January 28, 1998 in Nation/World

Clinton Foes Have Ties, But Is It A Conspiracy?

Tim Weiner And Jill Abramson New York Times
 

Monica Lewinsky’s alleged account of a sexual relationship with President Clinton were steered to the Whitewater special counsel by two lawyers active in conservative causes.

Several Clinton defenders are citing the involvement of the two lawyers as evidence in support of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s claim that the Lewinsky sex scandal was instigated by a loose-knit group of anti-Clinton conservatives. The president’s defenders say the group included Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr as well as other individuals and groups.

The two lawyers, George T. Conway III of New York and James A. Moody of Washington, D.C., and Starr say the claim is preposterous, that there was nothing ideological in their handling of the case.

While no proof has been offered to support Mrs. Clinton’s allegations of a conservative conspiracy, it is clear that many of the figures in the case against the president have common ties in conservative groups and causes.

Conway, a behind-the-scenes figure in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against Clinton, referred Linda Tripp, who tape-recorded Lewinsky’s allegations about the president, to Moody on January 9. Three days later she went to Starr, who himself has been active in conservative legal causes.

Like Starr, Moody and Conway are members of the Federalist Society, a legal organization in Washington that is composed of a few hundred conservative attorneys and judges.

Although White House and Democratic operatives have challenged Tripp’s motives for surreptitiously recording her friend, Lewinsky, Moody said Tuesday, “Her only motive was to protect herself and her ability to tell the truth.”

Moody and Starr have another common connection in the Landmark Legal Foundation, a nonprofit group that is involved in a number of lawsuits pressing conservative issues. Moody has been handling a Landmark suit against the IRS for alleged harassment of conservative nonprofit groups. Starr represented a client allied with Landmark plaintiffs in another suit, championing the rights of parents in Wisconsin to send their children to private schools.

Conway helped write the critical Supreme Court brief for Jones, which successfully argued that her case should proceed against the president while he is still in office.

Conway declined to offer details about how he came to be acquainted with Tripp or her situation with Lewinsky. He has known Moody for a decade.

Conway, a 34-year-old partner at the New York law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, worked on the Jones case on his own. His firm was in no way involved in the case.

All three men agree, as Conway put it, that there is no “right-wing conspiracy.” Starr flatly called the idea “nonsense.”

Another person whose role is raising questions by Clinton’s defenders is a New York literary agent, Lucianne Goldberg, a close friend of Tripp. Goldberg says the secret tape recordings by Tripp were her brainchild, although she denied having any political motive to bring down the president.

“I think I’m probably still a registered independent,” Goldberg said Tuesday. “I don’t have an ideological bone in my body.”

Then she quipped, “Of course, I did listen to Rush Limbaugh on the way over to our lunch.”

Goldberg has done best-seller business with Alfred Regnery, a friend of Starr and the publisher of “Unlimited Access” by Gary Aldrich, a former FBI agent who charged without apparent basis that Clinton regularly sneaked out of the White House to a nearby hotel for secret sexual liaisons.

But the first lady’s charge that “a vast right-wing conspiracy” was out to topple the president went beyond the charges being examined by Starr. By implication, her remarks were aimed at right-wing radio talk-show hosts, Internet web sites, various conservative foundations in Washington and political lobbying groups.

She specifically accused people “like Jerry Falwell, with videos, accusing my husband of murder, of drug running.”

Falwell, the evangelist, has sold more than 60,000 copies of a video called “The Clinton Chronicles” on his televised “Old Time Gospel Hour.” That video also accused Clinton of treason, among other things.

Such sweeping charges have also been published under Regnery’s imprint. He has just brought out “The Secret Life of Bill Clinton,” by a British journalist, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, which accuses the president or his aides of having been involved, directly or indirectly, in mysterious deaths and conspiracies.

“There’s been a lot of talk about 50 dead bodies or 36 dead bodies,” Evans-Pritchard said Tuesday. He focused hardest on Vincent Foster, the Arkansas lawyer and close friend of the Clintons who committed suicide in 1993 while serving as a deputy White House counsel.

Foster’s death was ruled a suicide by three government investigations, two congressional panels and one independent counsel, - Starr. But “I am quite convinced there is a cover-up by the White House on this issue,” Evans-Pritchard said. “If you pulled at that string, a lot of things would unravel.”


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