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Lewinsky's Presidential Presents

Last December, Monica Lewinsky told President Clinton she didn't want to testify in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the president, according to legal sources familiar with their secret grand jury testimony.

Mr. Clinton replied that a number of women were filing affidavits in the case, the sources said Friday. Witnesses often file affidavits to avoid undergoing questioning by attorneys in a deposition.

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The incident highlights the difficulties both Congress and Mr. Clinton likely face in dealing with the subject of possible obstruction of justice in the Lewinsky investigation.

Lewinsky ended up filing an affidavit in the Paula Jones harassment case, denying she had a sexual relationship with Mr. Clinton. But there is no evidence the conversation she and the president had about the suggested affidavit involved any direction by him for her to lie.

Lewinsky told the grand jury that, early in their relationship, in late 1995 or early 1996, the two had discussed concealment, but that such conversations had ended long before the onset of their possible testimony in the Jones case.

Other details of Mr. Clinton's grand jury testimony leaked out Friday, including the disclosure that last Dec. 28, a mere 3 1/2 weeks before the uproar over the relationship began, the president gave the former White House intern up to a half-dozen small gifts.

The gifts included:

  • an Alaskan stone carving of a bear
  • a throw rug or blanket
  • a decorative pin
  • a box of chocolates
  • joke sunglasses
  • a bag from the Black Dog store at Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where the Clintons have vacationed for three years.
In his grand jury testimony, Mr. Clinton itemized the first three gifts and, under questioning by prosecutors, acknowledged he may have given the last three.

This presidential largesse came in a 15- to 20-minute Sunday morning meeting that probably took place in the Oval Office, the sources said.

But only a few weeks later, on Jan. 17, Mr. Clinton said during the Jones deposition only that he "could have given her a gift, but I don't remember a specific gift." He also answered, "I don't recall," when asked whether he ever had been alone in the Oval Office with Lewinsky. He made no reference to their Dec. 28 meeting and said that Lewinsky stopped by the White House before Christmas to see the president's personal secretary, Betty Currie.

In this week's grand jury testimony, Mr. Clinton testified the items were going-away presents, the sources said. Lewinsky was planning to go to New York to take a job that presidentia friend Vernon Jordan was trying to secure.

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr has been investigating whether the subsequent retrieval by Currie of a number of gifts Mr. Clinton had given Lewinsky amounted to obstruction of justice by the president.

CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante reports that with the testimony of President Clinton and Lewinsky in hand, Starr is in the process of putting final touches on a report to Congress that could form the basis for a vote on impeachment proceedings.

Democrats on Capitol Hill feel believe if any report to Congress by Starr focuses on sex, there will be no chance for impeachment proceedings against the president.

But if the independent counsel sends to Congress strong evidence that the president tried to obstruct justice, Mr. Clinton will have much more difficult problems, many of the Democrats say.

Mr. Clinton's advisers have said since Tuesday that he will not answer any more questions for Starr. If the prosecutor issues another subpoena, Mr. Clinton would almost certainly fight it, they say.

In the context of Jones case, sources said, Mr. Clinton and Lewinsky had a conversation earlier in December about various gifts he had given her. In that conversation, Mr. Clinton told the grand jury, he informed her that she would have to turn over the gifts she had to Mrs. Jones' lawyers.

Lewinsky's account of that conversation is different. She said he told her that she couldn't turn the gifts over to the Jones lawyers if she didn't have them. The next day, Lewinsky has testified, Currie came to retrieve them from her.

Sources familiar with Mr. Clinton's testimony said he told grand jurors he did not instruct Mrs. Currie or anybody else to retrieve the gifts from Lewinsky. Mr. Clinton also said he did not learn that Lewinsky had turned over the gifts to the secretary until after Starr's inquiry became public.

In other developments Friday:

  • The White House asked the Supreme Court to consider overturning an appeals court ruling that deputy White House counsel Bruce Lindsey testify. The appeal said "the president's need for confidential consultations with White House counsel...can scarcely be questioned" at a time when "we stand...upon the brink" of possible impeachment proceedings by Congress.
  • Mr. Clinton's new legal defense fund reported receiving $2.2 million in contributions during its first six months of operation. Several Hollywood luminaries were among those making maximum $10,000 donations, including Tom Hanks and Barbra Streisand.
  • The New York Times reported that the FBI crime laboratory has determined that the stain on a blue dress of Lewinsky's was genetic material. The DNA in that stain is now being compared to the DNA sample of the president. Lewinsky turned over the dress three weeks ago after she was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony against Mr. Clinto.
Lewinsky wants to go about "rebuilding her life," family spokeswoman Judy Smith said after Lewinsky left the courthouse Thursday after her second (and probably last) appearance. The grand jury is apparently not finished with its work, and more witnesses may be called next week.

Friends and associates say Lewinsky was hurt by what she thought was the president's dismissive characterization of their relationship. Believing their affair was rooted in strong emotional ties, Lewinsky was upset that Mr. Clinton "made it out to be just a sexual relationship," said one associate.
President Clinton flew back to his vacationing family on Martha's Vineyard Friday afternoon after completing emergency work at White House in the wake of U.S. air strikes on terrorist sites in Afghanistan and Sudan.

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