Lewinsky case: new setback for Clinton

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IN A potentially serious setback for President Clinton, a US judge ruled yesterday that two of his closest aides must give evidence in the Monica Lewinsky investigation.

The two - his long-time friend and adviser, Bruce Lindsey, and his media strategist, Sidney Blumenthal - had earlier refused to answer certain questions on the grounds that they concerned conversations with the President that were protected by "executive privilege" and should remain confidential.

The judge's ruling became public shortly after it was confirmed from the Clintons' home state of Arkansas that the first lady, Hillary Clinton, would not be indicted in one of the other judicial investigations affecting the President: the failed Whitewater land deal. The grand jury hearing evidence on Whitewater in the Arkansas capital, Little Rock, completed its work without finding sufficient evidence to justify criminal charges against Mrs Clinton.

Any joy in the White House, however, was more than offset by the ruling that Mr Clinton's aides must testify under oath about what they know of Mr Clinton's relationship with Ms Lewinsky. She is a former White House trainee, now aged 24, who admitted (in secretly recorded tapes), then denied, an 18-month long affair with the President. The relationship became the subject of a grand jury investigation in January following allegations that Mr Clinton may have perjured himself by denying an affair under oath and suborned perjury by pressuring, or inducing, Ms Lewinsky to perjure herself as well.

Since then, a succession of White House staff have testified to the grand jury in Washington. Mr Lindsey and Mr Blumenthal, however, left certain questions unanswered. These are believed to relate to exchanges on Mr Clinton's legal and political strategy for dealing with the allegations.

Legal specialists said that although the White House was expected to appeal against yesterday's ruling it was unlikely that it would be reversed.

There was further bad news for Mr Clinton yesterday when Kenneth Starr, the independent prosecutor overseeing the investigation, called Vernon Jordan, a presidential confidant, to testify for the third time before the Washington grand jury. Mr Clinton's private secretary, Betty Curry, is also expected to be re-called this week.

Both are suspected of concealing what they know about the relationship between Mr Clinton and Ms Lewinsky, in particular whether Ms Lewinsky's silence may have been "bought" by a well-paying private-sector job arranged for her by Mr Jordan.