Clinton urged to settle with Paula Jones

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT CLINTON came under strong pressure yesterday from politicians and lawyers to settle the sexual harassment suit brought by Paula Jones at almost any cost in case new allegations come into the public domain.

Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, who advised Mr Clinton that he might avoid impeachment proceedings with a timely apology to Congress and the country, said that settling the Paula Jones case would be essential in any deal with Congress.

"I'd tell him: `Get rid of that doggone Paula Jones case. Yes, people will conclude that she was right and you were wrong, but you can conclude it on the basis of not admitting liability'."

Ms Jones alleges that her career as an Arkansas state employee suffered after she rebuffed an unwelcome sexual advance from Mr Clinton, who was then state governor. Mr Clinton has steadfastly denied the charge and is resisting her insistence on a $1m settlement.

Although Ms Jones's case was dismissed for insufficient evidence last April before it came to trial, it could be revived next week on appeal now that Mr Clinton has admitted - contrary to his sworn testimony - that he did have a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

The judge in the appeal case has said she would release most of the documents, among them Mr Clinton's testimony and that of several other women, including Kathleen Willey, the former White House volunteer. Ms Willey alleged in a television interview that Mr Clinton groped her when she went to him in distress to plead for a White House job, and is said to detail efforts to intimidate her into keeping quiet.

The other factor is a letter to the judge from Robert Bennett, Mr Clinton's lead lawyer in the Paula Jones case, stating for the record that the truthfulness of Mr Clinton's testimony cannot be relied upon.

While the letter was a formality to pre-empt accusations that Mr Bennett knowingly protected false testimony - accusations that could, if proved, lead to the loss of his licence - it also means that Mr Bennett could be called as a witness against his client, either in a Paula Jones appeal or in congressional impeachment hearings.

Ms Jones rejected an offer of $700,000 to settle last week. That sum was put up by Abe Hirschfeld, a millionaire Clinton supporter in New York.