WASHINGTON -- There are some things a parent doesn't need to know, Monica Lewinsky's mother told incredulous prosecutors.
In secret testimony made public yesterday, Marcia Lewis said that she knew her daughter was exchanging gifts with President Clinton.
She knew the president was phoning her daughter. She knew her daughter was penning him passionate notes.
But Lewis said she tried to do what a mother should do -- listen, don't pry.
She testified that she never asked her daughter whether she was having a sexual affair with the president of the United States.
"I tried to get her to meet men her own age," Lewis explained to prosecutors. "I asked her all kinds of things.
"I did what mothers do when they're trying to get a grown-up child off a bad course.
"But, I, myself, could not control this situation. I, myself, could not control what was happening."
Prosecutors appeared to be having a hard time believing Lewis.
"You never asked her point-blank? Is that right?" associate independent counsel Michael Emmick asked.
"I never asked her point-blank if it was sexual," Lewis said. "That's correct."
But Lewis did say she believed Lewinsky was "being used, the way women are used sometimes," and she implored her daughter to leave town, find a another job and start a new life.
"I begged her to leave Washington," Lewis testified. "I begged her to date other people and start a different life.
"But there was no way, and nothing I could have done at that time, and no one I could have said this to, because it would have been too unbelievable."
In the transcripts released yesterday, Lewis portrays herself as a middle-age mother caught in the midst of a wide-ranging investigation that forced her to take the stand in a criminal case involving her daughter.
She contradicted her daughter's own words captured on taped calls between Lewinsky and Linda R. Tripp, which were played for Lewis during her testimony.
She said she never advised her daughter to hide the president's gifts, and she never approved of a plan to obstruct justice in the Paula Corbin Jones sexual harassment case.
During her second day on the witness stand in February, Lewis broke down before the grand jury. Prosecutors escorted her from the sealed room.
Once in the hallway, Lewis began to cry uncontrollably.
"I can't take take anymore," she sobbed, according to a report released with her testimony yesterday.
The scene of a distraught mother breaking down after being compelled to testify in the case turned into a public relations disaster for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.
To avoid any more embarrassing scenes, Starr permitted Lewis to complete her testimony in the confines of his office.
Lewis stood by her story.
Despite persistent questions from prosecutors, she refused to say that she knew her daughter was having sex with Clinton.
She refused to say she helped her daughter cover it up. She declined to say that her daughter was afraid of the president's men.
And she refused to tell prosecutors that she knew anything about efforts to obstruct justice.
After losing a legal fight to avoid testifying and being granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony, the one-time columnist for the Hollywood Reporter, book author and wife of a wealthy Beverly Hills doctor took the witness stand in Grand Jury Room Number 4 on Feb. 10 and 11.
Lewis made her appearance months before her daughter finally agreed to tell the whole story to the grand jury after Starr agreed to grant her immunity.
She said her relationship with Lewinsky was as "close as a mother and daughter should be," but not as close as some newspaper accounts have described it.
One news account called Lewis "Monica squared."
When Lewinsky was working as a White House intern, Lewis said, her daughter appeared to be smitten by Clinton, and she was suspicious that her daughter had "romantic" feelings for the president.
'Find a nice young man'
"As a loving mother, what was your reaction to that?" Emmick, the prosecutor, asked.
"I was very concerned, and not happy," Lewis testified.
"Because I would like my daughter to find a nice young man and get married, and I would like grandchildren," she explained.
Lewis said she started to sense real danger when her daughter exhibited wide mood swings. Some days, she was thrilled. Other days, she would lie on her bed and cry.
Lewis started to suspect that her daughter was having sex with Clinton after he gave her a book of poetry and she began to have late-night phone conversations with him.
"Did it strike you as unusual that the president of the United States was speaking on the telephone with your daughter?" Emmick asked.
"It seemed very unusual," Lewis said.
"OK, now you understand that she has also told other people that you and she are quite close, and that she has confided in you that she has had sexual contact with the president," Emmick said.
"I do," Lewis said.
"Has she told you about any sexual contact that she's had with the president?"