Bennett Flip-Flops On Jones' Sexual Past
Bennett has decided not to file material about Jones' sexual history after all
By Bob Franken and John King/CNN
WASHINGTON (Mar. 20) -- President Bill Clinton's attorney, Bob Bennett, told CNN Friday that despite a letter he sent to federal judge Susan Webber Wright indicating otherwise, his legal team has decided not to submit material concerning Paula Jones' sexual past.
Bennett declined to explain why he has decided to avoid mentioning Jones' sexual history, in his reply to papers Jones filed in her sexual harassment-civil rights lawsuit against Clinton. Bennett wants the judge to throw out the case, which is set to go to trial May 27.
Bennett sent Wright a letter Thursday saying he would present "...sensitive information of a sexual nature about Paula Jones" in a response Friday urging that the case be dismissed.
Bennett said Thursday's letter was preliminary, when it was released by Jones' attorneys overnight. In it he wrote of plans to include "under seal ... sensitive information of a sexual nature about Paula Jones."
Bennett will file his reply in response to last week's massive document filing by Jones' attorney, which included about 700 pages. Among them were depositions given by Clinton, Arkansas state troopers and women alleged to have had sexual histories with Clinton.
Bennett said, "...We have no choice but to respond in a vigorous but appropriate way. To do otherwise would allow scurrilous and false allegations to remain in the public record unrebutted. This would be greatly unfair to President Clinton."
However, Bennett went on, "... We will, in contrast to plaintiff file this motion under seal."
Bennett also said Friday's reply will include additional deposition material from Gennifer Flowers, the state troopers and others.
Months ago, Bennett was criticized for his threats to delve into Paula Jones' past. Jones' lawyers, in disclosing the letter, charged that Bennett "is more interested in theater than law. Once again he intends to use the court and the pending proceedings for political grandstanding."
Bennett's complete reply is due to be filed in Little Rock, Ark., at 2 p.m. [3 p.m. EST] and distributed in Washington.
Wright, according to sources, will rule on the president's summary judgment motion for dismissal of the case, probably not before the end of month, more probably in early April.
Will Bennett's flip-flop distract from his filing?
In a related development, White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry
said Friday he knew of no change in the president's position that Jones' sexual history should not be raised as part of Clinton's defense in the case.
White House aides voiced concern that the confusion over whether Bennett would raise Jones' sexual history would distract from a court filing they said would demonstrate weaknesses in the Jones lawsuit.
The sources said Bennett's legal team did not consult with White House
lawyers either before sending the original letter or in making the final decision not to delve into Jones' sexual history. They could not rule out that Bennett had spoken to the president, but several White House sources said they were not aware of any such conversation.
The sources said Bennett's team ultimately decided to focus their filing
on what one called "the complete and utter failure" of the Jones team to meet the legal test for supporting her lawsuit.
Sources familiar with Bennett's filing said it would include material from
his cross-examination of former White House aide Kathleen Willey in which she recounts two meetings with Clinton after the November 1993 meeting at which she alleges Clinton made unwanted sexual advances.
In this material, according to the sources, Willey testified under oath she did not have a sexual relationship with the president, denied
receiving any jobs or professional help in exchange for sexual favors, and said she was never penalized for rebuffing any alleged advances by the president.
That is significant, the sources said, to Bennett's effort to get Willey's
testimony ruled irrelevant to the Jones case on grounds there is no evidence she fits the Jones' teams allegation of a "pattern" in which Clinton rewarded women who agreed to his sexual advances and punished those who rebuffed him.
Willey in her cross-examination also acknowledged repeated, friendly
correspondence with the president after the alleged incident.
Also, the sources said Bennett would release sworn testimony showing that
several former Arkansas state troopers who were part of then-Governor Clinton's security details had "major financial motivation" in making claims that they helped secure women for Clinton.
A subpoena for Starr's law firm
In a peripheral development in the case, Bennett appeared at the Court of Appeals in support of a previously reported subpoena he has served on Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr's law firm, Kirkland and Ellis.
Bennett is seeking information that another lawyer in the firm had done some
legal work for a Jones' legal defense fund at a time Starr was already
Kirkland and Ellis is resisting, citing attorney-client privilege. Friday's
arguments concerned which District-level judge should have jurisdiction.