2017-08-05 20:33:13 UTC
Monica Lewinsky in 2001
BY HELEN KENNEDY
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, January 19, 2016, 10:53 AM
(Originally published by the Daily News on January 20, 2001.)
WASHINGTON - President Clinton escaped indictment yesterday by
surrendering his Arkansas law license for five years and admitting that
he made false statements under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
"I hope my actions today will help bring closure and finality to these
matters," he said in a statement read by his press secretary after the
deal was cut.
It was an abrupt but fitting capper to the endless Gothic saga of
expensive investigations that led from a grubby land deal to a sordid
Oval Office sex farce.
PRESIDENT CLINTON DENIES HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH INTERN MONICA LEWINSKY IN
One last time, Clinton dodged real punishment. And one last time, the
sex scandal clouded what should have been a shining farewell moment.
News of the deal with independent counsel Robert Ray also kept the
spotlight trained on the limelight-loving President during his last
hours in office, overshadowing preparations for President-elect George
W. Bush's inauguration today.
"You didn't expect us to go quietly, did you?" cracked one White House
aide, though sources said Clinton unsuccessfully tried to delay
announcing the deal until Monday to avoid interfering with the inaugural
The President, who swept into Washington amid a flurry of scandal
headlines eight years ago, left the same way.
He admitted giving misleading answers to Paula Jones' lawyers when they
tried to grill him about Lewinsky in a 1998 deposition.
Clinton denied he was having sexual relations with the White House
intern, figuring that because the affair was long over, and because they
did not engage in intercourse, he was not technically lying. The
evasions ultimately led to his impeachment by the House on charges of
perjury and obstruction of justice.
"I tried to walk a fine line between acting lawfully and testifying
falsely, but I now recognize that I did not fully accomplish that goal
and that certain of my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were
false," Clinton said.
But he went out parsing until the end, admitting to giving "false"
answers - but not to lying.
His lawyer, David Kendall, told reporters that Clinton "did not lie. We
have not admitted that he lied, and he did not do so today. He has
conceded that he tried to conceal the relationship with Ms. Lewinsky."
As part of the deal, Clinton agreed to pay a $25,000 fine and gave up
his right to ask the government to fund his enormous court costs.
"The nation's interests have been served and, therefore, I decline
prosecution," Ray told reporters. "This matter is now concluded. May
history and the American people judge that it has been concluded justly."
The low-key successor to the zealous Kenneth Starr quoted Nuremberg Nazi
trial prosecutor Robert Jackson, saying, "The citizens' safety lies in
the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness."
Ray's chances of securing an indictment - let alone a conviction - from
a Washington jury were widely considered slim to none.
The deal, which wraps up the two last loose ends - Clinton's possible
perjury indictment and the Arkansas Bar's pending disbarment proceeding
- was hammered out by Ray and Kendall amid a growing political consensus
that nothing would be gained from seeing a former President dragged into
The woman at the center of the scandal cheered.
"I was terrified I would have to testify yet again, and I am grateful
this sword of Damocles that was hanging over me has finally been
removed," Lewinsky said.
The deal ended the years of probes and headlines and breathless TV
chatter with Clinton essentially getting off with a slap on the wrist.
Symbolically, having his law license suspended and admitting to
misleading lawyers under oath is a black mark on the President's
reputation. But in legacy terms, it will be lost in the much darker
stain of impeachment.
And because Clinton had no plans to practice law in Arkansas, in
practical terms it is akin to someone who doesn't own a car having his
driver's license suspended.
Clinton's most rabid critics were infuriated at the sight of bulletproof
Slick Willy dodging one final round.
Judicial Watch, the conservative legal group that has filed dozens of
fruitless lawsuits against the Clinton White House, responded with the
gut rage that many Clinton haters felt as they watched their last hope
of seeing him jailed evaporate.
The group slammed Ray, saying the deal was "an abuse of his office."