Starr Rejects Latest Lewinsky Offer
Immunity talks stall again; Clinton believes he has 'cleared the air' on the scandal
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 4) -- Independent Counsel Ken Starr has rejected the latest written statement by Monica Lewinsky's lawyers seeking immunity from prosecution for her, CNN has learned. For now, the on-again, off-again negotiations for immunity are off.
A well-placed source familiar with the investigation says Lewinsky's attorneys, William Ginsburg and Nathanial Speights, gave Starr's office a written proffer, or statement, Monday night outlining what she would be prepared to say if granted immunity.
CNN has been told that Starr's staff is seeking additional conditions before granting Lewinsky immunity, but it is unclear what those conditions are.
A spokeswoman for Starr, Debbie Gershman, declined to comment on the status of any talks involving immunity.
Last week, Lewinsky's lawyers presented Starr's staff with an verbal summary of how far she would go in discussing allegations that she had a sexual relationship with President Bill Clinton and that he and his friend Vernon Jordan later urged her to lie about it under oath. Clinton has denied he had sexual relations with Lewinsky, or urged anyone to lie about it.
That verbal summary was not good enough for Starr, who then asked Lewinsky's lawyers to put it in writing, which they did. But apparently that too was not sufficient and they have come back with more unspecified demands.
In recent days, CNN has reported that if granted immunity, Lewinsky would be prepared to reverse earlier sworn denial of a sexual relationship with the president and claim Clinton and Jordan urged her to be "evasive."
With immunity for Lewinsky once again up in the air, Starr and his team of lawyers and investigators are continuing their search for other evidence.
Meanwhile, as a grand jury continues trying to unravel the Lewinsky controversy, White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said Wednesday that Clinton believes he has already "cleared the air" on the allegations involving the former intern.
At a briefing for reporters, McCurry suggested Clinton was not about to discuss the exact nature of his relationship with Lewinsky any time soon. He has already denied having had sexual relations with her or being part of any alleged coverup.
"The president believes he's already cleared the air," McCurry said "He's made very plain and clear what his point of view is."
In a related matter, McCurry confirmed White House lawyers are discussing with lawyers working for independent counsel Ken Starr "the scope" of any questions that current White House officials may answer during the grand jury proceedings.
McCurry said the White House has not asserted executive privilege. "Our aim is to avoid doing so," he said, adding that Clinton's "constitutional prerogatives" and his "ability to conduct his job" are at stake.
Deputy Chief of Staff John Podesta and Deputy Counsel Bruce Lindsey
already have been subpoenaed by Starr to appear before the grand jury but it is unclear when they will appear.
Meanwhile, one of Clinton's former top aides said Clinton needs to say more about the nature of his relationship with Lewinsky.
Ex-Clinton advisor George Stephanopoulos, now a commentator for ABC, said the White House's refusal to explain Lewinsky's roughly three dozen visits to the White House after she quit her job there "does raise an
awful lot of questions."
"The longer the president goes without telling his side of the story, the more unease there will be in the public," said Stephanopoulos, who testified before the grand jury on Tuesday.
Since Clinton's emphatic denial on Jan. 26 that he ever had sexual relations with Lewinsky or tried to cover it up, the White House has adopted a "hunker-down" strategy and said little more. Clinton has not commented on recent reports that Lewinsky visited the White House 36 times after she went to work at the Pentagon.
Two low-level White House staffers were at the federal court house Wednesday for testimony before the grand jury.
White House steward Bayani Nelvis emerged after 90 minutes of questioning, but his attorney, Joseph Small, declined comment. It was Nelvis' second appearance; he also testified Jan. 27, when the grand jury began hearing testimony.
Chris Engskov, a personal assistant to the president, was also called to testify.
White House sources confirm that plans are under way to
create a new legal defense fund for Clinton.
The sources say former Clinton campaign and Democratic Party
fund-raising chief Terry McAuliffe is in line to head the effort.
McAuliffe is a somewhat controversial choice; he is a central figure in the investigations of 1996 Democratic fund-raising and into Teamsters union election financial improprieties. But he has denied any wrongdoing.
Plans are not final, but as conceived the fund would accept
contributions of up to $10,000 -- the limit for Clinton's former defense
fund was $1,000 -- and the fund no longer would be prohibited from raising money from unions, corporations and lobbyists.
Clinton's initial legal defense fund was disbanded late last year
because it was costing more to administer than it was collecting in donations. Clinton allies blame the strict limits on contributions for that. The president's legal bills for the Whitewater investigation and Paula Jones sexual harassment suit now total more than $3 million.
In Los Angeles, Lewinsky remained in seclusion at the home of her father and stepmother.
Journalists continued to stake out the Brentwood house and a van filled with tourists drove by the house midday Wednesday.
Ginsburg, Lewinsky's attorney, said he expects to remain in Los Angeles with his client for about a week before returning to Washington.
Ginsburg said reporters should forget rumors that the family is planning Lewinsky's defense. He said his objective on the trip was to put his law practice back together.
He said reports that Lewinsky called at the White House some three dozen times after moving to a job at the Pentagon were "likely accurate," but he could not verify it. He added, "You will be hearing about a number of phone calls" to the White House also.
"Monica has many friends at the White House," Ginsburg said.
The attorney said Lewinsky's father, Dr. Bernard Lewinsky, is "devastated" by the controversy.
"He may be taking it harder than anyone else in this case," Ginsburg said.
Ginsburg did not discuss the continuing efforts to obtain immunity from prosecution for Lewinsky. Asked if Clinton is lying about the alleged affair with Lewinsky, Ginsburg said, "I don't know. You'll have to ask him that."
Questioned how he could not know, Ginsburg replied that he was "not going to get into that."
On Tuesday, Lewinsky arrived at her father's home in a police-escorted limousine from Los Angeles International Airport. Dr. Lewinsky and Miss Lewinsky's stepmother Barbara rushed out the front door to greet her as journalists watched from behind yellow police tape. Several police officers were on hand.
Lewinsky and her father embraced for about 10 seconds, then father,
daughter and stepmother walked into the stucco and wood, two-story house
without commenting to the media. The Lewinsky house is only a few blocks from the condominium where Nicole Brown Simpson was killed.
Vice President Al Gore continues to stand by the president. In a taped interview on NBC's "Today" show, Gore said Wednesday he is satisfied with the president's forceful denials that he had sex with Lewinsky or tried to lie about it.
"The president has denied these charges, and I believe him," Gore said. "As I have said before, he's not only the president of this country, he's my friend."
Gore would not, however, join first lady Hillary Clinton in blaming the president's problems on a "vast right-wing conspiracy."
"I respect her opinions and analysis," Gore said. "I think that the attacks against the president and the administration, for six years now in the open, have been enough to be called unprecedented."
Gore had no comment on Starr's investigation.
CNN's John King and Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.