Ken Starr: Tick, Tock, Tick... ...Talk

All at once, Ken Starr persuades both players in the Lewinsky scandal to come forward and testify. Here, an inside account of how he did it. Are Americans finally about to hear the whole truth?

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The session was dignified and calm. Starr's people threw no knuckleballs; they made no demand that Monica take a lie-detector test. The group broke at noon for lunch--salads and sandwiches--then continued until 3:30. Monica's presentation was enough to persuade the prosecutors to offer her an extraordinary deal: complete transactional immunity from prosecution for both Monica and her mother, which means that nothing Monica or anyone else says can be used to put her in jail unless she fails to testify truthfully when she finally has her day before the grand jurors. And unlike the many exchanges of proffers and offers and immunity deals proposed but never signed between Ginsburg and Starr, this one was built to last. As they were getting ready to leave, Cacheris asked for an immunity letter. One of Starr's lawyers replied, with tongue in cheek, "Do you want that signed?"

Very little in Monica's account has changed since the proffer she sent Starr six months ago. Yes, there was a sexual relationship, she says. No, Clinton never told her to lie; he didn't need to. When you are having an affair, you abide in a world of secrecy and deception that are so much a part of the way you think and breathe that you don't have to walk each other through the catechism of "If anyone asks you, deny it..." All the artful evasions were classic Clinton: he had gently suggested that the matter of the gifts would disappear if she didn't have them anymore. The 37 visits to the White House after she moved to her Pentagon job could be explained as visits to Betty Currie. And when it came to Vernon Jordan, Monica did not recall any conversation in which he discussed a jobs-for-silence deal on account of the affair; he was just helping her out, one presidential friend to another.

For Starr, the most important thing about Monica's cooperation may have been its role in helping Starr secure Clinton's testimony. Even as he began to reel in Lewinsky, the time was running out on Clinton's subpoena, now almost a week old. By Thursday, July 23, White House aides were beginning to get murky questions from reporters about a possible subpoena, but the aides who usually do the talking were not in a position to confirm or deny. They had no idea what was going on. Kendall and White House counsel Charles Ruff had kept them out of the loop; this drove the political types nuts, both because it made them look uninformed and because they feared Ruff and Kendall lacked political judgment about a subpoena's implications.

On Friday the 24th, the day of the shootings on Capitol Hill, a news leak provoked a showdown in a senior staff meeting: word was out that a subpoena had already been served. Adviser John Podesta warned Ruff that if this was true, and if they planned to defy it, they had better know what they were doing. The Democrats on the Hill would not stand for such a thing. Another aide translated for Ruff: the party will abandon the President. In the end, spokesman Mike McCurry pulled back the curtain the tiniest bit when he announced in his briefing that Kendall was in negotiations with Starr over how they might get the information they wanted from Clinton--even though in fact the two sides were not anywhere near an agreement.

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