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Aware that the top witness was about to spill her guts, Kendall and Seligman turned up at the federal courthouse, asking for an extension on the Starr subpoena. Protective of the 23 citizens who have already spent a half-year in a closed, dark room, Judge Norma Holloway Johnson refused the lawyers' request, saying if Clinton can take vacation, he can talk to the grand jury. And at the end of the day, there were widespread leaks throughout the city that Monica had offered Starr examples of hypothetical statements in which Clinton had tried to guide her comments in the Paula Jones case. It was a signal flare to the White House: give it up. For Clinton the situation was deteriorating fast.
By Wednesday, Clinton had to move. After being prodded by McCurry, who said the press needed "fresh meat," Kendall stood before the cameras and announced that Clinton would appear voluntarily on Aug. 17 to give testimony in front of a TV camera in the White House, with his lawyers present, as he has on two other occasions. Starr agreed to withdraw the subpoena, removing several constitutional precedents from the playing field.
The White House used the announcement to send some flowers to Capitol Hill as well. Clinton's political advisers are keenly aware that the President's fate is much more a matter of politics than of law at this point. The moment Democrats begin abandoning him is the moment Clinton's future in office is in doubt. It is a measure of how worried Clinton was that he picked up the phone that afternoon and called one of his few friends in the House, Californian Vic Fazio, to tell him he was planning to testify and to find out whether his support was slipping. Meanwhile, all four of Clinton's top political aides were speed-dialing the Hill, sending and seeking reassurance. "They're calling around and telling members that the President's had a great week," said one House Democratic leadership staff member. "The problem is, those guys don't know anything. I'll believe it when David Kendall calls me and tells me everything's fine."
For all the speculation that Clinton might be contemplating changing his story and trying to talk his way out, White House spinners kept professing confidence that Clinton would stick to his denials and be persuasive in his testimony: "You ever known Bill Clinton to be scared of 12 people?" asked one. "All I've known of Bill Clinton is, 'Hey, I can convince any audience.'" But that was before Monica pulled off a bit of stagecraft that surprised even some who thought they knew everything she had. Just hours after setting the date to talk, the White House saw on the news that when Monica appeared at Starr's office that morning, she brought in her duffel bag not only her tapes of answering-machine messages from Clinton but also the dress with the stain.