PAULA JONES UPDATE
March 13, 1998
Margaret Warner discusses the Paula Jones case with Washington Post correspondent, Dan Balz. Paula Jones' lawer has made attempts to create patterns of conduct in President Clinton in an effort to bring the case to trial.
MARGARET WARNER: Should Paula Jones' sexual misconduct suit against President Clinton actually go to trial? The President's lawyers say no. Last month, they filed a motion with the federal court in Little Rock, Arkansas, laying out their reasons why. Today Paula Jones's attorneys responded with a 700-page filing at the federal courthouse in Little Rock. And they also spoke to reporters in Washington. They argue that the evidence developed so far shows a pattern of conduct by the President that fully justifies the case going forward to trial.
DONOVAN CAMPBELL, Paula Jones' Lawyer: Specific patterns of conduct discussed in our pleading are, number one, a pattern of Mr. Clinton and his agents engaging in the suppression of evidence and obstruction of justice that gives the plaintiff, according to our pleading, the presumption that his case is week. The second pattern or practice has to do with additional summary judgment proof of a conspiracy with defendant Ferguson to violate the constitutional rights of Ms. Jones because of her sex, and in order to show conspiracy evidence, you can show a pattern and practice of prior conduct involving the same type of conspiracy to approach women through the use of state troopers, to provide sexual flavor--favors--excuse me. That's a pattern and practice that gives rise to an inference that there has been a conspiracy and an agreement to do that with respect to Ms. Jones. Our summary judgment pleading says that our evidence does show that, again, indicating that we should defeat this motion to dismiss.
MARGARET WARNER: A response was quick in coming from the President's attorney. Robert Bennett spoke to reporters in Los Angeles.
ROBERT BENNETT, President Clinton's Lawyer: It's clear from the filing today, which we're in the process of studying, that the very serious legal deficiencies fatal to Paul Jones's case remain. She has no case. She has suffered no damages. She was never harassed. Her filing is really not a serious legal document; it's a scurrilous paper, which really proves what we have been saying all along, namely that the plaintiff and her political and her financial backers are pursuing this case as a vehicle to humiliate and embarrass the President and to interfere with his presidency.
REPORTER: Mr. Bennett, in the papers filed today, Jones's attorneys claim that they have proven a pattern of behavior on the part of Bill Clinton whereby he rewarded those who performed sexual favors and punished those who did not. Can you respond to that.
ROBERT BENNETT: I would ask you to remember that question you just asked me and when the case is over to hold them accountable, as you members of the media are capable of doing, if they don't deliver on that promise. I tell you that no such evidence exists.
MARGARET WARNER: For more on this and how it connects to independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation, we return to the Washington Post newsroom and to Dan Balz, a correspondent on the Post's national staff. Dan, before we get into the details of today, explain one thing to us. In a civil case, a motion to dismiss, and the response to it are really fairly pro forma. They almost always happen. Why is there such interest in this filing today?
DAN BALZ, Washington Post: A couple of reasons, Margaret. First of all, as you know, this case has proceeded under a gag order by Judge Wright in Little Rock, which means there's been very little information about it that has been made public. The Bennett filing the motion of a month ago and now the Jones' team's response are really the first public evidence we have of what the case looks like. And so for that reason, there's an enormous amount of interest in it among the media. There was a big crush of reporters at this press conference today. But secondly, this is obviously very important because it now links directly to the Ken Starr investigation. We've known that since the beginning of the Ken Starr investigation, but given what the Paula Jones lawyers did today, that's even more so.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Explain that--explain the main arguments they advanced today and how they do connect.
DAN BALZ: Well, go back to what Robert Bennett did a month ago when he filed. He said essentially that this case should be dismissed because even if the facts that she alleges were true--and he, again, denied those facts about the 1991 incident--that she had not proven a legal case. What the Jones lawyers did today in their response was to say they do, in fact, have a strong legal case that she suffered discrimination as a result of her encounter with President Clinton in the Little Rock hotel room in 1991, that she, in fact, suffered job discrimination. She suffered emotional distress, and, therefore, they have a case to make that she could go forward on that basis. But today they introduced a new element in this, which they had not talked about before, as part of their case, which is that the President and his allies have engaged in a significant effort to suppress evidence and in other ways obstruct justice, and it, therefore, shows the weakness of the President's case. It diminishes the evidence the President has presented up to now, and they're asking the judge, again, on that basis to continue to move toward trial on May 27th.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. If we go first to the basis of the lawsuit, this is not, I gather, a standard sexual harassment suit but something else. Explain that briefly and what the practical effect of that is.
DAN BALZ: Well, the problem is Paula Jones missed the deadline for filing this case as a sexual harassment case. As a result, there are three counts, two federal and one state counts, that fall more broadly under the definition of civil rights violations, employment discrimination and the Arkansas case having to do with emotional distress. There is a dispute as to what difference that will make in terms of what each side has to prove or show in this case. And we won't really know what the standards are going to be for this case until it goes to trial.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay. Dan, tell us a little bit more about how the Jones lawyers responded to the main points raised by Bennett in his motion, i.e., that there really is no case under this definition.
DAN BALZ: Okay. Bennett's filing a month ago made a series of points: one, that there was no tangible harm to her career as a result of whatever happened in the Little Rock hotel room; that, in fact, she received regular raises. She received cost of living increases. She received good evaluations. Second, that there was no proof that she operated or was forced to work in a hostile work environment, that there was at most a one-time incident with Governor Clinton, and that that did not constitute a hostile work environment. Finally, that she really did not suffer any clear emotional distress, that she had never sought treatment for this, and that there was no evidence of that. And, point by point, the Jones lawyers attempted to rebut this. Now, on the issue of tangible harm to her job career, they made two arguments. First of all, they said she doesn't have to prove that; that the law does not require her under the terms that this case has been brought, does not require her to prove that. But they say she did suffer tangible harm; that she was discouraged from seeking better jobs; that when she returned from maternity leave, that she had fewer responsibilities than she had had in the past; and that in other ways she had suffered. For example, they say on Secretary Day she did not get flowers, as did many other women in the office. Secondly, they say that they meet the test of whether she was operating in a hostile work environment. And this, they cite the fact that because she had an encounter with the governor of Arkansas, who is a significant figure in the way they describe it, and that the encounter, in their estimation, amounted to a form of sexual assault, that that is enough--a one-time incident is enough to meet the threshold. And finally, they say, again, that she suffered emotional distress. They brought a new document forward from a doctor citing this, and they quoted in a new declaration by Paula Jones some of her own claims that she suffered, "severe embarrassment, humiliation, grief, shame, anxiety, and fear."
MARGARET WARNER: Now, we heard both attorneys refer to some other women and cases involving other women. What are the Jones' lawyers trying to prove by bringing in other women into this, and on what grounds are they able to do so?
DAN BALZ: Well, what they're trying to show is a pattern of behavior on President Clinton's part alleging that those women who responded to his overtures were in one way or another rewarded for that response, or if they didn't, that they were discriminated against. Now, as Jones's lawyer made clear, they are also talking about the pattern or practice in which state troopers were used by President Clinton to basically bring women to Mr. Clinton for sexual encounters, and that that happened in the Paula Jones case and that it happened before.
MARGARET WARNER: This is what they're trying to demonstrate.
DAN BALZ: Correct.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, what are they--what do they cite when they talk about this suppression of evidence, or this pattern of suppression of evidence?
DAN BALZ: Well, what they're talking about--and this is where it links most directly to the investigation by the independent counsel Ken Starr--what they're saying is that in the cases of a number of women with whom President Clinton had some kind of encounter--whether it is Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Willey, who had worked as a volunteer in the White House at one point, even Gennifer Flowers--that President Clinton or his associates have urged all of those people to either lie or alter their testimony, or in one way or another suppress the truth.
MARGARET WARNER: And you mentioned Monica Lewinsky. That evidence involving her or depositions has been ruled inadmissible by the judge, yet, I gather some information about her was included in this public file.
DAN BALZ: There is some information from the Monica Lewinsky case, not from--from her deposition with them, not a lot of information. But they use--in fact, they cite Ken Starr's investigation and the reasons for it as part of the evidence for which they say that there's an effort on the part of the President to suppress.
MARGARET WARNER: Now--and I know this is 700 pages, and neither you nor I have read it all, but there is the deposition from Kathleen Willey. She was also really the most high-profile witness before Ken Starr's grand jury this week. Explain briefly her importance to both of these cases.
DAN BALZ: Kathleen Willey now emerges as a central figure in both of these investigations or both of these cases. She had an encounter with President Clinton in the Oval Office. She alleges in the deposition that he groped her essentially and that she tried to spurn his advances. The deposition, I am told by the people here who have read it, is quite graphic. But, in addition to that, there's an important change in it and that she amended the deposition after giving it to say that she had been--that she talked to a Democratic fund-raiser named Nate Landow about her testimony. She had said before that she had not talked to anybody in advance of her testimony about it. She amended it to say that she had talked to Nate Landow. We believe that that is the reason that she was testifying at the Starr grand jury this week, and she was a cooperative witness before that grand jury. She was not there with a team of her own lawyers. She was there under the guidance of Ken Starr's attorneys, which suggests that she is cooperating fully with their investigation as to whether there were efforts by the President or some of his aides or friends to suppress testimony or obstruct justice.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, we're out of time, Dan, but thanks very much.
DAN BALZ: Thank you, Margaret.