Lewinsky says she was given a lie for testimony Source says intern told to say she visited Currie


WASHINGTON -- Monica Lewinsky is claiming that President Clinton told her at a private meeting late last month that she could testify in the Paula Corbin Jones lawsuit that her visits to him at the White House were to see his secretary.

She says he also suggested that she could avoid testifying by moving to New York City.

This recent account of the White House meeting in late December, two weeks after she was ordered to testify in Jones' sexual misconduct suit against Clinton, was described by an associate of Lewinsky who has spoken with her and by others who know Lewinsky's version of what happened.

Clinton has not provided an account of any discussions he might have had with Lewinsky, a 24-year-old former White House intern who reportedly has said in secretly recorded conversations that she had a sexual relationship with the president.

But in the week since her reported allegations became public, Clinton has said he never told anyone to lie and he did not have a sexual relationship with her.

What Lewinsky has offered to tell Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel, in exchange for immunity from prosecution is the subject of secret negotiations between her lawyer and Starr's office.

The reconstruction of events in the weeks before and after the December meeting, based on interviews with executives, associates of Lewinsky, lawyers involved in the case and White House aides, indicates that she was preoccupied with her employment difficulties that month and with the call to testify in the Jones case.

According to her associate, Lewinsky said that Clinton sought to reassure her at the meeting, after she described how she had just been rejected by American Express on Dec. 23 for a job in New York City.

Thomas Schick, the executive vice president for corporate communications at American Express, said in an interview that he told Lewinsky just before Christmas that she lacked the experience to work in his department.

Lewinsky had told the Pentagon in November that she planned to leave her job in its office of public affairs.

But she received no offers from two other firms at which she sought jobs: Revlon and Young & Rubicam, an advertising agency, according to company executives, an associate of Clinton friend Vernon Jordan, and lawyers involved in the investigation.

On Jan. 7, Lewinsky signed her affidavit in the Jones case. In it, Lewinsky stated she had not had sexual relations with Clinton.

Ten days later, Robert Bennett, the president's lawyer, tried to use it to block questions about the president's relationship with Lewinsky, according to lawyers involved in the Jones lawsuit, arguing that the affidavit made the questions irrelevant.

On Jan. 8, Jordan, who is on the Revlon board, called the company on Lewinsky's behalf, furthering an effort he began a month earlier, according to a lawyer involved in the case.

A few days later, Revlon offered her a job, which was to begin later in January. But on Jan. 21, it became public that Linda R Tripp had recordings of Lewinsky alleging the affair with Clinton.

That same day, Revlon rescinded its job offer.

Jordan has acknowledged helping Lewinsky at Revlon. He has said that he helped many young, promising individuals over the years. He also has said that Betty Currie, the president's personal secretary, asked him to help Lewinsky. But he has declined to answer specific questions publicly.

It is not clear whether Lewinsky has said that Clinton knew she had been subpoenaed before the December meeting.

It would be ethically questionable for a defendant in a civil lawsuit to discuss the case with a potential witness subpoenaed by the plaintiffs, lawyers said. Bennett, Clinton's lawyer, did not return a call yesterday seeking comment.

Starr is investigating whether the president or Jordan asked Lewinsky to lie in the Jones case.

Lanny Davis, a White House special counsel, said last night that he could not comment because White House lawyers had not provided him with answers to questions about Lewinsky, submitted earlier in the day.

Another spokesman, Barry Toiv, said that he too had talked to a White House lawyer. "I'm not going to be able to help you with details," he said. But Toiv then repeated Clinton's earlier denials.

"The president has emphatically denied that he had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, and he has also stated emphatically that he has never told anybody to do anything but tell the truth."

William Ginsburg, Lewinsky's lawyer, said he could not comment because it would violate the attorney-client privilege.

In Lewinsky's account, Clinton told her in the late December meeting not to worry about being drawn into the lawsuit, the associate said. According to this version, Clinton told Lewinsky that, if asked, she could describe her White House visits as meetings with Currie.

And Lewinsky said he suggested that she could avoid testifying in the Jones lawsuit if she lived in New York, where she was seeking employment, according to the account.

Under federal rules, Lewinsky could not escape complying with a subpoena issued in connection with the Jones lawsuit in federal court in Arkansas simply by living in New York. But a move from Washington to New York could have made it more difficult for Jones' lawyers to find her.

Currie testified before the grand jury Tuesday. She has refused to publicly answer specific questions.

In the investigation by Starr, grand jury subpoenas prepared by his office compel witnesses to produce any information they have on a list of figures, including Bennett and Bruce Lindsey, a White House deputy counsel who has been working on the Jones case.

Davis, the White House special counsel, did not respond to questions about Lindsey's involvement in the case.

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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