Bill Couldn't Tell Hill About Monica

bill and hillary clinton AP

President Clinton could not bring himself to tell his wife that he had lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, so he dispatched his personal attorney to deliver the news, according to a new book.

The disclosure was made in The Breach: Inside the Impeachment and Trial of William Jefferson Clinton, by Washington Post reporter Peter Baker.

Attorney David Kendall met with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in the White House residential wing in 1998 to tell her that Mr. Clinton lied when he denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern.
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The Post reported excerpts from the book in Wednesday's editions.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart declined comment on the book. "I can't add anything to it. As far as some of the specific things, they were news to me," he said.

Baker writes that Mr. Clinton was so distracted by the impeachment, which ended in his acquittal last year, that aides at White House meetings sometimes had to answer questions for him. And a key adviser approached several Democratic Party leaders about a strategy to urge him to resign when impeachment seemed almost certain.

In the late summer of 1998, Baker writes, a former White House deputy chief of staff, Harold M. Ickes, "told people that the only possible way to convince his ex-boss to give up power would be to put together a coalition of interest groups and key senior members from Congress to go to him as a delegation and tell him there was no way to hold the White House in 2000 unless he resigned."

Ickes broached the idea to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and was told: "Let's wait and see, Harold." The idea faded away.

The book also claims that at the height of the scandal in mid-1998, as many as 100 of 206 House Democrats told party leaders they might vote for Mr. Clinton's impeachment. Only five did in the end. And the president's relations with Senate Minorty Leader Tom Daschle were so frayed that the South Dakota lawmaker briefly refused to take Mr. Clinton's phone calls.

Baker writes that many White House aides were furious with Mr. Clinton for the affair and his lies about it. "How dare you? We're not going to use this crap!" former Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles is quoted as telling Clinton lawyer Mickey Kantor after Kantor suggested the president give a speech in which he show little regret for the affair. Bowles later stormed out of a White House damage-control meeting, saying "I think I'm going to throw up."

In a surprising disclosure, Baker says that shortly before the impeachment drive went to the House floor in December 1998, Republican House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston wanted to call the whole thing off.

Livingston, who would soon be forced to resign over his own marital infidelities, told an aide, Mark Corallo, "We've got to stop this. This is crazy. We're about to impeach the president of the United States."

Corallo convinced Livingston to reconsider. "Boss, we have a rapist in the White House," he said, a reference to allegations against Mr. Clinton by a woman named Juanita Broaddrick about a 1978 incident. Broaddrick's calims were not included in the House impeachment findings.

Livingston said he can't recall the conversation, but didn't deny it took place.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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