Vernon Jordan, one of President Clinton's closest friends, kept the president personally informed of his efforts to find a job and a lawyer for Monica Lewinsky in the days after Lewinsky, a former White House intern, became a potentially damaging witness in the sexual misconduct case against Clinton, according to a lawyer who knows Jordan's version of events.
Jordan's account could present a problem for the president because it would mean that Clinton was aware of the aid given to Lewinsky - an effort prosecutors are investigating to see whether it was designed to ensure her support for the President in the Paula Jones lawsuit.Jordan has complained to associates that neither the president nor his lawyers told him that Lewinsky had been named a potential witness in the Jones lawsuit.
When Jordan found out that Lewinsky had been subpoenaed, the lawyer who knows of his account said, he confronted the president and continued his efforts to help Lewinsky only after Clinton assured him in a White House meeting that he had "never, no way" had a sexual relationship with her.
The lawyer said that even though Jordan had not been told Lewinsky had been called as a witness, Jordan had been aware that the president considered his help important.
While potentially harmful to the president, the account appears to afford Jordan some legal protection. If he was acting on assurances that Lewinsky and Clinton did not have a sexual relationship, it will be harder to prove he tried to improperly influence her testimony.
The White House declined to comment on Clinton's discussions with Jordan. The president's private attorney, David Kendall, did not return telephone calls.
Clinton has repeatedly denied having been sexually involved with Lewinsky, and he has maintained that he never encouraged anyone to lie. But he has not addressed the question of whether he asked Jordan to help her or what he knew about the assistance she received.
Jordan, in his only public statement on the matter, said at a January news conference that he had helped Lewinsky as a matter of routine generosity after she had been "referred" to him by Betty Currie, the president's confidential secretary.
Jordan also said that Lewinsky had told him there was no sexual relationship, and he said that he had never encouraged her to lie. Jordan said he helped Lewinsky arrange interviews with two companies where he was a director, American Express and Revlon.
Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel, is investigating whether Clinton or anyone else urged Lewinsky to lie in a sworn statement about her relationship with the president. He is also looking into whether Jordan or others helped find her a job in New York as part of an effort to buy her silence.
Jordan has told friends and associates that he remains loyal to the president. But that loyalty may be undergoing its severest test.
One friend, repeating Jordan's complaints that he was not informed that Lewinsky might be a witness, quoted him as saying: "I know what loyalty is, and I'm not a fool."
Jordan's account differs in some respects from that of Lewinsky, which has been described by lawyers familiar with her version. Her lawyers have told Starr that she is prepared to testify that she told Jordan she had a sexual relationship with the president.
But Lewinsky's account to prosecutors, according to the lawyers, is consistent with Jordan's version of events in this respect: She says he never encouraged her to lie.
By all accounts, in early December, Lewinsky and Jordan talked about jobs. She was leaving her job in the public affairs office of the Pentagon and wanted to work in the private sector in New York City, where her mother lived.