FROM THE NEWSROOM
January 26, 1998
President Clinton again stated that there had been no sexual relationship between himself and a former White House intern. He also adamantly denied that he had asked the intern, Monica Lewinsky, to lie about their alleged affair. The NewsHour gets the latest on the story from Washington Post reporter Dan Balz. Also look for the next day's Post coverage after 10:30pm EST.
JIM LEHRER: President Clinton's crisis. We begin by tracking the developments today with reporters and editors of the Washington Post, something we will do each evening until it runs its course. Margaret Warner is in charge tonight.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
January 26, 1998:
Our presidential historians discuss the importance of President Clinton's State of the Union address.
January 26, 1998:
Experts debate the role of the independent counsel.
January 23, 1998:
Mark Shields and Paul Gigot discuss the the political issues surrounding President Clinton's alleged affair.
January 22, 1998:
Shields and Gigot discuss the legal implications of the crisis.
January 22, 1998:
Presidential historians and experts put the brewing crisis in perspective.
January 21, 1998:
President Clinton responds to charges that he may have had an affair with a former White House intern.
May 27, 1997:
A discussion on the ramifications of the Paula Jones case on the office of the Presidency.
January 13, 1997:
Paula Jones's case goes before the Supreme Court.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the White House and legal issues
The Shields and Gigot index page.
The Washingtonpost.com's coverage of the crisis.
MARGARET WARNER: Joining us now from the Washington Post newsroom is Dan Balz, a correspondent on the Post's national staff. Dan, we're going to go over some of the developments today. And let's start with the President's statement. What led to the decision to have the President come out and make this statement today?
DAN BALZ, Washington Post: Margaret, I think there's been concern ever since last week when this first broke that the President's statement attempting to deny the allegations had not been clear or forceful enough. As you remember, last week, he issued a series of statements in a number of interviews, including one with Jim Lehrer, in which he made statements that some people suggested were not clear and unequivocal in their denials. The White House had also issued some statements attempting to clear it up. It created more of a problem for them than if they had not done it. So what they were looking for was a clear, clean denial of both the major charges: One, that there had been any sexual relations between the President and Monica Lewinsky; and second, that he had done anything in any way to suggest to her that she not tell the truth in her deposition. They felt much better after he issued the statement today because they now have one clear statement to point it to. They can tell their supporters that the President has denied it in no uncertain terms.
MARGARET WARNER: What was the thinking beyond--behind them having the President simply say what he'd said last week and go no further?
DAN BALZ: Well, at this point they don't want him to start answering a lot of questions about this. This is a delicate legal and perilous legal proceeding for him. And until they know more about what Monica Lewinsky may say in her situation, they don't want to go any farther. From their point of view, there are two people who know what happened in this case: the President and Monica Lewinsky. Each of them has now issued a denial, the President last week and again today; Monica Lewinsky in her affidavit in the Paula Jones case. Until that changes, the White House does not believe that it's in the President's interest to answer any more questions. They believe that the next step now is to determine what Ken Starr plans to do and what Monica Lewinsky plans to do.
Negotiations between the Independent Counsel and Monica Lewinsky.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's turn to that, which is--are the negotiations between Ken Starr and the lawyer for Monica Lewinsky, Mr. Ginsburg. Are there any developments on that front today?
DAN BALZ: Well, today we had a flurry of--Monica Lewinsky left her Watergate apartment, an apartment of her mother at the Watergate, and went off in a car, setting off a huge press chase. It appeared to the press that she had ended up at a downtown office building quite near the Washington Post. We don't know whether that is the case, but it created a huge stakeout. We believe the negotiations are continuing, but at this point we do not think there is a resolution.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Explain to us now what is the hang-up, what does each side want and why is the other side so far not willing to give them what they want?
DAN BALZ: What Monica Lewinsky and her attorney, Mr. Ginsburg, want is total immunity from any prosecution involving this matter. Ken Starr, the independent counsel, is prepared to give that but only after he knows fully what she is prepared to testify to. He's had some instances in the Whitewater investigation in which he thought he had agreements with people to provide damaging evidence in the case, only to find out once had given them some sort of some limited immunity that he did not get what he expected. He does not want this to happen. Now, he put an offer on the table ten days ago when they first took Monica Lewinsky into a hotel room at Pentagon City here in suburban Washington. And at that point they said you have a day to decide whether to cooperate. The deadline passed, and they have been at loggerheads ever since. And her lawyer has offered or had offered at an earlier point a verbal description of what she would say. But it was, according to the sources we've talked to, a vague description and, most importantly, did not say what she would testify to about the veracity of the tapes that Linda Tripp, her friend, had made and turned over to Ken Starr.
MARGARET WARNER: And, briefly, why is her side--why is Mr. Ginsburg unwilling to give this written proffer that Ken Starr is looking for?
DAN BALZ: That's not clear at this point. We're not entirely sure why they have not been prepared to give a detailed accounting of what she's prepared to testify.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's go on to Ken Starr's investigation on other fronts. What else is he pursuing, other than trying to get Monica Lewinsky to talk to him?
DAN BALZ: Well, he's pursuing a whole series of efforts to try to gather evidence that would corroborate what already exists on the tapes, which we are all told suggest that there was a sexual relationship between the President and Monica Lewinsky. So he has issued a series of subpoenas asking for White House logs that would show her comings and goings at the White House, supposedly late in the evening. He has subpoenaed courier receipts that would indicate whether she had sent messages or packages from the Pentagon where she was working to the White House. They are trying to talk to friends of hers. They are doing as much as they possibly can to see whether there is corroborating evidence. There was a report yesterday that they are trying to find witnesses who had supposedly seen the President and Ms. Lewinsky in a compromising position, and what they are saying, according to the sources we're talking to, is that as this investigation continues, as their efforts continue, her testimony becomes less and less relevant. Now, we don't know whether that is, in fact, the case, or whether it is part of the negotiating strategy to apply more pressure on Monica Lewinsky.
MARGARET WARNER: And from your reporting, do you know if Starr yet has any independent confirmation of what was alleged on the tapes?
DAN BALZ: At this point we are not clear on that.
MARGARET WARNER: Is there any deadline driving all of this, that is, the Starr/Lewinsky negotiations and also, to some degree, Starr's pursuit of this case on other fronts?
DAN BALZ: There's no obvious deadline on this. I think everybody believes that it can't go on indefinitely, but, as you know, this Whitewater investigation has gone on for years. So to suggest that there's a deadline, we're not sure that there is. There clearly was initially, when they talked to her a week ago Friday, but at this point, it's not clear that they have laid down a deadline.
The Whitewater grand jury.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, there is a grand jury, as I understand it, here in Washington that's sort of an ongoing Whitewater grand jury. What is--is anything happening on that front?
DAN BALZ: There had been an indication that she would be, or that the grand jury would hear testimony tomorrow from Vernon Jordan, the President's friend and Washington lawyer, perhaps from Betty Curry, the President's secretary, and even perhaps from Monica Lewinsky. What we are now told is that it is unlikely that they will take any testimony tomorrow, in part, because they don't want to create a spectacle on the day of the State of the Union address. So they may convene the grand jury; they may take some other testimony, or look at some documents and things like that, but at this point we don't believe they will take testimony from any of the principal players in the case.
Jones v. Clinton.
MARGARET WARNER: And, finally, let's turn to the other piece in this mosaic, which is the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit. Now, today the President's lawyer, Bob Bennett, asked the judge in Arkansas to advance the trial date for the Paula Jones case.
DAN BALZ: That's correct.
MARGARET WARNER: Why? What was the rationale he gave?
DAN BALZ: Well, the rationale he gave is that this case has now become a distraction to the President and that he cannot conduct his duties as President with all this swirling about. You'll recall that at the time the President gave the deposition a week ago Saturday his press secretary, Mike McCurry, said it's a distraction but not a major distraction. They have clearly changed strategy on this. I think they believe that they do not want this to drag on for months, that there is all kinds of unseemly material that's being gathered in this case. The longer it drags on at this point, the more embarrassing and politically damaging it could be. They would like to try to get a resolution as quickly as they can.
MARGARET WARNER: Did he have in his filing a legal rationale, or why the judge should even consider this?
DAN BALZ: As we're told, it is not a full legal document at this point. In fact, Jones's lawyers has sort of dismissed it as a press release. There's much more to be heard back and forth on this. Jones's lawyers are obviously--have the opportunity to respond. They have not formally done that, but it is clearly an effort on the President's lawyer's part to try to compress this matter into as small a time period as possible.
MARGARET WARNER: And then, finally, there are reports that Kenneth Starr is trying to acquire some of the depositions and sworn statements made in the Paula Jones case, such as last Saturday's. Explain that, what he's looking for there.
DAN BALZ: Well, the President--the independent counsel is trying to get his hands on the deposition that the President gave in the case to find out what he was asked about Monica Lewinsky and what he responded to. We believe that--we don't think that they've gotten it yet, but that they probably get it perhaps tomorrow or the next day.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Dan, thank you very much.
DAN BALZ: You're welcome.
JIM LEHRER: We will be going to the Washington Post newsroom each evening for an update on the President's crisis story. The Post coverage is available also in full after 10:30 Eastern Time on the Internet at its Web site: www.washingtonpost.com, or on ours, www.pbs.org/newshour.