Stranger Than Fiction

White House aide Sidney Blumenthal describes his discussions with President Clinton about Monica Lewinsky in these excerpts from Blumenthal's grand jury testimony.

Blumenthal is one of Mr. Clinton's most ardent defenders. The GOP has accused Blumenthal of leaking damaging information about foes of the White House to the media. He is reported to be close to first lady Hillary Clinton.

[Blumenthal describes his discussion with the president on Jan. 21, the day that reports of Mr. Clinton's affair with Lewinsky first became public.]

Blumenthal: I said that . . . I had spoken to the first lady that day in the afternoon about the story that had broke in the morning and I related to the president my conversation with the first lady and the conversation went as follows:

The first lady said that she was distressed that the president was being attacked, in her view, for political motives, for his ministry of a troubled person. She said that the president ministers to troubled people all the time, that he has ministered to - and he does so out of religious conviction and personal temperament.

She said to me on that occasion, "If you knew his mother, you would understand it." And the first lady said he had done this dozens if not hundreds of times with people, the President came from a broken home and this was very hard to prevent him from trying to minister to these troubled people.

So I related that conversation to the president. And I told him my opinion because it is my duty to offer him candid and frank advice. And I said to him that I understand that you feel this way, but . . .

Prosecutor: Feel what way?

Blumenthal: That you want to minister to troubled people, that you feel compassionate. However, you're the president and these troubled people can just get you in incredible messes and you just - I know you don't want to - but you have to cut yourself off from them. And he said, "It's very difficult for me to do that, given how I am. I want to help people." I said that he really shouldn't. You really need to not do that at this point, that you can't get near anybody who is even remotely crazy. You're president.

[Blumenthal's reaction to Mr. Clinton's claim that he was ministering to Lewinsky.]

Blumenthal: I certainly believed his story. It was very heartfelt story, he was pouring out his heart, and I believed him.

[Mr. Clinton talked to Blumenthal about a conversation the president had with political consultant Dick Morris.]

Blumenthal: He said Dick Morris had called him that day [Jan. 21] and he said that Dick had told him that Nixon - he had read the newspaper and he said, "You know, Nixon could have survived Watergate if he had gone on television and given an address and said everything he had done wrong and got it all out in the beginning."

And I said to the president, "What hav you done wrong?" And he said, "Nothing. I haven't done anything wrong."

I said, "Well then, that's one of the stupidest ideas I've ever heard. Why would you do that if you've done nothing wrong?"

[Mr. Clinton tells Blumenthal about a sexual advance made on him by Lewinsky.]

Blumenthal: He said, "Monica Lewinsky came at me and made a sexual demand on me." He rebuffed her. He said, "I've gone down that road before. I've caused pain for a lot of people and I'm not going to do that again." She threatened him. She said that she would tell people they'd had an affair, that she was known as the stalker among her peers, and that she hated it and if she had an affair or said she had an affair then she wouldn't be the stalker any more.

And I repeated to the president that he really needed never to be near people who were troubled like this, that it was just -- he needed not to be near troubled people like this. And I said, "You need to find some sure footing here, some solid ground."

[Mr. Clinton compares himself to a character in a novel.]

Blumenthal: And he said: "I feel like a character in a novel. I feel like somebody who is surrounded by an oppressive force that is creating a lie about me and I can't get the truth out. I feel like the character in the novel Darkness at Noon."

And I said to him, "When this happened with Monica Lewinsky, were you alone? He said, "Well, I was within eyesight or earshot of someone."

[Blumenthal asks the president about reports that he talked on the phone to Lewinsky.]

Blumenthal: I said, "You know there are press reports that you made phone calls to her and that there's voice mail. Did you make phone calls to her?"

He said that he remembered calling her when Betty Currie's brother died and that he left a message on her voice machine that Betty's brother had died and he said she was close to Betty and had been very kind to Betty. And that's what he recalled.

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