Still Standing By Clinton

Presidential friend Vernon Jordan's staunch denials are crucial to President Clinton's defense against allegations that he tried to encourage Monica Lewinsky's silence. But congressional investigators could use her testimony to chip away at Jordan's credibility.

Jordan got Ms. Lewinsky a job offer and a lawyer while she was under subpoena to testify about Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. He has testified that he didn't know about the president's sexual relationship with her.

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Ms. Lewinsky describes a December 22 conversation in which she says she told Jordan about sexy telephone conversations with the president; Jordan doesn't remember anything like that, his lawyer says.

Nine days after that conversation over breakfast at a ritzy hotel, she says Jordan advised her to get rid of drafts of personal notes to Clinton. Jordan says they never ate breakfast together, much less discussed destroying evidence.

Jordan "has never told anyone at any time to destroy any records," his lawyer, William Hundley, said Wednesday in an interview.

Jordan, an influential Washington attorney and longtime Clinton friend, testified before Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's grand jury on March 5 that he had never had breakfast with Ms. Lewinsky.

But the House Judiciary Committee has a receipt dated December 31 from the Park-Hyatt Hotel in Washington. Ms. Lewinsky testified that she had an egg white omelet and "I think he had cereal with yogurt." The receipt lists "one omelet" and "one hot cereal."

Prosecutors never questioned Jordan about Ms. Lewinsky's testimony on phone sex and document destruction. She did not begin cooperating with prosecutors until July 28, nearly eight weeks after the last of Jordan's five grand jury appearances.

"As far as the phone sex" testimony by Ms. Lewinsky, Jordan "testified that she did say certain things to him about Bill leaving Hillary, that she mentioned the gifts" exchanged between Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky, and "she mentioned the fact she and Clinton were having phone conversations," Jordan's lawyer said. But regarding Ms. Lewinsky's testimony that she told Jordan of sexually explicit telephone conversations, "he has no recollection of that."

Ms. Lewinsky said the subject came up while she talked with Jordan in his office before he took her to meet a lawyer to represent her in the Jones case. Ms. Lewinsky said she told Jordan she was worried that someone might have been eavesdropping on her phone calls with the president.

He asked why that worried her, she said. "Wel, we've had phone sex," she answered, according to her testimony.

She said Jordan answered, "I'm just an old man. I don't know what phone sex is." She then explained the term.

Ms. Lewinsky said she brought up the notes for Clinton at her breakfast meeting with Jordan.

Jordan said,"Go home and make sure they're not there," Ms. Lewinsky testified. "I thought that meant ... to go home and search around ... and if there are any copies of notes or anything that I sent or drafts, to throw them away."

She said she destroyed about 50 pages of notes. She said she had explained to Jordan that she had a friend, Linda Tripp, whom she didn't trust anymore and who might have seen notes to Clinton.

Hundley said Jordan has not been recalled by Starr's office to respond to Ms. Lewinsky's statements.

"I have not heard from the independent counsel since our last testimony when they told him that except for some extraordinary circumstance we would not be called back," Hundley said.

By Pete Yost