March 3, 1998 in Nation/World

Jordan’s Testimony Could Prove Turning Point


Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr is steering his Monica Lewinsky investigation back to allegations of White House sex and lies, calling longtime presidential confidant Vernon Jordan to testify today before a federal grand jury.

After drawing fire last week for trying to find out who was spreading stories about his prosecution team, Starr is returning to the central theme of his investigation: Did President Clinton, Jordan or any other associate ask Lewinsky, a former White House intern, to lie about her relationship with the president?

Jordan’s testimony could prove to be a turning point.

Starr is expected to ask Jordan about his efforts to find Lewinsky a lawyer in Washington and a job in New York around the time she was being asked to provide an affidavit in Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton.

Starr has not entirely abandoned his attempt to find out who was peddling unflattering stories about him and his staff. In addition to Jordan, Starr also has called two Arkansas private investigators who apparently investigated rumors about Starr in 1996.

But the key witness scheduled for today is Jordan. Jordan’s lawyer, William Hundley, told USA Today that Jordan has not requested immunity.

In recent weeks, information about Jordan’s contacts with Lewinsky have emerged in published reports. According to The Washington Post, the two met four times between early December and mid-January. The first meeting occurred on Dec. 11, three days after the president’s secretary, Betty Currie, called Jordan, asking for help.

The Post reported that Jordan insists, at the time of the call, he did not know Lewinsky had been subpoenaed to testify in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case - although Clinton’s attorneys were aware of that.

Jordan’s final meeting with Lewinsky was Jan. 12, just as Lewinsky’s co-worker Linda Tripp was going to Starr with her secretly recorded tapes of her conversations with Lewinsky.

The newspaper reported that both Lewinsky and Clinton told Jordan there had been no affair.

Lewinsky’s attorney, William H. Ginsburg, has said his client first met with Jordan in November.

Jordan tried to find work for Lewinsky at several major corporations, including two on whose boards of directors he sits - Revlon and American Express. The White House and Jordan portrayed the assistance as fitting with Jordan’s generosity.

Jordan has helped other Clinton friends in the past. In fact, he attracted Starr’s attention once before by arranging a $60,000 consulting contract for Webster Hubbell, Hillary Clinton’s former law partner. Jordan’s help came after Hubbell resigned from a top Justice Department slot but before he was indicted for cheating his Little Rock law firm’s clients.

It was that pattern of helping friends in legal trouble that persuaded Starr to expand the investigation into the Lewinsky matter.

The tight friendship between Clinton and Jordan began in 1973. Jordan regularly has gone on vacation with the Clintons to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

On Monday, Clinton’s press secretary, Mike McCurry, said there has been no estrangement between the two men since the Lewinsky investigation broke.

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