Lewinsky Scheduled to Appear Before Grand Jury ThursdayBy Peter Baker and
The Washington Post
Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr has summoned former White House aide Monica S. Lewinsky to appear before a Washington grand jury on Thursday, forcing a climax to long and fruitless talks over whether she would voluntarily testify against President Clinton in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
A lawyer for Lewinsky, 24, confirmed the scheduled appearance Monday, but said he planned to file a motion in federal court as early as Tuesday seeking to quash the subpoena ordering her testimony. If that does not succeed, Lewinsky already has indicated that she would refuse to answer questions by invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
At that point, Starr has the option of compelling her to testify anyway by asking a judge to grant her limited immunity that would bar prosecutors from using her statements to the grand jury against her but still leave her vulnerable to criminal charges based on other evidence. Lewinsky would face a contempt citation and jail if she still refused to testify about whether she had a sexual relationship with Clinton and whether he urged her to lie about it under oath.
The move to bring Lewinsky before the grand jury signalled that Starr apparently has lost patience with the young woman and her lawyers and seems less likely to ever bring her aboard as a cooperating witness. Three weeks of failed negotiations over a cooperation agreement that would give her full immunity have degenerated into angry recriminations between Starr's office and Lewinsky's lawyers.
"She is not going to jail," her attorney, William H. Ginsburg, vowed in a telephone interview Monday. "Nobody's going to run over her constitutional rights. Nobody's going to abuse her. I'm not going to let that happen."
Even if she testifies against her will, Lewinsky could be a damaging witness against Clinton. In a proffer to prosecutors describing how she would testify if granted the full immunity she had sought, Lewinsky acknowledged a sexual relationship with the president, directly contradicting his denials both in public and under oath in the Paula Jones case, according to sources familiar with the document.
That alone could expose Clinton to a possible perjury charge. Less clear, though, is how useful Lewinsky's testimony would be for Starr in building a case of subornation perjury or obstruction of justice against Clinton or his close friend, Washington attorney Vernon E. Jordan Jr., who helped Lewinsky find a job while she was considering how to respond to Jones' lawyers herself. Lewinsky swore out a Jan. 7 affidavit denying a liaison with Clinton just as she was offered a public relations job by Revlon facilitated by Jordan.
The sources have said Lewinsky said no one urged her to lie about an affair; however, she also said she was encouraged to offer versions of events that were not true.
Ginsburg said he held out little hope for an amicable deal with Starr. "We've had no conversation since last Monday," he said. "I would think we're heading to court."
Along with his quash motion, Ginsburg said he plans to file a motion intended to enforce what he insisted is an immunity offer made by the prosecutor last week; Starr's office does not recognize that as a binding agreement. Ginsburg said he and Lewinsky would return to Washington between Wednesday and Friday.
If she is forced to appear before the grand jury and pleads the Fifth, Starr could go ahead and prosecute her, possibly for perjury or subornation of perjury. If instead he gives her limited immunity and she repudiates the Jan. 7 affidavit, several people knowledgeable about Clinton's legal strategy have said the president's attorneys are prepared to attack Lewinsky's credibility.
In addition to changing her story, they note that Ginsburg has suggested in television interviews that Lewinsky sometimes may embellish or oversell and they plan to find other witnesses who would question her veracity. They also intend to point out any contradictions between her grand jury testimony and the secretly recorded stories she told her onetime friend, Linda R. Tripp.
To avoid relying entirely on Lewinsky, Starr and his investigators have been seeking other witnesses and physical evidence to try to corroborate Lewinsky's taped discussions. In the weeks during which prosecutors have been seeking Lewinsky's cooperation, they have obtained the testimony of several important witnesses who might back up aspects of the story Lewinsky told on the Tripp tapes.