Inquiry Now Looks to Former Intern Independent Counsel Is Negotiating with Monica Lewinsky's Attorneys over Her Grand-Jury Testimony, Planned for Tomorrow

By Warren Richey, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 26, 1998 | Go to article overview

Inquiry Now Looks to Former Intern Independent Counsel Is Negotiating with Monica Lewinsky's Attorneys over Her Grand-Jury Testimony, Planned for Tomorrow


Warren Richey, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


In the span of a few days, Monica Lewinsky has gone from budding public-relations specialist with friends in powerful places to one of the most feared women in Washington.

On one level she is - as her attorney describes her - a frightened, embarrassed, emotionally devastated 24-year-old under pressure from competing forces.

But on another level, she represents the greatest threat to Bill Clinton and an administration already deep in crisis. At the same time, she may pose a threat to the credibility of independent counsel Kenneth Starr, if the public perceives she is being beat up by a vindictive, partisan prosecutor. The stakes are high on both sides as Ms. Lewinsky prepares to appear tomorrow before the grand jury impaneled to investigate President Clinton. It remains unclear whether she will assert her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and remain silent, as White House officials hope, or whether she will agree to cooperate with the independent counsel and testify against the president. For the past week, Lewinsky's lawyers have been trying to secure a grant of blanket immunity from prosecution for their client. Mr. Starr has balked out of concern that Lewinsky might not follow through with complete cooperation. Starr wants her to provide a detailed statement of every fact she is willing to testify to under oath, including alleged obstruction of justice. He is willing to grant her limited immunity for all items in her statement, but nothing more. That way, if she fails to testify in accord with her written agreement or investigators later uncover new evidence of Lewinsky's own wrongdoing, Starr can prosecute her, analysts say. If she refuses to testify altogether, Starr has the power to recommend she be jailed in the same way that Susan McDougal was jailed for refusing to testify against Clinton. In addition, Starr is calling Lewinsky's parents to testify before the grand jury, presumably to ask them under penalty of perjury whether their daughter ever told them she was having a sexual relationship with the president. Clinton has reportedly conceded to close associates that he had a friendship with Lewinsky that began while she was a White House intern. But he says it was not sexual. Clinton's lawyer, Robert Bennett, is emphasizing Starr's pressure tactics, suggesting that determined prosecutors can make anyone testify but the end result may not necessarily be the truth. "Prosecutors engage in a legalized form of extortion all the time while convincing people to cooperate," says Neal Sonnett, a defense attorney in Miami. Juries are instructed to weigh any resulting testimony with great care, he says. Legal analysts say that Lewinsky's testimony would be essential to any case against the president. Her testimony about alleged sexual relations with Clinton could support perjury charges against the president because of his reported sworn statement in the Paula Jones case on Jan. …

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