WASHINGTON -- Monica Lewinsky was questioned by House prosecutors for about four hours yesterday about President Clinton's alleged efforts to keep her from testifying about their affair, but the deposition ended early because Clinton's lawyers chose not to use their allotted time.
Instead of asking Lewinsky any questions, one of the president's lawyers, Nicole Seligman, read her an apology on behalf of the president for the ordeal she has been through since civil and criminal investigations of her affair with Clinton began more than a year ago, according to sources familiar with the proceeding.
Hoping for new evidence to support their charges that Clinton committed perjury and obstruction of justice to hide the affair, prosecutors began quizzing the former White House intern shortly after 9 a.m. in a plush suite at the Mayflower Hotel.
The session broke up early, after White House attorneys declined to ask questions of their own.
That decision might mean that House prosecutors had failed to elicit any new damaging material that the White House would have felt bound to challenge.
Or it could represent a decision by the presidential lawyers to keep Lewinsky's videotaped performance as brief as possible.
In yesterday's deposition, Lewinsky reaffirmed testimony she gave last year before the federal grand jury considering evidence gathered by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, sources said, but it was unclear whether she went beyond that testimony.
Videotapes and transcripts of the deposition will be available this morning in a private room in the Capitol for review by senators.
The Senate will vote later this week on whether to have Lewinsky testify in person at the trial.
Rep. Ed Bryant, the House prosecutor who conducted the questioning of Lewinsky, said afterward that he "felt it was a productive session."
He, the other lawyers involved and the six senators who attended the session were sworn to secrecy.
Both House prosecutors and the White House took a delicate approach with Lewinsky yesterday.
Bryant is a soft-spoken Tennessee Republican with whom the young woman had seemed comfortable during an earlier interview. Representing Clinton were the two women on his legal team: Seligman and Cheryl Mills.
Though Lewinsky had testified under oath about her relationship with Clinton on 22 occasions, prosecutors were looking for new details or shades of interpretation that would strengthen their case.
The prosecutors face little chance of winning the two-thirds majority vote in the Senate necessary for conviction; 44 Democratic senators have voted to dismiss the charges without a verdict.
The prosecutors' hope had been that Lewinsky would also set the stage for questions to be posed today at a second deposition, this one by Vernon Jordan, a presidential confidant.
Encouraged to lie
They are trying to prove that Clinton encouraged Lewinsky to lie about their relationship to attorneys seeking information in the Paula Corbin Jones sexual-misconduct case against him and to hide from them the gifts he had given her.
At the same time, prosecutors charge, the president jump-started efforts by Jordan to find a job for Lewinsky, both as a reward and to get her out of Washington.
Sidney Blumenthal, a top Clinton adviser whose deposition is tomorrow, is expected to be asked whether Clinton set in motion an effort to destroy Lewinsky's credibility by claiming she was "a stalker" whose sexual advances he had rebuffed.
There are many conflicts on these points between Lewinsky's previous accounts and that of Jordan, a fiercely loyal friend of the president. Jordan last testified before the grand jury on June 9, before Clinton publicly admitted the affair.
Points of conflict
Those conflicts include Lewinsky's report that she showed Jordan some gifts she had received from the president; Jordan said he did not recall being shown any.
Lewinsky also testified that she thought Jordan was instructing her to destroy drafts of notes she had written to the president. But he denied ever telling her to destroy documents.
Jordan also testified that he had no reason to doubt Lewinsky's denial of having had a sexual relationship with Clinton. Lewinsky said, however, that she had broadly hinted of such a relationship by confiding in Jordan that she and the president had had phone sex.
None of the lawyers on either side of the case would comment after the deposition yesterday.
Clinton's private attorney, David E. Kendall, began the day by announcing that he would seek a contempt-of-court citation against Starr. Kendall claimed that Starr's office provided information that led to a New York Times report over the weekend that Starr was considering indicting the president before Clinton leaves office.
'Illegal and partisan'
"The Office of the Independent Counsel has once again engaged in illegal and partisan leaking," declared Kendall, who said he had asked the federal district court to cite Starr for "improper violations of grand jury secrecy" in leaking the information.
Starr's office denied leaking the information. The independent counsel said he was "deeply troubled" by the Times report, which earned him denunciations from senators of both parties who said they thought he was interfering with the impeachment trial.
"This office has no desire to inject itself into the constitutional process under way in the Senate," Starr said in a statement.
He announced that he would investigate the source of the report but said his investigation should not be taken as a confirmation of the Times report.
At the trial today
The Senate "court of impeachment" is in recess during questioning of potential trial witnesses. The court resumes Thursday at 1 p.m.
Today: House prosecutors and President Clinton's defense lawyers question presidential confidant Vernon Jordan in private about the obstruction-of-justice article of impeachment.
Pub Date: 2/02/99