Tenn. Republican may ease Lewinsky's interrogation

Bryant built `rapport' with former intern during Jan. 24 interview

Trial In The Senate

February 01, 1999|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Note to Monica Lewinsky: Don't worry about your deposition today for President Clinton's impeachment trial. As far as House prosecutors are concerned, it's No More Mr. Bad-Guy -- Rep. Ed Bryant, a Tennessee Republican, will do the questioning.

That's the message that House managers wanted to send when they chose Bryant to interrogate the 25-year-old former White House intern in an effort to resolve inconsistencies in garnered evidence. Word from Lewinsky's friends is that the much-deposed young woman from Beverly Hills, Calif., was apprehensive to say the least, about the combative style of some of the other House prosecutors.

GOP insiders say Bryant seemed to "connect" with Lewinsky when, on Jan. 24, the low-key, soft-spoken Tennessean and two other House managers -- Reps. Bill McCollum, a Florida Republican, and Asa Hutchinson, an Arkansas Republican -- interviewed her before a possible deposition.

"They seemed to build up a good rapport," a House strategist said.

That doesn't mean that Lewinsky or her attorney, Plato Cacheris, can relax.

While Bryant, 50, may seem less intense than some of the House managers, he is an experienced former federal prosecutor -- regarded as methodical and precise, and as convinced as the others that Clinton deserves to be removed from office.

A native Tennessean who spent two years as U.S. attorney in Memphis, Bryant was elected to Congress as part of the Republican "revolution" of 1994 that gave the GOP control of Congress.

Before his election, his stint as a prosecutor had gained him valuable visibility. As U.S. attorney, Bryant won convictions in the state's biggest mass-murder case on record and in the nation's first civil rights case involving harassment against a sitting judge.

His career took a bad turn when his prosecution of then-Rep. Harold E. Ford, a Tennessee Republican, on mail and tax-fraud charges resulted in a hung jury. When the Justice Department backed Ford on a request for a new jury -- which acquitted him -- Bryant resigned in protest. Ford was succeeded in office by his son, Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., in 1996.

Pub Date: 2/01/99

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