- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

Independent counsel Robert Ray has convened a new grand jury to hear evidence against President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, legal sources said Thursday.
Prosecutors identified the Lewinsky case as the sole purpose of investigation for the panel, which was empaneled July 11, the sources said.
At issue is whether Mr. Clinton committed perjury or obstructed justice when he lied in sworn testimony in the Paula Jones case. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright last year ruled Mr. Clinton in contempt of court, calling his testimony "intentionally false" and fining him $90,000.
Attorneys for Mr. Clinton, battling to prevent Arkansas Supreme Court from revoking Mr. Clinton's law license, say his testimony "misleading, evasive, nonresponsive or frustrating" but say it was "not legally 'false.' "
The White House reacted angrily to the news of the new grand jury, which emerged the day Vice President Al Gore was to accept the Democratic nomination in Los Angeles.
"The timing of this leak reeks to high heaven," White House spokesman Jake Siewert said. "Given the record of the Office of the Independent Counsel, the timing is hardly surprising."
The timing was reminiscent of 1992, when, just four days before the presidential election, special prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh indicted Reagan administration Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger in the Iran-Contra affair. Charges flew that the indictment was politically motivated because Mr. Walsh's law office had contributed $20,000 to the Clinton-Gore campaign.
Mr. Gore's staff shook off the news. "Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are going to focus on America's future. Republicans are obsessed with the past," spokesman Chris Lehane said.
Even Mr. Gore's opponent, George W. Bush, didn't like the timing. "We think the timing of this was wrong," spokeswoman Karen Hughes told CNN.
The move comes a year and a half after Mr. Clinton was impeached by the House and then acquitted by the Senate in February 1999, allowing him to serve out the remainder of his term. It also comes exactly two years to the day since Mr. Clinton testified from the White House before the grand jury empaneled by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr at one point quibbling about what "the meaning of the word 'is' is."
Mr. Clinton's testimony Jan. 17, 1998, in the Jones case in which Mr. Clinton sat silent as his attorney, Robert S. Bennett, asserted that Miss Lewinsky had filed an affadavit stating "there is no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form" included many memory lapses by the president. He said he did not recall ever being alone with Miss Lewinsky and never had "sexual relations" with her.
In October that year, Mr. Bennett took an extraordinary step by admitting to Judge Wright the falsity of his own assurances that Miss Lewinsky and president had engaged in "no sex."
In his Aug. 17, 1998, testimony before Mr. Starr, Mr. Clinton explained that according to his understanding, Miss Lewinsky had had sex with him but he had not had sex with her.
Days later, Mr. Clinton later acknowledged he had an "improper relationship" withe Miss Lewinsky.
In her contempt ruling April 12, 1999, Judge Wright wrote: "The court takes no pleasure whatsoever in holding this nation's president in contempt of court, but there simply is no escaping the fact that the president deliberately violated this court's discovery orders, and thereby undermined the integrity of the judicial system."
The seating of the new grand jury follows through on Mr. Ray's promise to weigh whether the president should be indicted after he steps down from office next January.
Mr. Ray's office said it had no comment on the reports "and will neither confirm or deny them." In a one-paragraph statement, it said the source of the reports "is not within the Office of the Independent Counsel."
Mr. Ray, who replaced Mr. Starr last October, also got the go-ahead to continue his investigation Thursday from the three-judge panel that appointed him as Mr. Starr's replacement last year.
The judges ruled that termination of the office "is not currently appropriate" under the independent counsel law, which expired last year but still applies to Mr. Ray's office under a grandfather clause.
Keith Ausbrook, senior counsel to Mr. Ray, declined comment about any grand jury activity, which is kept secret by law.
But in response to the judges' order, Mr. Ausbrook noted that "we've made public that the Lewinsky investigation remains open and that the e-mail investigation remains open."
The e-mail probe focuses on whether the White House concealed thousands of electronic messages sought by investigators. Presidential aides deny wrongdoing.
Mr. Ray's office recently closed the books on two other Clinton-era controversies the White House gathering of secret FBI files on Republicans and the firings of White House travel office employees. The prosecutor declined to bring criminal charges in either case.
An expert cautioned that empaneling a new grand jury is no guarantee that Mr. Ray will seek an indictment.
"It's merely a step in an investigation, not an indication an indictment would ever be approved by a grand jury or even presented to the grand jury," said John Douglass, a former prosecutor in the Iran-Contra affair.
Mr. Ray, however, has made no secret he intends to weigh whether Mr. Clinton should be indicted.
"There is as the public is well aware a matter involving the president of the United States in connection with the Lewinsky investigation," Mr. Ray said in a television interview in March.
"The country went through the matter of impeachment. The judgment was made by the country that it was not appropriate to remove the president from office," Mr. Ray said.
"It is now my task as a prosecutor, with a very limited and narrow focus, to determine again whether crimes have been committed and whether … it is appropriate to bring charges."


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