Lewinsky cutting deal to testify If she gets immunity, ex-intern is expected to tell of sexual affair

'Everything is on the table'

Whether she will say president told her to lie is unclear

January 25, 1998|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- A lawyer for Monica Lewinsky negotiated yesterday toward a deal in which the former White House intern, if granted immunity from criminal prosecution, would apparently testify that she had a sexual relationship with President Clinton.

In a series of interviews, the lawyer, William H. Ginsburg, and other sources suggested that Lewinsky was prepared to testify that she had had sex with Clinton.

It was not clear, however, whether Lewinsky would confirm the most serious allegation against Clinton: that he and his close friend Vernon Jordan instructed Lewinsky to lie under oath to conceal the existence of a sexual relationship.

"Everything is on the table," Ginsburg said.

"We will not go south like Susan McDougal and refuse to talk, nor will we have any lapses of memory like Webb Hubbell," he said, referring to Clinton loyalists who were convicted during the Whitewater investigation but who refused to turn on Clinton.

"If my client is granted immunity, we will tell the truth and nothing but the truth to the office of the independent counsel."

At the White House, Clinton remained out of public sight as the gravest crisis of his presidency showed no sign of abating.

The president reached out for reinforcements among loyal old hands.

Mickey Kantor, his 1992 campaign manager, was brought aboard as a lawyer for the president.

"He hasn't lost faith in his legal team," Joe Lockhart, a deputy White House press secretary, said of Clinton.

"The president just wanted someone with whom he could have a [lawyer-client] privilege but who also who is a top-rank political guy."

Aides said Clinton conducted unrelated business yesterday, including preparing for his State of the Union address Tuesday night, meeting with his national security team on the tense stalemate in Iraq and inviting movie star Robert Duvall to the White House for a private screening of Duvall's new movie, "The Apostle."

Meanwhile, new excerpts were made public of the conversations between Lewinsky and Linda R. Tripp, her friend and confidante who made surreptitious tapes of their talks.

The tapes, released last night by Newsweek, provide a sense of the tug of war between the two women over the perils of lying under oath to protect the president.

On one tape, Tripp says that if she were to deny knowledge of Lewinsky's alleged affair with Clinton, "that is perjury."

"That's the bottom line," Tripp adds. "I will do everything I can not to be in that position."

"I believe you," Lewinsky says, "but obviously I don't have the same feelings about the situation. Because if I had the same feelings that it was so wrong to deny something, then I would not be doing it."

Tripp, taping Lewinsky without her knowledge, answers: "I feel like I'm sticking a knife in your back, and I know at the end of this, if I have to go forward, you will never speak to me again."

In New York yesterday, Lucianne Goldberg, the woman who urged Tripp to make the tapes, also made a public appearance.

In a frenzied session with reporters, Goldberg was asked whether Tripp felt bad for betraying Lewinsky's confidence. "She's heartsick," Goldberg replied.

But when asked whether Tripp's -- and Goldberg's -- motivation had been money for a book or movie deal, Goldberg bristled. "This is not about money," she said. "This is about no controlling moral authority."

Yesterday was the fourth day since the White House was rocked by a blizzard of lurid accusations about the relationship between the president and Lewinsky, who was a 21-year-old recent college graduate when she met the president while working as )) an unpaid volunteer in the White House.

Since Wednesday, a series of explosive news leaks, none of them substantiated, has shaken the White House. They include:

That Lewinsky told Tripp she engaged in oral sex with Clinton in the White House.

That the young woman said the president frequently phoned her at night so they could engage in "phone sex."

That she asserts Clinton bought her gifts, including a dress, a hatpin and Walt Whitman's book of poetry, "Leaves of Grass."

That the FBI seized the dress to run lab tests to determine the veracity of the most sensational report -- that the dress had been stained by Clinton's semen.

Also, network news footage surfaced yesterday of Clinton patting a brightly smiling Lewinsky on the back at a welcoming ceremony at the White House the day after his 1996 re-election victory.

Clinton denies having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky or instructing her or anyone else to lie or commit perjury. Jordan, too, said he did nothing wrong.

But with the president apparently planning to wait until after Tuesday's State of the Union address to offer a detailed explanation of his involvement with Lewinsky, even White House aides who believe the president are unsure what exactly transpired.

The reports about the dress have left some aides worried.

"That would have his DNA on it," said one Clinton adviser. "That would be the smoking gun."

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