With the testimony of President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in hand, prosecutor Kenneth Starr has Clinton admitting sexual improprieties and conflicting accounts about why the former White House intern returned gifts from the president.
Democrats on Capitol Hill feel that if any report to Congress by Starr focuses on sex there will be no chance for impeachment proceedings against the president.But if the independent counsel sends to Congress strong evidence that the president tried to obstruct justice, Clinton will have much more difficult problems, many of the Democrats say.
Alleged gifts are an important element in Starr's probe of possible obstruction in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against the president. Starr has been trying to determine whether Clinton suggested that Lewinsky get rid of items she received from him so that she wouldn't have to turn them over to lawyers in the Jones case, where the gifts would raise questions about their relationship.
Lewinsky testified she and Clinton agreed she should hand over the gifts to his secretary, Betty Currie, sources familiar with her account have said.
Clinton told the grand jury he never instructed Currie to retrieve them, didn't know she had them and "didn't consider them a big deal," said a Clinton adviser.
Lewinsky also had testified that she performed a certain sex act on Clinton in the White House. Clinton generally acknowledged sexual improprieties but would not answer specific questions about his physical contact with Lewinsky, the adviser said.
Clinton has maintained that his testimony in the Jones deposition, in which he denied sexual relations with Lewinsky, was "legally accurate."
Stymied by his refusal to answer sexual questions, prosecutors asked Clinton a series of questions about his understanding of the definition of "sexual relations" used in the Jones case, the adviser said.
Clinton did tell grand jurors that he recalled about a half dozen sexual encounters with Lewinsky, beginning in late 1995 or early 1996, according to a legal source familiar with his testimony. Most of their activities occurred in 1996, with Clinton recalling one in 1997, the source said.
The president suggested that he and Lewinsky agreed to keep the affair secret from the beginning. "It was a normal let's-not-shout-this-from-the-rooftops type of thing," said the source. Clinton misled friend Vernon Jordan about the nature of the relationship, the source said; prosecutors now want to know if Jordan's efforts to find Lewinsky a job were part of an attempt to get her to deny the affair under oath.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, awaited results run on DNA material submitted by Clinton. They want to link the president to a stain on a dress Lewinsky turned over to them.
Clinton's advisers have said since Tuesday that he will not answer any more questions for Starr. If the prosecutor issues another subpoena, Clinton would almost certainly fight it, they say.
Lewinsky wants to go about "rebuilding her life," Lewinsky family spokeswoman Judy Smith said after Lewinsky left the courthouse Thursday after her second and probably last appearance. The grand jury is apparently not finished with its work and more witnesses may be called next week.