Scandal stakeout at Mayflower Hotel

Famous witness remains secluded in penthouse, avoiding crowd in lobby

February 02, 1999|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The pictures on the walls of the presidential suite at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel tell the story of the capital -- archival renderings of the Capitol dome, yellowed maps of district streets and vintage photographs of Washington. But the discussions taking place there yesterday told a far less stately chapter in that history.

Monica Lewinsky sat in that penthouse suite for about six hours starting at 9: 03 a.m., as House prosecutors sought new details stemming from her relationship with President Clinton. When it was their turn, White House lawyers declined to question her.

The elegant suite, with its plush pastel couches and Colonial appointments, was surrounded by security. The players were just as guarded: Tom Griffith, the chief Senate legal counsel, even wiped the chocolate-chip cookie crumbs from his face, saying he didn't want the world to know the catering choices at the deposition.

With reporters and photographers camped in the regal hotel lobby, Lewinsky remained scarce. She emerged just once, for a breakfast of an egg-white omelet with mushrooms and mozzarella cheese.

The media gaggle proved too much for Lewinsky's mother, Marcia Lewis, who appeared in the lobby in the afternoon but quickly retreated after journalists surrounded her.

It was the sort of spectacle scandal-watchers pay to see.

Witnessing history

Anne Beaty invested in a trip for her two daughters -- taking them out of their Greenwich, Conn., elementary school for the day -- so that the family could sit in the lobby and wait for Monica. Beaty decided on the trip after realizing how difficult it would be to watch the Senate trial from the spectators' gallery, and said the hotel stakeout was far juicier anyway.

"I took them here for the big event -- for historical reasons," Beaty said during her midday scandal-watch, adding that this was even more entertaining than the Watergate hearings she attended as a teen-ager. "It's fun for them to be able to say they were there."

Perhaps the Beatys were hoping for a declaration like the one Lewinsky once made in an e-mail to a friend in November 1997: "I really hope that the creep and I can still have contact, because, I know it sounds soooooooooo ridiculous, but I can't get him out of my heart. I love him a lot. I know it's stupid. I want to hug him so bad right now I could cry."

Alas, there was no such outburst. In fact, there was no more Monica. At lunchtime, Lewinsky ordered a chicken Caesar salad and vegetable soup via room service. (No word on how the deposition went, but apparently a little comfort food was in order: The hotel also sent up a bowl of vanilla and coffee ice cream, drizzled with chocolate sauce.)

No leaks allowed

Participants in Lewinsky's 23rd round of questioning were under strict orders not to blab after the meeting disbanded at 3: 14 p.m. Three White House lawyers -- David E. Kendall, Cheryl Mills and Nicole Seligman -- carried seven overstuffed legal briefcases and chatted about how heavy their bags were.

Others looked pained to be surrounded by so many reporters eager for answers. When trapped with them for five minutes at a hotel exit, Senate Sergeant at Arms James W. Ziglar brushed them off and tried to talk about the Super Bowl. Fellow Senate aides did not help him: Apparently too busy to watch the game Sunday, they did not even know the score.

Doctors at a pharmaceutical conference at the hotel camped out with reporters, taking a break from topics such as "Emerging Gastrointestinal Therapy Markets."

The day fizzled to a close with no heart-stopping scandal revelations. After the questioning, hotel workers cleaned up the presidential suite and broke apart catering tables that had held deli snacks. The room was quiet.

Lewinsky had returned to her room. Unlike the presidential suite, her quarters were rather more modest. For one thing, there was no presidential seal set in the floor.

Pub Date: 2/02/99

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