Clinton aides mull outside expert to blunt congressional inquiry into Starr's report Less formal public speech on Lewinsky affair urged


WASHINGTON THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — WASHINGTON -- With President Clinton's worries shifting from the grand jury room to Capitol Hill, his senior aides are considering proposing that he hire an outside expert to help blunt any congressional inquiry into a report by independent prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr, White House officials said yesterday.

The move is one of several debated inside the White House over the past week, as Clinton's political strategists searched for ways to help him rebuild public confidence, retain support of congressional Democrats and begin to campaign again for his policy goals.

Other options that were under discussion have been set aside, White House aides said. Some of Clinton's friends and advisers have been pressing him to give another, less formal public address about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, in the wake of sharp criticism, even within the White House, that his speech Aug. 17 was not apologetic enough.

But White House officials say the president is unlikely to do that. Instead, they expect him to address the matter when he travels to Russia next week during a joint news conference with President Boris N. Yeltsin.

Clinton has been said by friends to be worried about the critical reviews of his previous speech. But his aides say they have taken heart from public surveys showing that most Americans continue to approve of the job he has done. To encourage that point of view, they have been planning for him to interrupt his Martha's Vineyard vacation this week to hold at least one public event, probably on the subject of crime.

Despite criticism in Washington, White House officials said, they have not detected any public desire for a fuller apology. One White House adviser said Clinton had received letters of support and encouragement from congressional Democrats and Republicans.

But Clinton has come under fire from Republicans and some Democrats on Capitol Hill. His aides are worried that his existing legal team does not have the expertise to handle potential impeachment hearings. Some have complained that David Kendall, the president's private lawyer, has not paid enough attention to the politics of his legal predicament.

But one senior administration official said that any new faces would not supplant Kendall.

The White House does not appear to have approached anyone for the job.

Starr is preparing a report for Congress on his investigation into Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky, a former intern. He may also address other subjects he has examined during his four-year investigation, which originally focused on the Clintons' Whitewater real estate deal.

Newsweek reported that Starr believes the public "will want to throw up" after reading his graphic report of the president's sexual encounters in his Oval Office study.

But lawmakers of both parties suggested that was probably irrelevant to questions of perjury and obstruction of justice, now that Clinton has admitted having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky.

"It's irrelevant, and any disclosure in that regard is purely for the hysterical political value," said Rep. Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

On vacation in Edgartown, Mass., the Clintons lunched separately with friends yesterday -- he with Vernon Jordan, she at a boating party with female friends -- as they continued their vacation of private talk and contemplation.

Amid calls for the president to amplify his confession to an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky, two close Clinton advisers said another public address on the matter is "not on the table."

But aides did not rule out the possibility that Clinton might address the issue -- possibly including the apology that some have called for -- in another setting.

Pub Date: 8/25/98

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