Bad News For Clinton

Monica Lewinsky will "reluctantly appear" once again for questioning by prosecutors in the perjury and obstruction probe of President Clinton, a lawyer for the former White House intern said Tuesday.

Plato Cacheris said Independent Counsel Robert Ray's office "called last week and said they want to interview her" and that "under the immunity agreement, she has to give" her full cooperation.

"She will reluctantly appear and be interviewed by Mr. Ray's office," said Cacheris, who added that his client "would like to put this whole thing behind her." No date has been set.

Asked if he meant that Lewinsky wants to see Mr. Clinton "walk" rather than face prosecution, Cacheris said he wasn't saying that, but that she simply "wants to end this burden that is on her."

At Ray's request, a federal grand jury that was empaneled in July in Washington has been hearing evidence against Mr. Clinton in twice-a-week meetings. Lewinsky's upcoming interview will not be before the grand jury. Frequently, witnesses undergo interviews out of the presence of a grand jury and appear for grand jury testimony later.

Ray's deputy, Keith Ausbrook, said on Tuesday that "we're taking the ordinary steps in trying to conclude the investigation shortly after the president leaves office. We're not going to comment on any particular step."

Lewinsky, who has been cooperating with prosecutors since 1998, is required to comply with Ray's request because of her immunity deal with the independent counsel's office.

Based on a report submitted by Ray's predecessor Kenneth Starr, the president was impeached by the House for alleged perjury and obstruction. The Senate acquitted Mr. Clinton of obstruction on a 50-50 vote and the Senate voted 55-45 against convicting him of perjury. A two-thirds majority was necessary for conviction.

Since Lewinsky testified before a previous grand jury empaneled by Starr, Ray's move for a new interview is not seen as a positive sign for the president.

"There's really no reason for Ray to re-interview Lewinsky unless he's figuring to do something with that new grand jury in the way of an indictment," Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney and one-time independent counsel, told The Los Angeles Times.

A Republican who as an independent counsel investigated charges of abuse of passport files by the Bush White House, DiGenova also said of Ray, "If he's only preparing to close out the case for a final report - dotting the I's and crossing the T's, so to speak - the last person he would need to interview is Lewinsky. He already has so much information that Starr gathered from her and sent to Congress."

But certainly as a prosecutor, you would never bring a case against the president without interviewing such a key witness," he concluded.

And L.A. attorney Mark Geragos, who defended former Clinton associate Susan McDougal against crimnal prosecution by Starr over the independent counsel's Whitewater probe, agreed.

Geragos told the Times that Ray's request "would seem to substantiate that (Mr.) Clinton is still in harm's way before this independent counsel - and either has been indicted already (in secret) or they plan to do it soon after he leaves office."

Ray has said that a decision on prosecuting Mr. Clinton for his conduct in the Lewinsky scandal will come "very shortly" after the president leaves the White House in January.

Mr. Clinton, a lawyer, also is undergoing disbarment proceedings in Arkansas for his sworn testimony in the Paula Jones case in which he denied having sex with Lewinsky and said he didn't recall being alone with her.

The Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct says Mr. Clinton is unfit to practice law because of that testimony.

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