Ex-Aide: Clinton Silence Troubling
Feb. 04, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The White House said Wednesday that President Clinton has ``cleared the air'' about the Monica Lewinsky matter, but former senior adviser George Stephanopoulos said nagging questions remain.
``The longer the president goes without telling his side of the story, the more unease there will be in the public,'' Stephanopoulos said one day after testifying before the grand jury investigating allegations of a presidential affair and cover-up.
Those called before the grand jury on Wednesday included Bayani Nelvis, a White House steward back for a second round of questioning, and Chris Engskov, personal assistant to the president.
White House lawyers, meanwhile, were in talks with prosecutor Kenneth Starr's team in an effort to limit the scope of questions posed to Clinton advisers, based on the principle of executive privilege.
The talks were aimed at protecting ``the right of the president to get confidential advice from his advisers,'' said White House press secretary Mike McCurry.
Among those whose potential testimony is under discussion are White House advisers John Podesta and Bruce Lindsey. Podesta is deputy White House chief of staff. Lindsey, a Clinton confidant, is deputy White House counsel and special assistant to the president.
Vice President Al Gore, interviewed for NBC's ``Today'' show, said any concern about the Lewinsky matter ``falls away with the president's denials of the charges.''
Likewise, McCurry told reporters, ``the president believes he's already cleared the air.''
Clinton has forcefully denied Ms. Lewinsky's tape-recorded claims that she had a sexual relationship with him and that he encouraged her to lie about it.
But the White House has declined to address specifics of the case, such as how well he knew the former White House intern, why she made dozens of visits to the executive mansion after leaving her job there and why Clinton allies helped her find a job in New York.
McCurry later acknowledged that questions remain but said the proper place for them to be answered was ``through the formal investigation that is under way.''
Stephanopoulos said on ABC's ``Good Morning America'' that refusing to answer specifics ``may be their only strategy right now'' at the White House, but that ``an awful lot of questions'' are open.
Gore said he believes Clinton's denials. But he passed up a chance to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton's theory that a ``vast right-wing conspiracy'' is behind the allegations being pursued by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.
``I respect her opinions and analysis,'' Gore said when asked about Mrs. Clinton's assertion. ``I'm not going to comment on Judge Starr. ... But there's no question that there have been unprecedented attacks on this president and on the agenda that we've been pursuing.''
The woman at the center of the controversy, Ms. Lewinsky, was visiting her father in California while her lawyer continued efforts to broker a deal under which she would testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., rejected suggestions Clinton needs to give a fuller explanation of his association with Ms. Lewinsky.
``People don't care,'' Daschle told reporters. ``That's what the polls say.''
Taking note of such sentiment, the publisher of The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., wrote a front-page letter to readers announcing that Wednesday's paper was ``Monica-free.''
``Except for this column, you will find no references to Lewinsky or related allegations in today's newspaper,'' wrote publisher Pat Coburn. ``We're just trying to respond, however symbolically, to the criticism that news organizations, including The State Journal-Register, are blowing this story out of proportion.''
Even if public interest is waning, the Clintons' legal bills keep piling up _ for the Lewinsky matter and other investigations such as Starr's inquiry into the Whitewater land deal.
McCurry said the president's lawyers were reviewing proposals for establishing a new legal defense fund to help cover bills estimated at more than $3 million. Clinton shut down his old legal defense fund, which had a $1,000 donation limit, last year because donations had dried up. Sources said lawyers were considering allowing the new one to solicit up to $10,000 per individual.
In Arkansas, media groups including The Associated Press asked a judge to unseal documents in Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton and to lift a gag order, arguing it promotes innuendo and rumor.
According to sources familiar with the matter but speaking only on condition of anonymity, Ms. Lewinsky submitted an affidavit in the Jones case denying that she had an affair with Clinton, and the president denied in his deposition in the Jones' lawsuit that he had any sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky.