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U.S.: Clinton To Testify Before Grand Jury

  • Frank Csongos

Washington, 17 August 1998 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton is to give sworn testimony to a grand jury today about allegations he had an affair with a former White House intern, asked her to lie about it, and lied about it himself under oath.

Clinton is scheduled to testify (beginning at 1900 Prague time) from the White House through closed-circuit television with a lawyer at his side. He will be the first American president ever to face a grand jury investigating a criminal matter.

U.S. news media yesterday quoted unidentified White House advisers as saying that Clinton will acknowledge an unspecified "inappropriate" or "improper" relationship with the woman -- Monica Lewinsky. However, the advisers say Clinton will not admit to perjury or asking anyone to lie under oath.

A grand jury is composed of U.S. citizens who examine accusations against persons and determine if there is enough evidence to formally charge them with a crime.

Clinton -- under oath in a previous deposition involving a since-dismissed civil suit -- denied he had sexual relations with Lewinsky, who was then 22 years old.

Clinton's private lawyer, David Kendall, issued a written statement last night, saying that "there is apparently an enormous amount of groundless speculation" about the president's upcoming testimony. Kendall said: "The truth is the truth. Period. And that's how the president will testify."

What Clinton says in the White House's historic Map Room is likely to form the basis of what independent counsel Kenneth Starr says in his report about the matter to the U.S. Congress. Only Congress can remove a president through impeachment proceedings by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate.

Senator Orrin Hatch -- the opposition Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- told television interviewers that Clinton -- a Democrat -- would probably be forgiven if all that he did was lie about sex in a civil suit.

Representative Bill McCollum of Florida -- a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee -- disagrees. McCollum said: "If at the end of the day I conclude that the president lied under oath in a court proceeding, I would have a very hard time not recommending impeachment to the House."

New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli said Americans are a "forgiving" people. He said he believes Clinton "recognizes he now has an opportunity to put this matter largely to rest."

Former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said, "I don't think there is an easy way out for him."

Published reports say Starr has amassed evidence of about 75 telephone conversations between Clinton and Lewinsky. The reports say many of the phone conversations were initiated by Clinton, according to people familiar with the probe, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

In conducting a public opinion poll, The Washington Post newspaper reported that 70 percent of the American people believe that Clinton "probably" or "definitely" had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. Still, the poll said, Clinton enjoys a 63 percent approval rating.