Lewinsky `traded silence over Clinton in return for job'

Monica Lewinsky, the 24-year-old woman implicated in the Clinton sex scandal, may have bargained her denial of the relationship with the US president for a well-paid job in New York, it was reported yesterday.

If proved true, the claim lays Mr Clinton and his close adviser, Vernon Jordan, open to charges that they conspired to suborn perjury and pervert the course of justice - the charges that were at the centre of the sex- scandal allegations before the White House launched its highly effective counter-offensive last week.

The claim of a "job for silence" deal is made in today's edition of Newsweek magazine, whose reporters are among the few people to have listened to tape-recordings made secretly by Ms Lewinsky's friend and confidante, Linda Tripp.

The Newsweek report adds substance to a theory already circulating in Washington based on the dates on which Ms Lewinsky is said to have met or telephoned the President or Mr Jordan.

According to this "time-line", Ms Lewinsky received a summons to testify in the sexual harassment case against Mr Clinton in mid-December. She was interviewed by American Express on 23 December, but was turned down. On 28 December she is reported to have met Mr Clinton at the White House. She had another interview, with the New York public relations company Burson-Marsteller, two days later.

On 7 January, she signed - but did not release - her sworn statement denying the relationship with the President. The following day she was interviewed by Revlon and offered a job soon thereafter. (The offer was rescinded after the story of the alleged affair broke 10 days ago.)

In its latest report, Newsweek cites Ms Lewinsky as telling her confidante on tape that she would not allow her written testimony - in which she denies a sexual relationship with Mr Clinton -- to go forward unless she obtained a job. "I told him [Vernon Jordan] that I wouldn't sign the affidavit unless I got the job," she says. The tape in question is the "sting" tape made by Ms Tripp at the request of the FBI.

Yesterday, in appearances on television talkshows, Ms Lewinsky's lawyer, William Ginsburg, went out of his way to defend her good name, saying he had known her from childhood and describing as "absurd" a claim by a former lover last week that she had gone to Washington with the express purpose of "seducing the President". The timing of this claim, just before Mr Clinton was to give his State of the Union address, was seen by some as part of a campaign to discredit Ms Lewinsky.

It was suspected a similar purpose could lie behind disclosures offered yesterday to the Washington media by Christine Regan, a US veteran of the Gulf war, who said she had been paid "by political extremists" to fabricate a sexual liaison with Mr Clinton. Last week Hillary Clinton said the Lewinsky affair was part of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" to oust her husband.

Like most of the other main characters in the drama, the woman at its centre, Ms Lewinsky, was off-stage over the weekend. Her lawyer said she was preparing to go home to California to spend some time with her father.

Mr Clinton, luxuriating in a 68-per-cent approval rating - the highest of his presidency - was at the presidential retreat of Camp David in Maryland with his daughter, Chelsea, who had returned from Stanford University for the weekend. Mrs Clinton, whose defence of her husband had done so much to turn the tide of suspicion last week, was in Davos for the international economic forum.

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