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Clinton Lawyers Offer Larger Settlement in Paula Jones Case

By Peter Baker and
Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

President Clinton's lawyers have increased their offer to settle the Paula Jones lawsuit, but negotiations are foundering in part because the president became infuriated when her lawyers claimed that any payment would amount to an implicit admission of his guilt, sources close to the case said Thursday.

The Clinton camp bumped up its proposal from $500,000 to $700,000, the same amount the two sides once tentatively agreed to before settlement talks broke down a year ago, the sources said. But Jones's lawyers have not accepted it, holding out instead for the $1 million they demanded last month when they opened the latest round of discussions.

The standoff has soured once-high hopes that they could finally end four years of often ugly legal warfare that generated the Monica S. Lewinsky investigation and a likely impeachment inquiry in Congress. As time drags on, both sides have grown increasingly pessimistic that they will be able to find an amicable deal, with the next few days considered critical, according to people monitoring the talks.

White House advisers believe a settlement with Jones could be an important step in defusing congressional efforts to turn Clinton out of office, but the impeachment process moved inexorably forward on Capitol Hill Thursday as House Democrats crafted a rival proposal for a limited, seven-week process to counter the open-ended, Watergate-style inquiry planned by Republicans.

Most Clinton advisers privately have abandoned any hopes of preventing the House from approving an inquiry in a floor vote scheduled for next week and are focused mainly on setting up the public argument that the move is partisan and unfair. Yet Hillary Rodham Clinton has continued to lobby House Democrats to fight any impeachment investigation.

As members struggle with how to proceed, the House plans to release another wave of documents Friday detailing the evidence collected by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr during the eight-month investigation that concluded Clinton committed perjury, obstructed justice, tampered with witnesses and abused power during the course of the Jones lawsuit.

The three-volume set will contain more than 4,000 pages of material, including edited transcripts of Linda R. Tripp's secretly recorded telephone conversations with Lewinsky discussing her affair with Clinton and efforts to hide it from Jones' lawyers. Also to be made public will be grand jury testimony from scores of witnesses called by Starr, such as Clinton's close friend, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., and his secretary, Betty Currie, who both helped Lewinsky find a job as her testimony was being sought in the Jones case.