Clinton faces new leaks on his testimony

Lewinsky affair: Intern due for second appearance before Starr as President begins family holiday
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The Independent Online
IN HIS grand jury testimony on Monday, President Clinton confirmed that Monica Lewinsky had performed oral sex on him on several occasions, according to a "legal source" quoted in Washington yesterday.

According to this latest report to seep out from Monday's gladiatorial encounter between Mr Clinton and the prosecutors, Mr Clinton had initially admitted "inappropriate, intimate physical contact", but clarified under questioning that this was oral sex.

In his televised address to the American people, Mr Clinton referred only to a relationship that was "inappropriate" and "wrong", and his lawyer, David Kendall, said in a statement that the President had refused to answer certain questions about the more intimate details of the relationship "to preserve personal privacy and institutional dignity". One member of Mr Clinton's team was quoted as saying that there would be no more information, because it would be "too disgusting".

The new details of Mr Clinton's testimony emerged as Ms Lewinsky prepared for a second day before the grand jury. She is expected to face questions related to Mr Clinton's testimony, which has been described unofficially as too unspecific and incomplete. The independent prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, will then have to decide whether to recall Mr Clinton, if necessary under subpoena.

Yesterday's disclosure raises new questions about Mr Clinton's sworn denial in January that he had a sexual relationship with Ms Lewinsky. What Mr Clinton denied - in answers that he described on Monday as "legally accurate" - was a definition of "sexual relations" drawn up by lawyers for the accuser in that case, Paula Jones. This definition made it possible, one analyst quipped, for Ms Lewinsky to say she had sex with Mr Clinton, while allowing him to deny having sex with her.

The latest details, doubtless the first of many "leaks" about Mr Clinton's testimony, could start to erode his public support, which has so far held up well. Poll results released yesterday indicated that Mr Clinton's job performance ratings had actually increased marginally since his broadcast on Monday, to 71 per cent, although assessments of his credibility had declined.

The picture emerging from the political establishment was much more negative, with long-time political allies of the President not just withholding support for Mr Clinton, but expressing "disappointment" and worse. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California - mooted as a possible vice-presidential candidate in the year 2000 and a noted Clinton ally - was one of the more outspoken, saying: "My faith in the President's credibility has been shattered."

One three-term Democrat in the House of Representatives even added his voice to growing Republican calls for Mr Clinton's resignation. Paul McHale of Pennsylvania, who is not seeking re-election this autumn, said: "The consequences when any public official lies under oath should be the forfeiture of office." "Regrettably," he went on, "I've come to the conclusion that the President lied under oath."

While no other Democrat went so far, frantic White House attempts to drum up public support from Democratic Congressmen met little success. On Capitol Hill, the watchword was caution, with a majority wanting to wait and see the evidence collected by Mr Starr before committing themselves. His report, which could presage impeachment proceedings, is expected in mid-September.

Editorial comment in leading newspapers was highly unsympathetic. The Wall Street Journal, carried an article which described his address as "the most deceptive, shameless and self-pitying speech ever delivered by an American president".

In one of the first ripple effects from Mr Clinton's admission, Paula Jones, whose sexual harassment suit against the President was dismissed in April, issued a statement disputing the President's claim that his evidence in her case was "legally correct". "There is good reason to believe that he did try to get other people not to tell the truth."

The Clinton family meanwhile marked Mr Clinton's 52nd birthday in seclusion on a private estate in Martha's Vineyard. The White House spokesman, Mike McCurry, had noted as the Clintons departed for their two-week holiday, however, that they had "a lot of healing to do".