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What Will The President Say?

This is a moment of extreme peril for president Clinton. Monday at 1 p.m. ET, a federal grand jury will see Mr. Clinton raise his right hand and swear to tell the whole truth, CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Scott Pelley reports.

From now through the weekend, Mr. Clinton and a tight circle of attorneys will debate just what that truth will be.

CBS News has spoken to two sources close to Mr. Clinton's legal team. The sources say the lawyers are presenting the president with a number of scenarios for his testimony.

One option under discussion calls for Mr. Clinton to acknowledge an intimate relationship with Monica Lewinsky. One source told CBS News, "The president is listening, he is hearing, and discussing what he wants to do."

Acknowledging sex would contradict his sworn testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case when Mr. Clinton said: "I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. I've never had an affair with her."

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But the same sources say Mr. Clinton's legal team has developed an
argument that the kind of sex alleged by Lewinsky does not technically fit the legal definition that was given the president in the Jones case.

It is a dubious argument because the definition was written to be comprehensive. But even if such a technicality did exist it doesn't help the president with his early public statements:

  • "It means there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship, or any other kind of relationship."
  • "All I know is what I've read here. I am going to cooperate. I didn't ask anybody not to tell the truth. There is no improper relationship."
  • "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie to a single time, never."

Perjury will not be the only question at the White House on Monday. Perhaps more importantly, prosecutors will ask if the president obstructed justice. Lewinsky claims Mr. Clinton encouraged her to get rid of evidence that had been subpoenaed in the Jones suit.

For now, the president has not settled on a defense strategy. He has not decided whether to address the nation after his testimony on Monday.

One of the president's most senior advisers told CBS News: "He's in with the lawyers. What foes no in there, not one soul in this White House knows."