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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Monica madness: One year and counting

An unseemly presidential scandal lurches toward a conclusion

January 21, 1999
Web posted at: 2:40 p.m. EDT (1440 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, January 21) -- It was a year ago today that Washingtonians shuffled out to the front step, picked up the morning newspaper and stared into the jaws of hell: Another one of Bill Clinton's bimbo eruptions had hit the mainstream media.

It was January 21, 1998, and The Washington Post's headline was "Clinton Accused Of Urging Aide to Lie."

Lewinsky players

The story revealed that Independent Counsel Ken Starr had won permission to expand his free-ranging Whitewater inquiry into whether President Clinton and friend Vernon Jordan had encouraged a 24-year-old former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, to lie about whether she had had an affair with the president.

By the fifth paragraph, readers had a glimmer where the nation was headed and it wasn't pretty. There were references to "audiotapes... more than 10 conversations ... graphically recounted details of a year-and-a-half long affair...."

From that beginning, the Clinton-Lewinsky sex-and-perjury saga has moved through several phases in the past 365 days.

First there was a media frenzy that lasted for several weeks, as the press competed for all the unseemly details of the Clinton-Lewinsky encounters. No matter that Clinton shook his finger into the camera and denied having "sexual relations" with Lewinsky; leaks were abundant.

That was followed by a parade of grand jury witnesses through the spring and summer and legal fights over executive privilege, attorney-client privilege and a "protective function" privilege for the Secret Service, capped by Lewinsky's first grand jury appearance on August 6 and Clinton's on August 17. That night, Clinton told the nation he had, in fact, had a relationship with Lewinsky that was "wrong."

In early September, the case moved from Starr's office and the grand jury room to the halls of Congress, with the independent counsel's referral of a 445-page report and two sets of supporting documents to the House, in 36 cardboard boxes.

That prompted one of the best of the late-night jokes about the scandal. Comedian Jay Leno imagined a macho Clinton bragging about the probe: "Yeah, they investigated my sex life ... needed 36 boxes ... "

On September 11, the House Judiciary Committee accepted Starr's referral and began releasing it, in all its squalid detail, on the Internet. Now the jokes were about cigars.

The House authorized an impeachment inquiry, and on November 19, Starr testified before the House Judiciary Committee about Clinton's alleged perjury and obstruction of justice.

On December 11-12, the Judiciary Committee adopted four articles of impeachment against Clinton -- perjury in the Paula Jones case and before the grand jury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power.

From there, the case went to the full House, which on December 19 approved two of the four articles of impeachment -- grand jury perjury and obstruction of justice -- and sent the controversy to the Senate, where it remains today.

No one knows how or when the trial may end. Senators remain divided over calling witnesses, but as soon as Monday, there could be an attempt to force an up or down vote on the articles of impeachment. If there are witnesses, the proceedings could stretch into spring or summer.

Americans remain divided over what should happen to Clinton -- conviction, censure, nothing -- but polls do show one point of agreement: Please, let it be over soon.

Investigating the President


Thursday, January 21, 1999

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