Clinton holds back from full attack on accusers

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The Independent Online
The pace of the real-life White House drama accelerated yesterday with more accusations hurled and a sheaf more documents released as Washington anticipated the opening of a satirical film based on Bill Clinton's re- election campaign.

And while the cinematic presidential candidate, Jack Stanton, would stop at nothing to reach his goal, his real-life counterpart seemed suddenly wary of playing too dirty.

The main legal and media event was the release by the President's lawyer, Robert Bennett, of 200 pages of documents to support his formal plea that the sexual harassment case brought by Paula Jones be dismissed for lack of evidence. The case is due to be heard in an Arkansas court in May. It had been reported that Mr Bennett would disclose compromising details of Ms Jones's sexual history, but he said that he had decided not to - apparently due to White House objections.

The papers made public included transcripts of cross-examinations conducted by Mr Bennett last year on Paula Jones herself and on Kathleen Willey, the former White House volunteer who claimed on television last Sunday that Mr Clinton had kissed and groped her against her will. The transcript shows Ms Willey agreeing that she remained friendly with Mr Clinton even after the alleged incident, and did not suffer any damage to her career.

Presenting his case to reporters yesterday, Mr Bennett said Ms Jones's case was "a web of deceit and distortion" that was "politically motivated... without legal merit and it should be dismissed".

Mr Bennett's disclosures yesterday ended a week in which the White House had gone to sometimes desperate lengths to discredit Kathleen Willey, whose allegations were clearly seen as potentially very damaging to the President. By yesterday, however - with the President's approval ratings holding up well - the focus switched back to the lawsuit brought by Ms Jones claiming that Mr Clinton asked her to perform oral sex in a Little Rock hotel room.

But White House aides appeared to be at odds about how dirty they should play. The Washington Post reported that Mr Bennett was ready to release "sensitive information of a sexual nature" to rebut Ms Jones's claim that she had been traumatised by her encounter with Mr Clinton. But White House spokesman Mike McCurry said that Mr Clinton believed it "inappropriate" to delve into Ms Jones's sexual history.