything wrong."(1117) Mr. Blumenthal testified that the President told him, "Monica Lewinsky came on to me and made a sexual demand on me." The President said that he "rebuffed her."(1119) The President also told Mr. Blumenthal that Ms. Lewinsky had "threatened him. She said that she would tell people they'd had an affair, that she was known as the stalker among her peers, and that she hated it and if she had an affair or said she had an affair then she wouldn't be the stalker any more."(1120) Mr. Blumenthal then asked the President whether he and Ms. Lewinsky were alone when she threatened him. The President responded, "Well, I was within eyesight or earshot of someone."(1121)

According to Mr. Blumenthal, the President complained: "I feel like a character in a novel. I feel like somebody who is surrounded by an oppressive force that is creating a lie about me and I can't get the truth out. I feel like the character in the novel Darkness at Noon."(1122)

Soon thereafter, in the course of a meeting about the progress of the President's State of the Union address, the President made a second denial of the allegations to Mr. Podesta.(1123) Mr. Podesta testified:

[H]e said to me that he had never had sex with her, and that -- and that he never asked -- you know, he repeated the denial, but he was extremely explicit in saying he never had sex with her . . . . Well, I think he said -- he said that -- there was some spate of, you know, what sex acts were counted, and he said that he had never had sex with her in any way whatsoever -- that they had not had oral sex.(1124)

The President was asked during his grand jury appearance whether he recalled denying a sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky to his senior aides and advisors, including Mr. Bowles, Mr. Podesta, Mr. Blumenthal, Mr. Ickes, and Mr. Jordan.(1126) The President did not recall specific details but did remember the following:

I met with certain people, and [to] a few of them I said I didn't have sex with Monica Lewinsky, or I didn't have an affair with her or something like that. I had a very careful thing I said, and I tried not to say anything else . . . . I remember that I issued a number of denials to people that I thought needed to hear them, but I tried to be careful and to be accurate.

* * *

And I believe, sir, that -- you'll have to ask them what they thought. But I was using those terms in the normal way people use them.(1127)

The President testified that he had said "things that were true about this relationship. That I used -- in the language I used, I said, there's nothing going on between us. That was true.(1128) I said I did not have sex with her as I defined it. That was true."(1129) The President qualified this answer, however: "I said things that were true. They may have been misleading, and if they were I have to take responsibility for it, and I'm sorry."(1130)

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