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THE CLINTON INVESTIGATION

Jordan Saw Lewinsky as 'Nuisance,' Not Witness

Testimony: Clinton confidant said his efforts to find a job for ex-intern were not made to protect president, according to grand jury transcript.

October 03, 1998|ROBERT L. JACKSON and RONALD J. OSTROW | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — Presidential confidant Vernon E. Jordan Jr. insisted in grand jury testimony that he made intensive efforts to find a job for Monica S. Lewinsky because she "bordered on being a nuisance," not because she was a potential witness who could damage President Clinton.

The secret testimony of Jordan--a former civil rights leader, influential Washington lawyer and frequent golfing companion of the president--was among the 4,610 pages of documents made public Friday by the House Judiciary Committee. Jordan appeared before the grand jury five times from March to June of this year.

The transcripts show that Jordan's account is supported in part by Betty Currie, the president's personal secretary. In separate appearances before the federal grand jury assembled by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, both Jordan and Currie sought to disabuse prosecutors of their theory that the job search for the former White House intern was part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice--an effort to keep Lewinsky from testifying about her sexual relationship with Clinton.

Currie testified that, acting on her own, she enlisted Jordan's assistance in finding a private-sector job for Lewinsky, who was unhappy last year while exiled to a public relations office in the Pentagon. Currie insisted she was not acting at the behest of the president. "I was doing it on my own," Currie told grand jurors.

Jordan Testimony Contradicts Tripp's

Jordan's testimony contradicted newly disclosed allegations made to Starr's attorneys by Linda Tripp, who claimed Lewinsky told her privately that Jordan was aware of her affair with Clinton and had advised her to lie about it.

Lewinsky made no such charge against Jordan in her own immunized grand jury testimony, released last month. "No one ever asked me to lie, and I was never promised a job for my silence," Lewinsky said.

However, Jordan's account of his assistance for Lewinsky is layered with multiple shades of gray, not a clearly etched picture of his true intentions.

Jordan, for example, noted that he began his job search for Lewinsky last fall, long before the young woman was listed as a potential witness by lawyers for Paula Corbin Jones, who had sued Clinton for sexual harassment from his days as Arkansas governor.

In fact, Lewinsky wrote Jordan a warm thank-you letter dated Nov. 6, 1997, soon after he began helping her find work.

"I know how very busy and demanding your schedule is," said the letter, which was among documents studied by the grand jury. "I particularly appreciated your taking the time to speak with me."

Lewinsky added: "I feel compelled to mention how overcome I was by your genuineness. While some people wear their heart on their sleeve, you appear to wear your soul. It made me happy to know that our friend [Clinton] has such a wonderful confidant in you."

Recommendation to New York Firm

Jordan first recommended Lewinsky to a New York company after the former White House intern came to see him on Dec. 11 at Currie's request.

By his own account, Jordan stepped up efforts on Lewinsky's behalf after learning on Dec. 19 that she received a subpoena from Jones' lawyers as a witness with whom Clinton possibly had had an affair.

Jordan testified that his Jan. 8 call to Ronald O. Perelman, chairman of the holding company that owns Revlon, resulted in a job offer to Lewinsky soon after she had signed an affidavit denying any sexual relationship with the president. He told the grand jury it was part of "the Jordan magic."

He said he promptly informed Clinton, through a message left with Currie, that Lewinsky had received the New York job offer, terming it "mission accomplished."

And while staunchly denying that his efforts were tied to any desire to influence Lewinsky's testimony, Jordan related that he kept the president constantly informed of his job search. But Clinton never spoke at length about his efforts in their many conversations over a period of months, Jordan said--only responding "fine" and "good" when given periodic updates.

Jordan portrayed Lewinsky as importuning him for a satisfying private-sector position, agreeing once with a prosecutor's suggestion that she could be considered "a nuisance."

"The number of calls and her sense of urgency about getting a job sort of interrupted the flow of my day and was slightly inconveniencing and annoying," Jordan testified.

He said both Clinton and Lewinsky had assured him they had not had a sexual relationship and that he believed that was true.

"The concept of oral sex never entered my mind," he said, explaining that he viewed a sexual relationship as involving intercourse.

Yet at another point, Jordan acknowledged recognizing an intimate relationship between the two--speaking of Lewinsky's emotional attachment to the president and telling her that she seemed to be "in love" with him.

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