Clinton vows to tell all to Starr Complete and truthful testimony promised in Lewinsky matter

August 01, 1998|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON SUN STAFF WRITER SUSAN BAER CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — WASHINGTON -- President Clinton vowed yesterday to testify "completely and truthfully" about Monica Lewinsky, saying he was "anxious" to tell his side of the story to prosecutors.

Clinton appeared to be responding at least partly to arguments by supporters and opponents alike that he had a duty to give a full accounting of his relationship with Lewinsky, the former White House intern.

He made clear, though, that he would not make any further comment before Aug. 17, when Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr questions him under oath at the White House.

The CBS and NBC television networks said last night that the questioning session would be done by interactive television, with the grand jurors able to ask Clinton questions. Earlier, Clinton attorney David E. Kendall had said the session would be videotaped for the jurors.

"No one wants to get this matter behind us more than I do, except maybe all the rest of the American people," Clinton said in making his first public remarks on the subject since agreeing to provide videotaped testimony.

"I am looking forward to the opportunity of testifying. I will do so completely and truthfully. I am anxious to do it."

He said he would have nothing more to say on the subject until then, and simply walked away as reporters shouted questions.

Among the questions to which he did not respond was whether he would provide a sample of DNA material -- presumably to be used by the FBI in determining whether a blue cocktail dress that Lewinsky gave to prosecutors has on it evidence of a sexual encounter with Clinton.

The Associated Press quoted unnamed law enforcement sources as saying that the dress has a visible stain, although tests still must determine the composition of the stain.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Starr, saying the investigation is at a "critical stage," announced that he will take a leave of absence -- without pay -- from his Washington law firm, Kirkland and Ellis, until the probe is completed.

Along with the past week's rapid-fire developments, with Clinton agreeing to testify and Lewinsky getting an immunity grant in return for her testimony, Starr's statement suggested that the criminal inquiry is intensifying.

Earlier in his probe, Starr was accused by critics of spending too much time on lucrative high-profile cases for his firm, which was still paying his $1 million-plus yearly salary while he was drawing a six-figure government salary.

In some cases, he represented positions in opposition to Clinton administration policy, such as a federal appeals case he argued on behalf of the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. in a lawsuit brought by consumers. He also represented Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin in a school-voucher case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Starr said yesterday that, from the beginning of his probe four years ago, "my duties as independent counsel have been my top priority."

Both Starr and the law firm said he was expected to return to the firm after finishing as independent counsel. Tom Yannucci, a member of the firm's management committee, said the leave was arranged at Starr's request.

In another development, the Paula Corbin Jones sexual misconduct lawsuit -- the four-year court battle that provided the basis for leading special prosecutor Starr into investigating the White House sex scandal involving Lewinsky -- stirred back to life in St. Louis.

Seeking to revive that dismissed case against Clinton, lawyers for Jones asked a federal appeals court for the opportunity to develop evidence that Clinton had admitted to Lewinsky that he had made a sexual advance toward Jones in 1991, when he was Arkansas governor and Jones was a state employee.

That kind of evidence, the lawyers told the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was being sought -- and was likely to have been found -- when the judge overseeing the case stopped any further inquiry by Jones' team into Lewinsky and barred all such evidence so far gathered from Jones' case.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright of Little Rock, asked by Starr to temporarily stop Jones' investigators from looking into the Lewinsky matter, went further and simply took that out of the case altogether. That was wrong, and should be overturned by the appeals court, the Jones lawyers contended.

In dismissing the case without a trial -- the ruling that the appeals court is reviewing -- Wright said that Jones had "failed to demonstrate she has a case worthy of being submitted to a jury."

In a 62-page legal brief, accompanied by 3,300 pages of documents filed under seal, Jones' lawyers argued that she has a strong case of sexual harassment against Clinton based upon a crude sexual advance toward her in a Little Rock hotel room in May 1991.

Evidence of a relationship with Lewinsky, they contended, would help prove that Clinton made that advance toward Jones.

Clinton's attorneys have until Sept. 8 to answer the Jones brief and to defend Wright's ruling ending the case. The appeals court will not hold a hearing before October at the earliest.

Pub Date: 8/01/98

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