Clinton lawyer pledges `whole truth'

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AS PRESIDENT Bill Clinton prepared for the most perilous day of his five-and-a-half-year-old presidency, his lawyer made a dramatic intervention to try to quieten speculation about his testimony to the grand jury.

In a statement issued at noon yesterday, David Kendall dismissed media reports about his client's strategy and insisted that Mr Clinton would tell the truth and only the truth.

"There is apparently an enormous amount of rabid speculation about the President's testimony tomorrow," the statement read. "The truth is the truth. Period. And that's how the President will testify."

Mr Clinton is scheduled to give evidence to the grand jury this afternoon about his relationship with the former White House trainee, Monica Lewinsky. At issue is whether he lied about the relationship when he answered questions under oath last January, and whether he told Ms Lewinsky also to lie under oath.

Mr Kendall's statement came amid a flurry of reports that Mr Clinton had settled on an admission of an "inappropriate relationship" with Ms Lewinsky that would not entail any admission of perjury.

Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporter who made his name with the Watergate investigation, quoted an unnamed source "who has spoken with the President and his legal team" as saying Mr Clinton would change his account to admit a sexual relationship, but had to prepare his family.

The Associated Press cited two unnamed presidential advisers as saying the breakthrough came on Saturday when he admitted he had had a sexual relationship with Ms Lewinsky. "He may not have used the word `sex'," said one, "but he has finally broken through that barrier."

Ms Lewinsky, who gave her testimony 10 days ago after bargaining for total immunity from prosecution, reportedly told the grand jury she had had a sexual relationship with Mr Clinton over an 18-month period to December 1996.

The airwaves yesterday rang with the voices of lawyers, former colleagues and supporters of the President almost begging him to tell the truth, arguing that the personal and political cost of not doing so would be greater.

The chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, Orrin Hatch, coupled a renewed plea for the truth with a warning that if he perjured himself before a grand jury, Congress would have no choice but to impeach.

Moment of truth, page 10