- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

The negotiation that let President Clinton avoid disbarment for life and perhaps indictment carried a deadline to suspend his law license before he left the White House, an Arkansas prosecutor told The Washington Times yesterday.
"To do it while he was sitting as president was also a sanction. That was something that I considered important," said Little Rock lawyer Marie-Bernadette Miller, who was hired to seek the president's disbarment by the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Responsibility.
Had he not settled the action, he would have had until yesterday to answer under oath the committee's 42 claims of wrongdoing.
At one point Friday, the president's lawyer, David E. Kendall, juggled separate negotiations, trying to get independent counsel Robert W. Ray to agree publicly not to prosecute before Mr. Clinton would sign incriminating statements to resolve the Little Rock disciplinary action.
Miss Miller pressed for the signature on her timetable, however. She said that losing the right to practice might seem meaningless for Mr. Clinton unless it included the disgrace of being the only president punished while still in office.
"What doing it in the White House stood for was recognition that the sanction was fashioned for someone who was not like other lawyers. It appears to be the only tangible thing he's suffered, after eight years," she said.
"I don't think he's getting off," Miss Miller said in an interview about the weeks of negotiations.
"What lawyer wants to have a five-year suspension attached to his or her name? It's probably the only hard and fast sanction that Mr. Clinton has received during this eight-year saga," she said.
"Some would feel that is not enough," Miss Miller said, "But this is the longest suspension in the state history not handed out by a court in connection with a criminal conviction."
Lynn Williams, a staff lawyer for the disciplinary committee that recommended seeking disbarment, said Miss Miller won his panel's approval.
"My committee is very satisfied, and that satisfies me," Mr. Williams said.
Although she declined to say exactly when talks began, she said that "it was pretty … intense," in the last two weeks.
"The agreement was then taken to independent counsel Ray and he felt that what the Arkansas committee required … was acceptable to him to conclude the possible indictment," she said.
"That could be. It was important to us that it be before he left office," deputy independent counsel Keith Ausbrook said yesterday.
"This was an acceptable result for us," he said.
Mr. Ausbrook agreed with Miss Miller that negotiations were handled separately over several weeks without consultation, and he did not challenge her statement that she set the timetable while Mr. Ray was saying he would decide by mid-February what action to take.
"What was important to us was an acknowledgment of conduct and a substantial suspension of his bar license," Mr. Ausbrook said.
To the last minute, Mr. Kendall shuttled between Miss Miller in Little Rock and Mr. Ray in Washington. The dilemma was getting one of them to take the first step to end the contretemps begun on Jan. 17, 1998, when Mr. Clinton lied under oath at a deposition supervised by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright.
Mr. Kendall described to Mr. Ray on Friday the problem of getting papers signed without handing over evidence for grand jury 2000-3, impaneled last July 11.
"We know he might be legally prejudiced … if he signed the order prior to having an assurance there would be no prosecution," Mr. Kendall told Mr. Ray in a letter hand-delivered while the clock was ticking in Little Rock.
"We would have to hear from you prior to proceeding to sign the order, which the president is prepared to do immediately," Mr. Kendall said.
Mr. Ray responded by saying that when the agreement with the Arkansas Bar was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court in Little Rock, he would decline prosecution "with prejudice, of all matters within the January 16, 1998, jurisdictional mandate."
That covered the Lewinsky case and its effect on the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit and means Mr. Clinton can not be charged later for any of the matters the court authorized independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr to investigate on that date, or matters growing out of that probe.
The order was time-stamped at the court at 1:58 p.m. Little Rock time.
Yesterday was the thrice-postponed deadline for Mr. Clinton to answer under oath the committee's request for admissions in much blunter terms than any of his prior statements on the matter.
The "Agreed Order of Discipline" that Mr. Clinton signed on Friday admitted "that he knowingly gave evasive and misleading answers" under oath.
"The carrot was avoiding admissions," Miss Miller said of the factual issues formed as statements to be admitted or denied under oath. "The admissions we asked were very direct and were taken from Judge Wright's order. He would have had to admit or deny her specific findings one by one."
Among the 42 admissions sought:
"You falsely testified that you had no specific recollection of ever being alone with Ms. Monica Lewinsky."
"Your [testimony] that you had never had sexual relations with Ms. Monica Lewinsky as 'sexual relations' was defined for the purpose of the deposition, was false."
Miss Miller said she had not yielded to any doubts in a case the president's lawyers still contend was more harsh than anything ever handed out by Arkansas disciplinarians.
"We were prepared to go forward with disbarment and believed we could make credible and persuasive arguments that disbarment was an appropriate sanction," Miss Miller said. "This was in the best interests of the country and of the Arkansas Bar."


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