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Star Ethics In Government Star

Thursday, January 29, 1998

Ex-Intern Said to Describe
Advice by Clinton on Evasion


WASHINGTON - Monica Lewinsky is claiming that President Clinton told her at a private meeting late last month that she could testify in the Paula Jones lawsuit that her visits to him at the White House were to see his secretary. She says he also suggested that she could avoid testifying by being in New York City.

This recent account of the late December White House meeting, two weeks after she was ordered to testify in Jones' sexual misconduct suit against Clinton, was described by an associate of Lewinsky who has spoken to her, and by others who know Lewinsky's version of what happened.

Clinton has not provided an account of any discussions he might have had with Lewinsky, a 24-year-old former White House intern who reportedly has said in secretly recorded conversations that she had a sexual relationship with the president.

But in the week since her reported allegations became public, the president has said that he never told anyone to lie, and that he did not have a sexual relationship with her.

What Lewinsky has offered to tell Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel, in exchange for immunity from prosecution is the subject of secret ongoing negotiations between her lawyer and Starr's office.

According to her associate, Lewinsky said that Clinton sought to reassure her in the late December meeting, after she described how she had just been rejected by American Express for a job in New York City.

Early this year, Lewinsky, with the help of Clinton's friend, Vernon Jordan Jr., was hired by Revlon. She got the job at nearly the same time she signed an affidavit saying she had not had sexual relations with Clinton. The affidavit was submitted in the case of Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee who is suing the president for sexual harassment.

Revlon rescinded the job offer when the former intern's claims of an affair with the president first became public last week.

It was not clear whether Robert Bennett, Clinton's private lawyer in the Jones case, knew of the late December meeting with Lewinsky at the time. Nor is it clear whether Lewinsky has said that Clinton knew she had been subpoenaed before the meeting. It would be ethically questionable for a defendant in a civil lawsuit to discuss the case with a potential witness subpoenaed by the plaintiffs, lawyers said. Bennett did not return a telephone call on Wednesday seeking comment.

Starr is investigating whether the president or Jordan asked Lewinsky to lie in the Jones case.

Lanny Davis, the White House special counsel responsible for handling reporters' questions, said on Wednesday night that he could not comment because White House lawyers had not provided him with answers to questions about Lewinsky, submitted earlier in the day.

Another spokesman, Barry Toiv, said that he too had talked to a White House lawyer. "I'm not going to be able to help you with details," he said. But Toiv then repeated Clinton's earlier denials.

"The president has emphatically denied that he had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, and he has also stated emphatically that he has never told anybody to do anything but tell the truth."

William Ginsburg, Lewinsky's lawyer, said he could not comment because it would violate the attorney-client privilege.

The precise date of the meeting between the President and Lewinsky is not known. But a lawyer familiar with the case said that Currie authorized Lewinsky's entrance to the White House on Sunday night, December 28.

In Lewinsky's account, Clinton told her in the late December meeting not to worry about being drawn into the lawsuit, the associate said. According to this version, Clinton told Lewinsky that, if asked, she could describe her White House visits as meetings with Betty Currie, his personal secretary. And Lewinsky said he suggested that she could avoid testifying in the Jones lawsuit if she lived in New York where her mother has an apartment and where she was seeking employment, according to the account.

Under federal rules, Lewinsky could not escape complying with a subpoena issued in connection with the Jones lawsuit in federal court in Arkansas simply by living in New York. But a move from Washington to New York could have made it more difficult for Jones' lawyers to find her.

Currie testified before the grand jury on Tuesday.

At the same White House meeting, according to Lewinsky's version, the president sought to reassure her after she told him American Express had turned down her job application. Thomas Schick, the executive vice president for corporate communications at American Express, said in an interview that he told Lewinsky just before Christmas that she lacked the experience to work in his department.

A reconstruction of events in the weeks before and after the late December meeting, based on interviews with executives, associates of Lewinsky, lawyers involved in the case and White House aides, indicates that she was preoccupied with her employment difficulties that month, and the call to testify in the Jones case.

In early January, Lewinsky resolved both problems almost simultaneously.

Within a day of Lewinsky's submission of an affidavit in the Jones case -- in which she denied any sexual relationship with Clinton -- Jordan called an official at Revlon, where Lewinsky had submitted a job application several weeks earlier, said people involved in the investigation. Soon after, they said, Lewinsky was offered a job.

Jordan has acknowledged helping Lewinsky at Revlon -- where he is a board director. He has said that he helped many young, promising individuals over the years. He also has said that Currie, the President's secretary, asked him to help Lewinsky. But he has declined to publicly answer specific questions, as has Currie.

In the investigation by Starr, grand jury subpoenas prepared by his office compel witnesses to produce any information they have on a list of figures, including Bennett and Bruce Lindsey, a White House deputy counsel who has been working on the Jones case.

It is not known why investigators are interested in information about Lindsey, one of Clinton's closest friends. A lawyer involved in the investigation said that Lewinsky referred to Lindsey during a taped conversation she had with her co-worker Linda Tripp.

Davis, the White House special counsel, did not respond to questions about Lindsey's involvement in the case.

Until last fall, Jones' lawyers had never heard of Lewinsky, who was then working in a junior position in the Pentagon's office of public affairs. In October, Lewinsky turned down an offer of a job working for Bill Richardson, the U.S. representative to the United Nations.

By early December, her situation seemed to grow worse.

One of her colleagues at the Pentagon, Linda Tripp, had been subpoenaed to testify in the Jones case. Lewinsky had reportedly told Tripp that she had a relationship with the president. Tripp secretly recorded those confidences.

According to lawyers familiar with the tapes, Tripp told Lewinsky that if asked, she would have to divulge what she knew of the Lewinsky's alleged relationship.

In some of the conversations, the two women also discussed how Lewinsky could say that she had visited Currie, if asked to explain her visits to the White House, one lawyer said.

Lewinsky told the Pentagon in November that she planned to leave. By the first two weeks in December, aided by Jordan, Lewinsky was seeking jobs at three major corporations in New York: Revlon, American Express and Young & Rubicam, the advertising agency, according to company executives, an associate of Jordan and lawyers involved in the investigation.

They said that Lewinsky had a series of job interviews with the companies. American Express said it had turned her down on Dec. 23, and the others had not made an offer.

By then, Lewinsky was also struggling to decide how to respond to a subpoena she had received on Dec. 17 from the lawyers for Jones, according to a Lewinsky associate.

Lewinsky's private discussion with Clinton took place between Christmas and New Year's Day, according to an associate of Lewinsky. A White House aide confirmed a late December visit by Lewinsky to the White House, after it was reported on Tuesday.

Bennett, according to White House officials, was not aware of the private meeting as he was preparing himself and his client for Clinton's deposition a few weeks later.

On Jan. 7, Lewinsky signed her affidavit in the Jones case. Ten days later, Bennett, the president's lawyer, tried to use it to block questions about the president's relationship with Lewinsky, according to lawyers involved in the Jones lawsuit, arguing that the affidavit made the questions irrelevant.

Meanwhile, Lewinsky had secured a job at Revlon. On Jan. 8, Jordan called Revlon on Lewinsky's behalf, furthering an effort he began a month earlier, according to a lawyer involved in the case.

A few days later, Revlon offered her a job, which was to begin later in January.

But on Jan. 21, it became public that Tripp had recordings of Lewinsky. That same day, Revlon rescinded its job offer.

Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company


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