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
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. …