Lewinsky gets immunity, will say Clinton lied Ex-intern to testify that they had affair, he suggested denials

'Full and truthful testimony'

Statement would go to heart of the matter of Starr's investigation

July 29, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Monica Lewinsky received a sweeping grant of immunity from federal prosecution yesterday, in exchange for a promise to testify that she and President Clinton had agreed to deny that they had a sexual relationship, two lawyers familiar with her account said.

Clinton and Lewinsky have denied under oath that they had a sexual relationship. But in discussions leading to the immunity deal, Lewinsky told prosecutors this week that she and the president had a sexual relationship that began in 1995. The 25-year-old former White House intern now admits she lied in the sworn affidavit she submitted in the Paula Jones sexual misconduct suit in January.

One of the lawyers said yesterday that Lewinsky had indicated to prosecutors that the president discussed with her hypothetical explanations that would help them keep their relationship private. In one aside, two lawyers with knowledge of Lewinsky's proposed testimony said, the president told her: If there are two people in a room and something happens and they both deny it, there is no way to prove it. Lewinsky has said that Clinton told her that in mid-December, after she was listed on the witness list in the Jones case but before she had received a subpoena.

The admissions were crucial to reaching the broad immunity deal with independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr announced

yesterday. Lewinsky pledged her "full and truthful testimony" in exchange for freedom from the threat of prosecution. Her mother, Marcia Lewis, received a similar grant of immunity yesterday.

Under the immunity arrangement, Lewinsky is prepared to testify that the president told her that he planned to deny a relationship and that if they both denied it, no one would know the truth, the lawyers said.

Lewinsky is also prepared to say that the president encouraged her to say that her many visits to the White House after she lost her job there in 1996 were to see Betty Currie, Clinton's private secretary, and not the president himself, the lawyers said.

Clinton contradicted

Lewinsky's proposed testimony contradicts Clinton's assertions in public and under oath about their relationship.

In January, after the alleged affair became public, Clinton emphatically denied in a public statement having sexual relations with Lewinsky or encouraging her or anyone else to lie.

Clinton did not comment in public about the immunity agreement. His spokesman, Mike McCurry, said Clinton told aides he was "pleased that things are working out" for Lewinsky. The president had nothing more to say about the matter, McCurry said.

The immunity deal -- which protects Lewinsky from virtually any possibility of prosecution except for perjury in future grand jury testimony -- poses serious problems for Clinton if he has been less than truthful in previous public and sworn statements.

Lewinsky's assertions go beyond the question of whether they engaged in some form of sexual behavior and reach the marrow of Starr's inquiry.

Starr is seeking to learn whether Clinton or close advisers committed perjury, witness tampering or obstruction of justice in seeking to conceal his relationship with Lewinsky.

'Talking points'

The lawyers familiar with her account say Lewinsky is prepared to testify that she wrote the "talking points," a three-page document that she gave to her colleague, Linda R. Tripp, that were intended to influence Tripp's testimony in the Jones case. She also will testify that no one at the White House helped her prepare them, the lawyers said.

White House aides expressed jubilation at this development, saying that news accounts and allies of Starr had said the talking points would form the foundation of an obstruction of justice case against the president.

Starr spokesman Charles Bakaly refused to discuss Lewinsky's potential grand jury testimony.

The immunity deal came after months of negotiations between Lewinsky's lawyers and lawyers from Starr's office. William Ginsburg, the California medical malpractice lawyer who represented Lewinsky in the early months of the inquiry, openly mocked Starr's prosecution team and all but dared them to indict her.

Lewinsky's family dismissed Ginsburg in early June and her new legal team of experienced Washington defense lawyers quickly opened talks with Starr that led to yesterday's agreement.

Lewinsky's mother, whose grand jury testimony last winter was suspended after she broke down on the witness stand, also reached an immunity deal with prosecutors yesterday, said her lawyer, Billy Martin.

Starr wants Lewis' complete story because Lewinsky shared with her mother many details of her dealings with the president.

Lewis' lawyer sought immunity to protect her from any charges that might arise from advice she gave her daughter about how to respond to the Jones lawyers.

'No problem' for president

Clinton, McCurry said in a testy and abbreviated briefing for reporters, was not concerned about Lewinsky's impending testimony.

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