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Congress Releases Clinton Footage

September 21, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The videotape of the Clinton grand jury testimony has been released, and the broadcast has begun.

The tape begins with Clinton raising his right hand and being sworn in.

Clinton is seated in a chair in the Map Room of the White House, wearing a dark suit, on the afternoon of August 17th.

A prosecutor explains to Clinton the details of the investigation, and Clinton responds, ``I do″ when asked if he understands them. He also says he understands the nature of the grand jury proceedings, and his own privileges during his questioning.

He is told that his testimony is under oath, and that he could be prosecuted if he lies or misleads the grand jury. He says, ``I believe that’s correct.″

Clinton says he will ``answer each question as accurately and fully as I can.″

Prosecutors began by dealing in general terms with some of President Clinton’s earlier testimony, and whether he felt an obligation to testify truthfully.

Congress laid before a wary nation today the raw footage of President Clinton’s grand jury testimony and 3,183 pages of evidence chronicling his relationship with Monica Lewinsky in explicit detail. ``I regret that what began as friendship came to include this conduct,″ Clinton testifies.

The testimony shows Clinton reading a statement early on describing his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky as involving ``sexual banter″ and ``inappropriate intimate contact.″ He then refuses to describe the relationship further when prosecutors press for more. Clinton insists he did not commit perjury in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit.

``I think it is clear what inappropriately intimate is. I have said what it did not include. I _ it did not sexual intercourse _ and I do not believe it included conduct which falls within the definition I was given in the Jones deposition,″ Clinton snapped in one exchange. ``And I would like to stay with that characterization.″

The material was delivered to lawmakers’ office this morning shortly before it was to be released to the public and the video aired on television. The Associated Press obtained an early copy of the two-volume set of evidence, which totaled 3,183 pages.

The materials included a table chronicling Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky’s encounters, which began in August 1995 with ``eye contact″ and ``flirtation″ and led to ``physical intimacy including oral sex″ in November 1995. The tables ends with a Dec. 28, 1997, meeting in which Ms. Lewinsky gave Clinton Christmas gifts that included a sexually suggestive candy gag gift.

It also included black-and-white photographs of many of the gifts that Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky exchanged over the course of their two-year relationship. Among them: a Radio City music hall blanket he gave her, a handbag from the Black Dog cafe on Martha’s Vineyard and a dress hanging on a hanger covered in a plastic bag.

On a video to be played unedited on cable stations just after breakfast, Clinton expressed remorse for his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, a former White House intern.

``I regret that what began as friendship came to include this conduct,″ the president answered just seven minutes into his testimony, when the first sex-related question was posed.

In an event unrivaled in history, the House made public the footage of Clinton’s Aug. 17 grand jury appearance and some of Ms. Lewinsky’s most salacious descriptions of their relationship _ detailing sexually explicit phone conversations and intimate encounters inside the Oval Office suite. The material was released, over Democratic objections, before the House has voted on the outlines for expected impeachment proceedings.

It provides, however, only one side of the story: the material that Starr said supported his case for 11 possibly impeachable offenses against the president. Even before the transcripts were made public, the White House described the release of the material as a ``garbage dump.″

Among the most salacious materials were the transcripts of Ms. Lewinsky’s two grand jury appearances and the interviews and affidavits she submitted to the FBI in which she described in breathtaking detail a relationship that involved 10 sexual encounters with Clinton in the Oval Office and another 15 or so explicit phone conversations.

The material also included unsent letters retrieved from Ms. Lewinsky’s computer that contained additional detail about the relationship.

There also were photos of Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky in the White House, including one of the two together in the White House press office and another where she watches as the president talks with senior aides.

On the tape, moments of presidential regret are interspersed with legal debates involving the terms ``sexual relations″ and ``alone″ and, in one exchange, the tense of a verb.

Away from the spectacle, the president was at the United Nations in New York to give a speech on combating terrorism. Before he departed Sunday, the president attended church for the first since his admission of wrongdoing in mid-August.

In addition to Clinton’s and Ms. Lewinsky’s testimony, the House also was expected to release the FBI tests that concluded semen on one of Ms. Lewinsky dresses belonged to Clinton, transcripts of phone messages the president left on Ms. Lewinsky’s apartment answering machine and six months of correspondence, sometimes testy, between Starr and Clinton lawyer David Kendall.

The tape was likely to produce a handful of highlights that will be played and replayed on television, to the discomfort of parents seeking to shield children from an increasingly lurid collection of information about Clinton’s relationship.

Lawmakers who viewed the tape of Clinton’s Aug. 17 testimony said it is at times boring, at times riveting, as the president’s emotions range from evasive to angry to remorseful.

CNN, which planned to carry the tape in its entirety, warned viewers today the footage contains ``both language and descriptions″ that ``may be offensive to some viewers and unsuitable to children.″

``There are some points in time where the president looks in the camera and makes a pretty compelling acquitting of himself, of how he feels about what Ken Starr has done to him, to his family, to his friends, and how he felt the Paula Jones (sexual harassment) case was politically motivated. And I think he was very sincere,″ said Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the House Judiciary Committee that voted last week to release the material. ``You can tell that this has hurt the guy.″

At other times, though, Clinton appears to be ``dancing on the head of a pin to try to describe what sexual relations are,″ Graham said Sunday on NBC’s ``Meet the Press.″ He predicted disclosure of the tape would not be a knockout blow to the president.

The GOP-led Congress risked a political backlash in releasing a videotape that a CBS poll found 52 percent of Americans said they planned to watch but that 69 percent felt was unnecessary to release. According to the survey, 59 percent of the public believed the tape’s release had more to do with embarrassing the president than letting the public judge him. The poll of 533 adults, taken Saturday, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Deputy White House chief of staff John Podesta said the tape ``will be painful to watch″ as Clinton struggles with the consequences of his actions on his family and his presidency. ``But I think there might be a surprising reaction,″ Podesta added.

``They (lawmakers) decided that rather than just doing a document dump they would do a garbage dump ..., and I think people are going to wonder about that.″

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