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Clinton Makes Final Payout in Jones Sexual Harassment Suit

By Peter Baker
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

President Clinton sent an $850,000 check to Paula Jones on Tuesday, finally closing out the sexual harassment lawsuit that continues to imperil his presidency and in a surprise move, financed nearly half the settlement with his own money.

To come up with the funds he agreed to pay two months ago, the president had to take $375,000 out of a blind trust containing investments for him and Hillary Rodham Clinton. The other $475,000 came from a separate deal with an insurance company that funded part of his legal defense and agreed to buy out the president's personal liability policy.

The decision to use personal money most of it made by the first lady, who has been the family's major breadwinner during his 25-year political career was a painful reversal for the president, who agreed to settle the case after being told by advisers that they would be able to come up with the cash independently. "When all is said and done, not a penny will come out of his pocket," one such adviser vowed the day the deal was sealed in November.

But in the intervening weeks, Clinton's lawyers discovered they could not tap his legal defense fund because it was restricted to paying attorney fees and expenses. They also failed in efforts to pressure another insurance company into a separate buyout.

With opening arguments starting Thursday in his impeachment trial on charges that he lied under oath and obstructed justice in the Jones case, Clinton concluded in the past two weeks that he faced enough political trouble without provoking new criticism by agreeing to accept loans or outside donations from wealthy friends.

"It would raise a lot of issues," said a Clinton confidant who asked not to be named. "In the present environment, it's just better to go ahead and pay it and be done with it."

Clinton settled the case after 4 1/2 years of legal battling that went all the way to the Supreme Court and ultimately led to the evidence-gathering process that uncovered his affair with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky and to the chain of events culminating now in the Senate.

Jones accused Clinton of luring her to a Little Rock, Ark., hotel suite during a state conference May 8, 1991, when she was a $4.93-an-hour state clerk and he was governor of Arkansas.