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Clinton Faces Jones at Deposition

January 17, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Closeted in an 11th-floor conference room, accompanied only by their lawyers, President Clinton faced Paula Jones on Saturday and, under oath, gave secret testimony in her sensational sexual harassment lawsuit.

There was no immediate word on the substance of the president’s testimony, and attorneys on both sides warned in advance they would abide by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright’s gag order.

A source familiar with Clinton’s preparation for the deposition, however, said the president would not rule out ever meeting Mrs. Jones at a Little Rock, Ark., hotel. But the source said Clinton did not recall ``anything about her″ and ``barely remembered anything about the (May 1991) conference″ at which the two allegedly met and where Mrs. Jones says Clinton exposed himself and asked for oral sex.

In a dark business suit and accompanied by attorney Robert Bennett, Clinton was whisked by motorcade the 1 1/2 blocks between the White House and Bennett’s law offices, where he became the first American president to testify as a defendant in any criminal or civil suit.

Mrs. Jones and her husband arrived via Highland Cab, car No. 50.

Havoc reigned as cameras and reporters jumped atop cars, roughly butted the Jones party and blocked the law firm’s back entrance. Susan Carpenter McMillan, Mrs. Jones’ spokeswoman, called them ``real jerks″ and aborted plans to have Mrs. Jones make a brief statement.

``I feel so proud ... to know this judicial system works, to know that a little girl from Arkansas is equal under the law to the president of the United States,″ Carpenter McMillan quoted Mrs. Jones as saying Saturday before the crush of camera crews rendered her speechless.

Mrs. Jones was deposed for 13 hours over two days last fall.

``Go get him! We’re with you kid!″ shouted a bystander perched on a parking meter.

Underscoring the extraordinary nature of Clinton’s deposition, Judge Wright traveled from Little Rock to sit in and referee disputes over allowable questions. Mrs. Jones’ attorneys were expected to ask Clinton about other women he may have subjected to unwanted sexual advances _ either as Arkansas governor or as president.

At least one woman, former White House employee Kathleen Willey, alleged to have had an encounter with Clinton similar to the one Mrs. Jones accused him of, already has been deposed in the case along with Genifer Flowers and other women claiming extramarital affairs with Clinton.

Clinton supporter Lance Ekas, who stood on a window ledge Saturday to glimpse Mrs. Jones, said: ``It sure would have been nice to see him go out shining instead of tarnished.″

Clinton’s limousine drove directly into the building’s parking garage, and he was not seen outside. At the White House, top aides put on a show of nonchalance and proceeded with meetings on Clinton’s upcoming State of the Union address.

While he cannot be compelled to testify at trial, either side can enter his videotaped deposition into the court record. Until then, his testimony was to remain under seal.

Since filing her lawsuit in 1994, Mrs. Jones has weathered intense scrutiny of both her credibility and her image. She traveled to Washington with a Hollywood hairstylist, and Carpenter McMillan hoped to stage for cameras a celebratory Saturday-night dinner with Mrs. Jones and her husband, Stephen, at a Washington restaurant.

A CBS/New York Times poll released this weekend showed half of Americans say they can’t tell whether Clinton is guilty, but 55 percent want the case to settle before its May 27 trial date. The phone survey was conducted Jan. 10-12 among 1,101 adults and had a 3 percent margin of error.

``Something happened. I don’t think we’ll ever really know (what),″ Charmane Wong, of New York, said as she waited Saturday with the crowd on 15th Street. ``But I’m here for a conference to help the homeless _ the stuff the president should be working on.″

Remarked cab driver Abdul R. Kamara, who ferried Mrs. Jones downtown: ``She popped into my cab, and I thought, `Wow! This is history.‴