Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr has expanded his investigation of President Clinton to examine whether Clinton and his close friend Vernon Jordan encouraged a 24-year-old former White House intern to lie to lawyers for Paula Jones about whether the intern had an affair with the president, sources close to the investigation said Tuesday.
A three-judge appeals court panel on Friday authorized Starr to examine allegations of suborning perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice involving the president, the sources said. A Justice Department official confirmed that Attorney General Janet Reno had forwarded Starr’s request to the panel that oversees independent counsels after Starr had asked her for “expeditious” consideration of his request.
The expansion of the investigation was prompted by information brought to Starr within the past few weeks by a former White House aide who surreptitiously made tape recordings of conversations she had with the former White House intern describing a relationship with Clinton.
The former intern, Monica Lewinsky, began work in the White House in 1995 at age 21 and later moved to a political job at the Pentagon, where she worked with Linda R. Tripp, who had moved there from an administrative job at the White House.
Sources said Tripp provided Starr with audiotapes of more than 10 conversations she had with Lewinksy over recent months in which Lewinsky graphically recounted details of a year-and-a-half-long affair she said she had with Clinton. In some of the conversations - including one in recent days - Lewinsky described Clinton and Jordan directing her to testify falsely in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against the president, according to sources.
Lewinsky gave a sworn affidavit in connection with the Jones case Jan. 7 and sources who have seen her affidavit said she denied having an affair with Clinton. She is to be deposed by Jones’ lawyers Friday.
“The president adamantly denies he ever had a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky and she has confirmed the truth of that,” said Robert S. Bennett, the president’s lawyer. “This story seems ridiculous and I frankly smell a rat.” William Ginsburg, an attorney for Lewinsky, confirmed that Starr is investigating his client’s involvement with Clinton and said he has talked with Starr’s staff. He would not discuss the substance of the case but portrayed his client as an innocent young victim of the political system.
“If the president of the United States did this - and I’m not saying that he did - with this young lady, I think he’s a misogynist,” he said. “If he didn’t, then I think Ken Starr and his crew have ravaged the life of a youngster.”