Nation/World

In Sex Scandal, Rumors And Hearsay In Bed With The Facts

Breathless accounts of the White House sex scandal - including smutty hearsay, unsubstantiated charges and predictions of the president’s resignation - have provided an endless supply of chatter.

But in this mix of fact, fantasy and allegation, what do we really know?

Not much.

This is what’s known, and why it may be important:

Monica Lewinsky went to work as an unpaid intern in the White House in the summer of 1995 and later moved into paid White House jobs. In April 1996, she was transferred to the Pentagon; she left that job on Dec. 26.

Under oath in a civil case, Clinton in January answered questions asked by lawyers for Paula Jones, who has sued the president for a sexual harassment incident while he was Arkansas governor and she was a state employee. It is reported that during the interrogation, Clinton denied having had an affair with Lewinsky.

Whether Clinton committed perjury - the act of deliberately making a false statement under oath in a significantly relevant matter - is impossible to say because his deposition is being kept secret under court order.

Clinton repeatedly has denied before the television cameras that he had any sexual or improper relations with Lewinsky, though he has declined to characterize their relationship.

Lewinsky discussed the alleged affair with a former Pentagon colleague, Linda Tripp. Tripp secretly began taping her conversations with Lewinsky on the advice of a friend, Lucianne Goldberg, a New York literary agent and outspoken Clinton foe. Tripp also allowed herself to be wired by the FBI to secretly record a conversation between her and Lewinsky.

The tapes may speak to issues raised in connection with two other possible crimes: inducing another to lie, and obstructing justice.

The full text of Tripp’s tapes has not been made public. A Newsweek reporter who listened to 90 minutes of the 20 hours of tape wrote that nothing he heard “either strongly supports or flatly contradicts the allegation that Jordan coached Lewinsky to lie.” Both Clinton and Jordan deny urging her to lie.

Newsweek also quotes Lewinsky as saying on the tape, “I have lied my entire life.”

Lewinsky - in an affidavit to Jones’ lawyers that Newsweek published - denied having an affair with Clinton.

Her taped declaration is the only direct evidence of an affair. But her contradictory statements and her self-described habit of lying suggest a serious credibility problem.

Lewinsky discussed with Tripp a set of “points to make in an affidavit,” advising Tripp on how to skew her testimony when giving a sworn statement to Jones’ lawyers. It is unclear who wrote the document or dictated its contents.

Lewinsky received powerful help from the White House in finding a job, before and after being subpoenaed in the Jones case in December. In October, Bill Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, offered Lewinsky a job, which she declined. Clinton’s lobbyist friend Jordan said he opened doors for her at three companies in New York, including Revlon, on whose board of directors he sits. Revlon offered her a job, then rescinded it when the scandal broke.

The effort to help Lewinsky find employment is a key reason independent counsel Kenneth Starr, investigating the Arkansas land deal known as Whitewater, received the go-ahead in January from a three-judge panel to investigate Clinton and Jordan.

Jordan had arranged a consulting contract with Revlon for Webster Hubbell, former associate attorney general, shortly after he was less-than-forthcoming when testifying about Clinton’s involvement in obtaining questionable loans in Whitewater.

Starr may suspect Jordan helped Lewinsky find a job to buy her silence. No one knows the answer to that critical question yet.



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