Longest day of the President's life

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SHORTLY BEFORE 1pm today, Bill Clinton will walk across to the White House map room. On the wall, a map shows Allied troops encircling Berlin in April 1945. This is where President Franklin Roosevelt would check the progress of the Second World War; it is where the US President will give his testimony.

The President will be joined by three legal advisers: his private lawyers, David Kendall and Nicole Seligman, and his White House counsel, Charles Ruff. Along with his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, they have formed his inner circle in the past few weeks. Lawyers are not normally allowed in the room during grand jury probes, but an exception has been made in this case.

On the other side of the room will be Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel, and some of his staff. They will probably include Jackie Bennett, his chief deputy in Washington, and Robert Bittman, day-to-day manager of the Lewinsky investigation. Mr Starr will probably leave the questioning to his aides.

Mr Starr's team will ask questions for between three to four hours. They have said that this will be the only session with the President, so everything must be cleared up in one afternoon.

The questions and answers will be recorded by a video camera, and sent down a fibreoptic cable. This will be scrambled, of course, so that no one can intercept them on their way to the grand jury room, a few blocks away at the Prettyman court house. The jury will not be allowed to ask questions as they have been in previous testimony.

The timing may well over-run. It is unlikely to be much before six o'clock that the President returns to his own office. It is then that he must decide whether or not to address the nation. If he wants to, then prime time - between 7pm and 8pm - would be possible. So some time around midnight in London, the President may appear before the cameras to explain what he has always promised he would.

He would probably not speak for more than 10 minutes, if the decision to appear is taken.