As charges of sexual impropriety and possible perjury continued to roll over President Clinton like a muddy wave Thursday, close friend and adviser Vernon Jordan denied counseling former White House intern Monica Lewinsky to lie about her relationship with the president.
“At no time did I ever say, suggest or intimate to her that she should lie,” said Jordan, who sources have suggested sought to obtain Lewinsky’s silence at Clinton’s behest.
Meanwhile, a scheduled Lewinsky deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton was post-poned indefinitely - a potentially pivotal development because it is previous sworn statements in that case by Clinton and Lewinsky that they did not have a sexual relationship that have raised questions about perjury and obstruction of justice.
The Lewinsky matter is considered the most serious threat in Clinton’s trouble-strewn career because, unlike previous episodes, it goes beyond questions of sexual morality to include the possibility of clear-cut criminal charges.
In other developments:
Questions arose about whether Clinton has altered his account of his relationship with former Arkansas nightclub singer Gennifer Flowers. Allegations by Flowers that she had had a 12-year affair with then-Governor Clinton rocked his 1992 presidential campaign, but Clinton denied them at the time. In his statement under oath to Jones’ lawyers last Saturday, Clinton reportedly acknowledged having been intimate with Flowers.
Jones’s lawyers, attempting to show a pattern of extra-marital affairs as a means of bolstering the credibility of their client’s accusations, have questioned Clinton, Lewinsky and others under oath about such activity.
But the White House said Thursday that the president’s sworn statement is not incompatible with is 1992 assertions.
Betty Currie, the president’s personal secretary, was among several White House aides who have received subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury about the Lewinsky matter, it was learned. Jordan acknowledged that he, too, had been subpoenaed.
It was Currie who referred Lewinsky to Jordan for help in obtaining a job last month, Jordan said in his statement Thursday.
White House spokesman Michael McCurry said he did not know exactly which aides had been subpoenaed. Among those who could be the targets of such subpoenas are Secret Service agents, whose proximity to Clinton makes them potentially valuable sources of information about the comings and goings of visitors.
But what they would know about specific persons or events would depend on circumstances and the memories of individual agents.
In theory at least, records are kept of almost everyone entering the White House compound, but that is not necessarily true of individuals who have direct contact with the president himself.
Agents are always nearby and keep detailed records of the president’s whereabouts, but they are not normally present for his meetings in and around the Oval Office. As for the residential quarters, they usually escort visitors to the area but do not accompany them further and thus may not know whether such visitors meet directly with the president or who else may be present.
It was not clear what records the Secret Service keeps of visitors to the residential quarters.
The statements by Jordan, who is considered one of Clinton’s closest and most trusted friends, were aimed at spiking the most serious and potentially dangerous allegations in the controversy - that the President had an affair with Lewinsky and that he sought, directly or indirectly, to persuade her to cover it up.
Some political analysts said proof - if it should emerge - that Clinton became intimate with a then-22-year-old White House intern could itself push public tolerance of an admittedly flawed president to the breaking point.
But the legal issues are far more threatening.
It is the fact that both Clinton and Lewinsky already have made sworn statements denying they had an intimate relationship that sets this episode apart from its predecessors.
Clinton faces the possibility of criminal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice if it should develop he has lied under oath about the matter.
Jordan, who read a prepared statement and declined to answer questions, said, “I want to say absolutely and unequivocally that Ms. Lewinsky told me in no uncertain terms that she did not have a sexual relationship with the president.”
Jordan said he helped Lewinsky, first to find a job in New York and then to obtain the services of a lawyer, out of a sense of duty stemming from his own good fortune in life.
It had been suggested that the New York job was part of an effort to get Lewinsky out of Washington and launch a new career after she gave up the Pentagon job that followed her White House tenure.
For his part, Clinton on Thursday continued to deny the allegations, telling reporters covering his Oval Office meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that he “would never ask anybody to do anything other than tell the truth.”
The president also attempted to convey a desire to be more forthcoming about the matter. “We will give you as many answers as we can, as soon as we can, at the appropriate time,” he said.
Starr last Friday sought and received permission from federal judges to expand his Whitewater investigation after learning about the Lewinsky matter.
Starr had in his possession the secret tape recordings of Lewinsky’s conversations with Tripp, a reported 17 tapes covering some 20 hours of conversations in which Lewinsky swung between anger and despair over her plight.
Lewinsky, the tapes suggest, had been troubled by the relationship for some time, but was driven to the brink of panic when she was subpoenaed to answer questions under oath in the Jones suit.
Tripp, herself a former White House aide who, like Lewinsky, was transferred to a job at the Pentagon, had been tape recording her telephone conversations with Lewinsky for some time and recently took the tapes to Starr.
His investigators, seeking to confirm their authenticity, fitted Tripp with a secret recording device and had her discuss the issue with Lewinsky again.
Tripp also took at least two tapes to Lucianne Goldberg, a New York literary agent she once approached about doing a book on the late White House aide Vincent Foster, Goldberg said. Tripp, working in the White House at the time, may have been the last person to see Foster before he killed himself in 1994.
Interviewed by telephone in her New York office, where she was beseiged by reporters, Goldberg said, “The National Enquirer is downstairs with a $750,000 offer for the tapes. It’s an agent’s nightmare: I’m sitting here with nothing to sell and money is running in the streets.”
She said the tapes are being turned over to Starr.