Lewinsky Tells Starr Team of Affair with President

Article excerpt

Monica Lewinsky told independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's prosecutors yesterday that she had a sexual relationship with President Clinton but would not confirm that anyone had told her to lie about it under oath, according to a lawyer close to the grand jury probe.

Miss Lewinsky's meeting with prosecutors was a major move toward an immunity deal in exchange for testimony from the former White House intern.

The session occurred as a federal appeals court panel rejected Mr. Clinton's claim that White House Deputy Counsel Bruce Lindsey is barred from testifying before the grand jury because of attorney-client privilege, and negotiations continued by the president's attorneys for a compromise deal on Mr. Starr's subpoena of Mr. Clinton.

The court ruling means Mr. Lindsey cannot rely on the privilege claim to refuse to answer questions on conversations he had with the president about Miss Lewinsky.

The prevailing 2-1 opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was joined by Judges Judith Rogers, who was appointed by President Clinton, and Raymond Randolph, appointed by President Bush. Judge David Tatel, appointed by Mr. Clinton, dissented. The administration is expected to appeal.

The Lewinsky meeting came in response to Mr. Starr's insistence in February that she would get no grant of immunity without a "face-to-face interview" with his staff about whether she had a sexual relationship with Mr. Clinton and whether the president asked her to deny it under oath.

A lawyer close to the grand jury investigation said that during the nearly seven-hour meeting in New York City, Miss Lewinsky said that she would tell a grand jury that she had an 18-month sexual relationship with the president, but she would not say that he or others told her to lie about it in her affidavit in the Paula Jones sexual misconduct lawsuit.

The prosecutors also discussed with Miss Lewinsky details of private conversations she had with the president, the source said.

The source said the prosecutors will meet with Miss Lewinsky again, probably today, to discuss other aspects of the case, including Mr. Starr's continuing concerns that administration officials suborned perjury and obstructed justice.

Mr. Starr's focus now would be that Miss Lewinsky may have been directed to lie - not vocally, but by means of a three-page summary, or "talking points," that she delivered to Linda R. Tripp, suggesting how Mrs. Tripp could lie in the Jones case.

No decision was made yesterday on whether to grant immunity to Miss Lewinsky. If she proves to be credible, her grand jury appearance could be soon, they said.

The Lewinsky session may signal a conclusion of the sex-and-lies investigation. Only Miss Lewinsky and Mr. Clinton have not been heard by the grand jury.

Miss Lewinsky would face perjury charges if she lied when she denied the affair in her affidavit in the Jones suit. She was tape-recorded as saying the affair occurred and that Mr. Clinton and White House insider Vernon E. Jordan Jr. told her to lie about it in her Jones affidavit.

Yesterday's meeting, according to lawyers and others close to the probe, was scheduled by Miss Lewinsky's attorneys after they learned that Mr. Starr's office had subpoenaed Mr. Clinton to testify in the case. It lasted throughout the day, the sources said, with Miss Lewinsky freely discussing the matter with prosecutors.

"There was some concern on the part of Miss Lewinsky's lawyers that her window of opportunity was quickly closing," said one source close to the probe. "They had no desire to put their client in further jeopardy."

Mr. …