Reno investigates White House aide for perjury

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The Independent Online
TWO JUDICIAL developments threatened President Clinton with yet more trouble yesterday, as the judge in the sexual harassment case brought by Paula Jones announced that she was reviewing Mr Clinton's evidence in that case; and the US attorney general, Janet Reno, opened an investigation into another of Mr Clinton's top aides, Harold Ickes.

The disclosure by the Arkansas judge, Susan Webber Wright, that she had "concerns" about Mr Clinton's sworn testimony in the Paula Jones case is potentially the more worrying for Mr Clinton. When he gave evidence in that case in January, Mr Clinton not only denied the alleged encounter with Ms Jones, but also denied that he had had a sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky. While the judge ruled then that the Lewinsky relationship had no bearing on Ms Jones's case, as it postdated it, Mr Clinton could be found in contempt of court for withholding information.

In his televised admission of a "not appropriate" relationship with Ms Lewinsky last month, Mr Clinton said that his testimony in the Paula Jones case was "legally accurate", but that he had not volunteered information. Ms Webber Wright said yesterday that the court had not yet reached a conclusion "regarding whether the President may be in contempt".

Any re-assessment, however, could lead to the reopening of the case that the judge dismissed for lack of evidence last April - to great rejoicing in the Clinton camp. Ms Jones has already lodged an appeal.

Yesterday's other announcement was about Ms Reno's decision to open an investigation into former White House aide, Harold Ickes, who masterminded fund-raising for the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996.

At issue is the use of White House premises for fund-raising; exceeding of limits for particular varieties of donations, and illegal receipt of funds from foreign nationals.

The investigation will focus on whether Mr Ickes may have perjured himself in earlier testimony - something his lawyers fiercely denied yesterday.

Mr Ickes joins Vice-President Al Gore, who was placed under investigation last week, also under suspicion of perjury about fund-raising, following the discovery of a note in his handwriting that appeared to contradict statements he had made earlier.

Successive investigations into Mr Clinton's fund-raising practices have found no rule-breaking on his part.

Mr Gore, however, has so far been unable to extricate himself from allegations of illegal fund-raising, which threaten to dog him until the next presidential race in the year 2000.