President rejects allegations Clinton pounds fist while denying he had sex with Lewinsky

Questions go unanswered

He says he never told former intern to lie about relationship

January 27, 1998|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton, showing more emotion than he has in the five days since explosive sexual allegations were made public, vehemently rejected the accusations against him yesterday as false.

Pounding a lectern with his fist, his wife beside him, Clinton emphatically denied ever having had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, a 24-year-old former White House intern.

The president also asserted that he had never directed Lewinsky -- or anyone else -- to lie about any such relationship with her.

Clinton refused to answer questions, however, and he again chose not to explain what kind of relationship he did have with Lewinsky, who told a friend in secretly taped conversations that she had engaged in a sexual relationship with Clinton.

"I want to say one thing to the American people," the president said. "I'm going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie. Not a single time. Never. These allegations are false, and I need to go back to work for the American people."

Meanwhile, Lewinsky moved closer last night to a deal with the independent counsel in which she would receive immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying that she had a sexual relationship with Clinton.

Meanwhile, today's editions of the New York Times reported that Lewinsky met privately with Clinton in the White House late last month, two weeks after she was served a subpoena from attorneys in Paula Corbin Jones' sexual misconduct lawsuit against Clinton.

Lewinsky's scheduled testimony today to a grand jury was reportedly postponed so that the independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr, can determine from Lewinsky exactly what she knows.

In particular, Starr needs to know whether Lewinsky will confirm the most serious allegation she made in conversations recorded by her colleague Linda R. Tripp -- that Clinton and his friend Vernon E. Jordan Jr. told Lewinsky to deny under oath the existence of the relationship.

Agreement

In a significant development, Lewinsky's lawyers agreed last night to Starr's demand that they supply Starr with a "proffer" letter, detailing what she is prepared to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

News reports have indicated that Lewinsky is ready to testify that, contrary to what she has stated in a sworn affidavit, she did have a sexual relationship with the president.

Clinton's forceful response to the allegations yesterday came after advice from political aides that he needed, on the eve of his State of the Union address, to issue a firmer public denial than he had previously done in brief interviews.

White House officials would not say when Clinton would make himself available for detailed questions. His next news conference is set for Feb. 5, when Clinton will meet with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.

Striking back

Yesterday, the president also struck back at his accusers in the sexual misconduct lawsuit in Arkansas filed by Jones, a case that is related to the Lewinsky matter. Starr is reviewing Clinton's deposition this month in the Jones case, in which the president reportedly denied under oath that he had had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky.

Yesterday, in a motion asking that U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright speed up the trial date in the Jones case, Clinton's private lawyers took shots at Jones' attorneys, at Starr and at the news media.

"The events of the last few days have shown that the higher courts' confidence that this case could proceed without undue distraction to the nation's business was unfounded," the motion, prepared by Robert S. Bennett and others on Clinton's legal team, states.

Jones' camp

Susan Carpenter McMillan, an adviser and spokeswoman for Jones, said the Bennett motion would be opposed by Jones' lawyers.

If anything, McMillan said, Jones' lawyers want more time to gather additional evidence before a trial.

"I think [Bennett] is afraid there is going to be too many women," McMillan said. "He wants to cut us off where we're at. He doesn't want any more. This is the King of Stall, and now he wants to move up the trial date? I'm a little suspicious."

Calling Jones' litigation "a partisan witch hunt aimed at discrediting Mr. Clinton's presidency," Bennett's motion asserts that waiting until the scheduled trial date of May 27 would have "dire consequences" not only for Clinton, but also for the institution of the presidency.

"The president is being tarred in the media; gossip, innuendo and hearsay are being passed off as fact," Bennett's motion contends.

"Allegations by unnamed sources are claimed to be credible. Normal journalistic restraint has been abandoned by the broadcast media in their competition to be first on the air with titillating allegations."

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