Grand jury testimony by Clinton mulled President's top lawyer, prosecutors said to talk

March 11, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton's top lawyer and prosecutors investigating the Monica Lewinsky matter have recently opened discussions over whether Clinton would provide grand jury testimony, a senior administration official and a lawyer involved in the inquiry said yesterday.

The contact between the president's lawyer, David E. Kendall, and prosecutors appears not to have resulted yet in any agreement over the timing or scope of testimony.

The discussions suggest that Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr could complete the fact-finding phase of the Lewinsky inquiry within the next few weeks, since Clinton would be one of the final witnesses to testify. Negotiations with Lewinsky's lawyers over immunity for her testimony broke down weeks ago.

Clinton might be reluctant to refuse a request by Starr that he testify because it would leave the impression that he has something to hide. Testifying poses both legal and political risks, however. He could be caught by surprise -- as he was in the Paula Corbin Jones deposition, in which he was asked for the first time about Lewinsky.

Although Starr could simply subpoena the president, doing so might make him appear overly aggressive and might force the president to claim executive privilege and refuse to answer questions, a step that could lead to a protracted court battle.

Pub Date: 3/11/98

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