Monica Lewinsky spent part of a weekend afternoon in late 1995 alone with President Clinton in the Oval Office, a retired Secret Service officer said Tuesday.
Clinton testified last month that he does not recall ever having been alone with Lewinsky, either while she was employed at the White House or later at the Pentagon, except perhaps on very brief occasions when she dropped off papers in his office, according to sources familiar with Clinton’s testimony.
Former uniformed Secret Service officer Lewis C. Fox said in an interview Tuesday that Lewinsky, then a White House intern, spent at least 40 minutes alone with Clinton while Fox was posted outside the Oval Office door. She had arrived with papers for the president to review, he said, and Clinton had instructed Fox to usher her into his office.
Clinton was questioned in a closed-door deposition Jan. 17 about whether he had had sexual relationships with Lewinsky and other government employees.
Fox is the first person to come forward publicly and claim that he saw the president and Lewinsky alone together. As a result, his statement could be critical to independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s attempt to determine whether Clinton did, in fact, have a relationship with the former White House aide and then attempted to conceal it.
The White House said it could not confirm or deny Fox’s account but raised questions about it because it said only the president’s assistants allow people in to see him, even on weekends.
“Without commenting on the specifics, the story is at odds with the common standard procedure, where White House staff make decisions on access to the Oval Office, not security officers,” said a White House official who asked not to be named. “That would be a real deviation from standard practice.”
Fox, who retired after 27 years with the Secret Service in January 1997, said he is uncertain of the exact date when Lewinsky visited the Oval Office, but said he believes it was a Saturday afternoon in either September, October or November 1995. Lewinsky told onetime friend Linda R. Tripp - who secretly tape-recorded many of their conversations and turned them over to investigators - that she began a sexual relationship with Clinton on Nov. 15, 1995, according to an affidavit Tripp made in the Jones case.
Secret Service spokesman Arnette Heintze said his office would not comment on what Fox or other Secret Service personnel may have seen because the matter is under investigation.
Fox said the day he witnessed the Lewinsky visit to Clinton he was posted for a one-hour shift outside the Oval Office door. It was around midday, he said, and he had been on duty 15 to 20 minutes when Lewinsky arrived saying she had some paperwork she needed to bring in to the president.
Fox said the president’s secretary, Betty Currie, was not on duty that day. Fox said he opened the Oval Office door and told Clinton there were papers for him. The president was able to see Lewinsky through the doorway, according to Fox, and he told the officer to send her in. Fox said he remained at his post for another 40 minutes or so before he was relieved by another officer. During that time, Lewinsky was behind the closed doors of the Oval Office with Clinton.
Fox, who now lives in Waynesburg, Pa., was interviewed on WPXI television in Pittsburgh last week and said he saw Lewinsky in the White House. Since that broadcast, he has been contacted by the Secret Service and the association representing officers and discouraged from revealing anything more about what he saw. Officials at the television station said they received a subpoena from Starr for the videotape of their interview with Fox and have turned it over to investigators.
Secret Service director Lewis Merletti has met with lawyers from Starr’s office on the issue of whether agents and officers who guard the president can be compelled to testify about whether they witnessed encounters between Clinton and Lewinsky.
The Secret Service is concerned that allowing agents to testify would set a dangerous precedent, engendering mistrust at the White House and ultimately making it more difficult for them to guard the president. With that matter unresolved, Starr has refrained from subpoenaing any Secret Service officers, including Fox.