Lewinsky testifies to encounters She tells grand jury of trysts with Clinton in study, sources say

'Complete, honest' answers

White House tries to maintain air of business as usual

August 07, 1998|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Monica Lewinsky, one of only two people with firsthand knowledge of a saga that has preoccupied the nation for more than half a year, told her story under oath to a federal grand jury yesterday, possibly pitting her word against President Clinton's.

Testifying for six hours, Lewinsky told of numerous sexual encounters with the president inside the White House, according to the Associated Press, which cited an unnamed legal source familiar with her testimony.

In the most significant day so far in the sex and perjury investigation by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, Lewinsky appeared composed as she arrived. She testified for a full day but made no public comments as she came and went from the courthouse with hundreds of cameras fixed on her.

Wearing a conservative blue suit with a pearl necklace -- and accompanied by her legal team and a spokeswoman -- the former White House intern got a hug and pat on the back from one of her lawyers as she arrived, shrugged her shoulders and then slipped in the side entrance to the courthouse early in the morning.

Avoiding reporters, she was whisked into a private elevator that is generally reserved for judges and up to the grand jury room.

At the end of the day, her spokeswoman, Judy Smith, said Lewinsky had answered "truthfully, completely and honestly" each question posed to her by prosecutors and members of the grand jury.

"Monica and her family are relieved that this ordeal finally appears to be coming to an end," Smith said.

She did not say whether Lewinsky had been asked to return to the grand jury or had completed her testimony yesterday.

As expected, Lewinsky reportedly testified that she and Clinton did have a sexual relationship that went on for 18 months, contrary to Clinton's sworn testimony in the Paula Corbin Jones sexual misconduct case denying such a relationship.

Substance of testimony

According to the legal source cited by the AP, Lewinsky testified that she and the president engaged in sexual encounters in the White House, including in a study near the Oval Office, and discussed how they could conceal their relationship.

But Lewinsky testified that Clinton never instructed her to lie under oath, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Starr is investigating whether Clinton committed perjury when he denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, and whether he or anyone else encouraged her to lie or obstructed justice.

Lewinsky signed a sworn affidavit in the Jones case in January in which she, too, denied having had a sexual relationship with Clinton.

Though her reversal would suggest that, if she is telling the truth now, she perjured herself in January, Starr has granted her and her family complete immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony.

Clinton is scheduled to testify before the grand jury -- via closed-circuit TV from the White House -- on Aug. 17.

Business as usual

Though the White House was acutely aware of the frenzied activity down the street at the courthouse -- and testimony that was expected to cast doubt on the president's truthfulness -- it sought to convey a business-as-usual air yesterday.

"Work goes on here every day and is unimpeded and unaffected by events outside of here," said Barry Toiv, a Clinton spokesman.

After an anti-crime event in the Rose Garden, the Marine band broke into a spirited "Stars and Stripes Forever," drowning out reporters' questions to Clinton.

Ignoring the Lewinsky-related questions, the president retreated to the Oval Office.

Toiv said the president had expressed no thoughts about Lewinsky's testimony, except "to agree that, if this means we're coming to the end of this four-year, over $40 million investigation, then that would be a good thing."

Lewinsky had been preparing for her appearance before the grand jury for days in sessions that have been described as emotional and, at times, embarrassing and difficult for her.

Her testimony is considered key to Starr's investigation because it could tie together much of the evidence the grand jury has heard from about 80 witnesses over the past 28 weeks, including tapes of her phone conversations, secretly made by her former colleague and friend Linda R. Tripp, in which Lewinsky is said to have discussed a sexual relationship with Clinton.

Aside from asking Lewinsky whether she had a sexual relationship with the president, and whether she was encouraged to cover it up, prosecutors want to know who advised her to return to Betty Currie, the president's secretary, gifts that Clinton had given to Lewinsky.

They want to know whether the efforts of Clinton's friend Vernon Jordan to find her a job in New York were intended to buy her silence about an affair with Clinton.

Questions about blue dress

And prosecutors were likely to ask Lewinsky about the physical evidence she has provided to Starr, including a blue dress that, she reportedly told the independent counsel, contained evidence of a sexual encounter with Clinton.

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