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The White House breathes easy

Lawyers failed to strike an immunity deal for President Bill Clinton's alleged paramour who is to testify in the sex-and-coverup probe on Th...

Lawyers failed to strike an immunity deal for President Bill Clinton’s alleged paramour who is to testify in the sex-and-coverup probe on Thursday as the White House touted signs of enduring public support. Attorney General Janet Reno meanwhile announced she may open an investigation of her own into the sources of leaks that been at the heart of the explosive allegations against Clinton.

After a week of telephone negotiations, the lawyer for Monica Lewinsky, a 24-year-old former White House intern who allegedly had an 18-month affair with Clinton, held his first face-to-face talks with the judge investigating the President. But the lawyer, William Ginsburg, emerged after an hour-long meeting with independent counsel Kenneth Starr and could only announce some movement on immunity for his client.

“If you ask if we are making progress, we are making progress on preparing Monica’s defense,” Ginsburg told NBC television in a brief telephone interview. His remarks were quickly interpreted by NBC and other UStelevision and print media as an indication that his week-long negotiations with Starr had taken a downturn. “At this point, it is a good sign for the White House,” MSNBC television commented.

The White House meanwhile was touting the latest polls showing Clinton’s popularity rating remains high and after a record number of television viewers tuned into his annual State of the Union address. A poll showed that Clinton had record high ratings of 73 per cent popularity, and that included 52 per cent of the Republicans as well.

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That effort however coincides with two potentially dam-ning reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post, detailing a recent visit by Lewinsky to the White House after she was subpoenaed by Starr to testify on their alleged affair.

The first report, based on an account of an unnamed “associate” of Lewinsky, said Clinton told her that she could testify that her visits to him at the White House were merely to see his secretary. The scandal centres on allegations, so farcontained primarily in media reports with few named sources, that Clinton had sex with Lewinsky, urged her to lie about it and may have lied about it himself under oath. Clinton has categorically denied those allegations in a sworn deposition.

Asked whether Lewinsky did in fact meet with Clinton after the subpoena, White House spokesman Michael McCurry said he would not comment on “piecemeal” elements of the case. And he gave the standard White House refrain: “I’m just not going to characterise things that might properly be under the venue or the purview of the independent counsel.”

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At a meeting with reporters on Thursday, Reno was asked about the leaks on the allegations Clinton that have been traced to Starr’s investigation, and she suggested they could be investigated. “We have limited jurisdiction with respect to the special prosecutor, the independent counsel,” Reno said. “But where there are appropriate circumstances we will either, if it’s classified information and there is a violation oflaw, we will pursue it in one direction. If there is inappropriate activity, we will pursue it through the appropriate office,” she added.

Meanwhile a judge in Little Rock, Arkansas, ruled that lawyers pursuing a sexual harassment case against President Bill Clinton cannot use evidence from the woman at the centre of a White House scandal, Monica Lewinsky, to bolster their case. Judge Susan Webber Wright ordered parties in the Paula Jones lawsuit against Clinton to stop collecting evidence concerning Lewinsky.

“There can be no doubt that a speedy resolution of this case is in everyone’s best interests, including that of the office of the President, and the court will therefore direct that the (Jones) case stay on course,” Wright said in her ruling.

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“Monica Lewinsky is not essential to the core of this case,” Wright wrote. “Some of the evidence would be inadmissible.” CNN reported that Jones’ attorneys have said they would appeal Wright’s decision.

The network quoted Jones attorney DonovanCampbell as saying the ruling was “clearly erroneous and represents plain error and an abuse of discretion.”

Tripping on the tapes

The week before Christmas Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp were subpoenaed, to depose, in the Paula Jones case. They figured they would be asked if Lewinsky had a sexual relationship with the President. Lewinsky called Tripp to discuss the situation and Tripp taped their conversation, which Newsweek reported in its February 2 issue.

Tripp asked Monica Lewinsky for permission to lie:“Tell me how? (What am I) supposed to say if they say, “Has Monica Lewinsky ever said to you that she is in love with the President or is having a physical relationship with the President?” If I say no, that is f–g perjury.

Lewinsky: I believe you, but obviously I don’t have the same feelings about the same situation…because if I had the same feelings that it was so wrong to deny something then I wouldnot be doing it.

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Obviously lying was not an issue for Lewinsky but getting caught in the face of hard evidence was so they discussed the possibility of evidence that could hurt them:Lewinsky: Whatever they have, if they have anything, has to be inadmissible. Nobody saw him give me those things and nobody saw anything happen between us.

Tripp: Are you sure no one saw you in the study

Lewinsky: I’m absolutely positive.

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Tripp: How about Betty (Currie).. what if they are able to subpoena records…phone records

Lewinsky: Phone calls to me? Honestly…I’d say I was afraid to say he [called me] because we’re friends, and I know what this case is about… I’m sure he calls on some sort of special phone…You know he got caught once [by using a regular phone] so…

First published on: 31-01-1998 at 12:00:00 am
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