Clinton Welcomes Jones Decision; Appeal Likely
DAKAR, Senegal (AllPolitics, April 2) -- President Bill Clinton said he is "pleased" that a federal judge dropped Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against him, and he looks forward to getting back to Washington and getting back to work.
But Jones' lawyers say an appeal is 99 percent certain, so the case may not be over yet.
"I think the judge's opinion speaks for itself," Clinton told reporters in the Senegalese capital on Thursday, where he is wrapping up his six-nation tour of Africa.
"Obviously, I'm pleased with the decision," Clinton said. "I'm very much looking forward to going home and continuing the very ambitious agenda we've got here." (316K/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
While Clinton's comments and demeanor were understated, behind the scenes, the president clearly appeared more than "pleased." Clinton was captured Wednesday night by a FOX News camera dancing while playing an African drum and chewing on a cigar in his hotel room.
In a 40-page ruling issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright said she dropped Jones' case against the president because the case had no "genuine issues" worthy of trial.
Wright's ruling came less than two months before the case was scheduled to go to trial. Her surprise legal decision was a big legal victory for Clinton, who wondered, when first informed of the news, if it was an April Fool's joke.
Jones' representatives described her as "very, very hurt," and her legal team is considering an appeal.
Wright granted Clinton's motion for a summary judgment saying Jones' allegations "fall short" of what was required under the law to support the three counts against the president.
First lady was confident of outcome
"Both Bill [Clinton] and I have felt throughout this whole thing that it would turn out fine, either at a trial or more appropriately as the judge ruled, based on the fact there was no evidence to support these groundless claims," first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton told American Urban Radio Network, in Senegal, on Thursday. (214K/20 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The first lady said she and the president had "paid very little attention" to the Jones case.
News of the judge's dismissal traveled from Arkansas to Senegal to the
president as he was wrapping up day 10 of his Africa trip. Clinton got
an urgent message to call his private attorney back in Washington.
Bennett had received a call from the court clerk informing him the case
had been tossed out.
Sources tell CNN Clinton was stunned. Following a private moment with
the first lady, the president then quickly ordered aides not
to gloat, and arranged several transcontinental conference calls to plot
The first couple canceled a shopping excursion to spend the evening in
their Dakar hotel suite for their impromptu celebration. The Clintons
also spent time on the phone with friends back in the U.S.
While Jones' civil case has been dismissed, Clinton still faces a
criminal investigation by Independent Counsel Ken Starr into allegations
that the president had a sexual relationship with former White House
intern Monica Lewinsky and asked her to lie about it.
Clinton denied the charges, as did Lewinsky in a deposition taken in the
Jones case. A grand jury in Washington is investigating these
A White House aide told CNN, "It's a lot like V.E. [Victory in Europe
during World War II] Day. We still have one front to fight."
Starr issued a statement saying that Wright's decision does not affect
his probe. "In January, the Attorney General and the special division
assigned us to investigate a variety of matters. Judge Wright's ruling
today has no effect on our authority, and we will continue working to
complete the investigation as expeditiously as possible," Starr said.
Legal battle over a summary judgment
Bennett filed a summary judgment motion in February to have the case
dismissed. Lawyers for Jones responded March 13, filing 700 pages of legal arguments and evidence to bolster their argument that the lawsuit should go to trial. In its brief, Jones' team claimed the record before the court "provides good reason to believe that Mr. Clinton and those acting on his behalf have engaged in a vast enterprise to suppress evidence in this case and otherwise corrupt these proceedings."
Bennett had the final word, filing 200 pages of legal documents a week
later, once again arguing Jones had failed to establish any legal claim
worthy of trial. He called her case "little more than a web of deceit
and distortions" and "a politically motivated attack on President
Clinton without legal merit that should be dismissed ...."