Last effort at swaying Senate vote; House prosecutors make Lewinsky tapes public for first time; She has 'mixed feelings'; Transcripts indicate witnesses say little that will harm Clinton


WASHINGTON -- Armed with hours of videotape, House Republican prosecutors will enter the august Senate chamber today and give the world its first view of Monica Lewinsky as she discusses her intimate relationship with the president of the United States.

But their last-ditch effort to convict President Clinton is unlikely to sway anywhere near enough votes to produce the two-thirds majority of the Senate needed to remove Clinton from office.

Transcripts released yesterday indicate that today's presentation of three videotaped depositions could support Clinton's acquittal perhaps as much as it does the case for conviction.

Lewinsky seems protective of the president, for whom, she says, she still harbors "mixed feelings."

A second witness, Clinton's friend Vernon Jordan, is scornful of the prosecution in his own deposition.

And a third, Sidney Blumenthal, a senior White House aide, seems to offer the prosecutors virtually nothing.

Still, today is a day that many in the Senate and across the nation have been awaiting, just as many others have been dreading.

"For the first time, the Senate and the people of the United States of America are going to get a chance to meet Monica Lewinsky the person, not Monica Lewinsky as she has been described by lawyers and 'spinmeisters,' " said Rep. James E. Rogan of California, one of the prosecutors.

In 55 dense pages of transcripts, none of the witnesses veers far from previous statements before the grand jury. But they do reveal some glimpses of themselves that have never before emerged publicly.

Lewinsky is still the most crucial witness for the prosecution, and in her deposition, she comes off as savvy, sometimes sassy and usually unhelpful.

She reaffirms that she believes she and Clinton engaged in sexual conduct that the president has denied under oath. But Lewinsky refuses to say "whether what he said was truthful or not truthful" when he testified Aug. 17 before a grand jury about their relationship.

It was her idea, she emphatically states, to seek a job in New York, long before she ever came to the attention of the lawyers in the Paula Corbin Jones lawsuit. She says the job search had been prompted by her inability to find work at the White House, not by the president's desire to get her out of town and away from the Jones lawyers.

Lewinsky speaks at length about a crucial 2 a.m. phone call from the president Dec. 17, 1997. During that conversation, Clinton told her that her name had appeared on the Jones lawyers' witness list.

Clinton suggested that she could file an affidavit to possibly avoid testifying in the Jones case, but Lewinsky testifies that Clinton never suggested what she should say in the affidavit.

Lewinsky and Clinton did talk about long-standing cover stories they had developed as "part of the pattern of the relationship" during that phone call but, Lewinsky says, "not in connection with the affidavit."

"There was no discussion of what would be in an affidavit," she says flatly.

That statement could be significant. House prosecutors contend that Clinton urged Lewinsky to repeat the cover stories in her affidavit to convince the Jones lawyers that she would be of no help to their case.

Rep. Ed Bryant of Tennessee, one of the prosecutors, pushes Lewinsky to affirm the prosecution's contention that all her legal maneuvering was done for the president's benefit. But again, she refuses to budge.

"But you didn't file the affidavit for your best interest, did you?" Bryant asks.

"Uh, actually, I did," Lewinsky replies, saying that her relationship with Clinton "was nobody's business."

Indeed, she repeatedly rejects the link between the cover stories and the affidavit. But finally, after several queries, Lewinsky concedes, "From what I learned in that conversation, I thought to myself I knew I would deny the relationship."

That remark is likely to turn up today in the prosecutors' presentation, to buttress their assertion that although Clinton might not have explicitly asked Lewinsky to lie under oath, he more than hinted that she should do so.

In perhaps her most damaging testimony, Lewinsky minces no words in saying that the president's secretary, Betty Currie, called her to suggest that perhaps Lewinsky had "something" for Currie. This call occurred shortly after Lewinsky asked Clinton what she should do with gifts he had given her that had been subpoenaed by the Jones lawyers.

But never does Lewinsky take swipes at Clinton personally. House prosecutors have hoped that the image of a woman discussing her affair with a president twice her age could damage Clinton politically and legally. But Lewinsky may not fulfill her role in that plan.

"She was a young woman, who looks vulnerable, a woman who clearly was in love with the president and, I believe, still harbors very close feelings toward him," Rogan conceded yesterday. "She was defensive of him, even after what she has been put through, which demonstrates a breadth of loyalty and affection that I have a hard time comprehending."

Indeed, in her deposition, Lewinsky repeatedly expresses her admiration for the president, recoiling from Bryant's characterization of her affair as "salacious."

Where Lewinsky is unhelpful in her deposition, Jordan is outright caustic to another prosecutor, Rep. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas.

Imperious and at times condescending, Jordan tells Hutchinson that he had once billed his legal services at $450 to $500 an hour -- "not bad for a Georgia boy. I'm from Georgia. You've heard of that state, I'm sure."

Jordan acknowledges that the job search he conducted for Lewinsky was done at the president's request. But he denies any connection between his efforts and the Jones lawsuit.

Lewinsky was "in a state of anxiety" about the job search by the end of 1997, Jordan testifies -- not because she had been subpoenaed by the Jones lawyers but because her lease at the Watergate hotel expired at the end of the year.

He directly contradicts Lewinsky on some key points. Jordan testifies, for instance, that he has no recollection that Lewinsky mentioned to him that she and Clinton occasionally engaged in phone sex.

"I think I would have remembered that," Jordan says.

He acknowledges having had breakfast with Lewinsky on Dec. 31, 1997, something he had previously denied. But he strenuously denies telling Lewinsky to destroy notes she had written to the president, as she contends he did.

"I'm a lawyer, and I'm a loyal friend, but I'm not a fool," Jordan says. "And the notion that I would suggest to anybody that they destroy anything just defies anything that I know about myself."

And though Jordan acknowledges that Lewinsky had called him about her affidavit, in which she denied having had a sexual relationship with the president, he disputes Lewinsky's assertion that he helped edit it.

House prosecutors will play up these contradictions today, hoping to raise questions about Jordan's credibility while bolstering Lewinsky's. Their goal is to illustrate a pattern of obstruction of justice by the president and his allies. And by buttressing Lewinsky's veracity, the prosecutors hope to show that Clinton lied under oath when he contradicted Lewinsky about their relationship.

Prosecutors insisted yesterday that they could still sway votes toward conviction, though probably not the 67 votes they need to remove Clinton from office.

"I know the die is cast in terms of probably the overall vote in numbers," conceded another prosecutor, Rep. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "But I do believe there are a handful of senators, based on public comments, that believe the president may in fact have committed crimes, think that these are high crimes and are wrestling with what to do."

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators tried yesterday to amass the 67 votes that are needed to force the Senate's final impeachment deliberations into the open. Several earlier trial sessions have been held in secret. But some senators of both parties say they believe that the final debate should be public.

It is "the most important decision and one of the most important debates that any of us in the Senate will ever participate in," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat.

"If we close our deliberations at this extraordinary moment in our nation's history, the public will be forever deprived of a full accounting of those proceedings, and some may question our willingness to be held accountable for our actions."

Sun staff writer David Folkenflik contributed to this article.

At the trial

Senate "court of impeachment" resumes at 10 a.m.

House prosecutors and President Clinton's defense lawyers have three hours each to present evidence from the videotaped testimony of Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan and Sidney Blumenthal. No further evidence will be offered after today.

No Senate votes are scheduled.

TV coverage

Coverage plans of television networks for today's session of President Clinton's impeachment trial, scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

CBS -- 10 a.m., live coverage with Dan Rather, lasting as long as events warrant.

NBC -- 10 a.m., optional live coverage with Brian Williams. Local affiliates will decide whether to air trial.

ABC -- 10 a.m., optional live coverage with Cokie Rober Local affiliates will decide whether to air trial. Special wrap-up report expected in the afternoon.

PBS -- 10 a.m., complete live coverage of trial.

CNN -- 10 a.m., complete live coverage of trial. Preview begins at 9 a.m.

Fox News Channel -- 10 a.m., complete live coverage of trial. Preview begins at 9 a.m.

MSNBC -- 10 a.m., complete live coverage of trial. Preview begins at 9 a.m.

Associated Press

Pub Date: 2/06/99

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