Clinton seeks immunity in harassment lawsuit

WASHINGTON - Manoeuvreing to avert further possible damage to his standing, President Clinton yesterday asked a federal court to dismiss a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by a former employee of the State of Arkansas, writes David Usborne.

In a motion submitted to the US District Court in Little Rock, Mr Clinton requested immunity while he remains President on the understanding that the plaintiff, Paula Corbin Jones, can relaunch the lawsuit as soon as he leaves the White House. The motion argued that there exists 'an overriding national interest in insulating the presidency from the distractions of private civil litigation'.

Ms Corbin Jones claimed in a suit filed on 6 May that Mr Clinton made unwanted advances to her in a hotel in Little Rock three years earlier and asked for oral sex. Mr Clinton has denied the story.

Mr Bennett's motion cited as the basis of its argument a Supreme Court ruling of 1982 that gave President Nixon immunity from civil lawsuits. Already hounded by the Whitewater affair, centred on a real estate investment by Mr and Mrs Clinton in the early 1980s, Mr Clinton could ill afford having to fight the case against Ms Corbin Jones as well.

The President is likely soon to get help from the Justice Department, which is reported to be preparing a memorandum of its own supporting the case for presidential immunity.

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