The Consortium

The Truth According to Paula & Ken

By Robert Parry

In recent days, two of President Clinton's key adversaries -- Paula Jones and Kenneth Starr -- have shown more signs of cracking up themselves, than cracking the sex-and-lies cases against Bill Clinton.

First Jones, in a sworn deposition, significantly altered her story about Clinton's alleged sexual harassment, which she claims occurred during an encounter with then-Gov. Clinton in a Little Rock hotel room on May 8, 1991. Jones told lawyers in the case that Clinton briefly held the hotel room door closed, to block Jones from fleeing a gross sexual proposition.

"He rushed up behind me," Jones stated. "I started to open up the door, he put his hand on the door to where I could not open it up any further, and he stopped me and he says, 'You're a smart girl, let's keep this between ourselves.' ... He confined me for a moment."

The new door-blocking allegation is legally significant because Jones must establish that Clinton used some element of coercion if she has any reasonable hope of prevailing in her lawsuit. Jones appears to have failed to show that Clinton punished her in her job as a low-level state employee or made a series of sexual advances.

But the door story also raises new questions about Jones's credibility. She had never mentioned the momentary confinement before and it connects to the most bizarre part of her story -- that after Jones firmly rejected two sexual overtures, Clinton pulled down his pants and undershorts to expose himself to a woman he had never met.

In her previous accounts, Jones said she immediately fled the room, as Clinton called after her not to tell anyone. Now, she claims that Clinton demonstrated extraordinary agility, by pulling back up his undershorts and pants and somehow out-racing her to the door.

Jones's other key insistence -- that the lawsuit is not about money, but rather about an apology -- faced new doubts as well. Those questions have existed since the suit was filed in 1994 and one of her sisters quoted the plaintiff as telling her family that she "smelt money either way it went," a statement Jones emphatically denied making.

But last November, Jones hired a conservative direct-mail firm to generate contributions that would go to her personal legal fund, which is structured as a sole proprietorship. As part of the deal, Jones's fund-raising company, Bruce W. Eberle & Associates, Inc., guaranteed Jones a minimum of $300,000 from the solicitations and has reportedly already delivered $100,000 to Jones.

The solicitation letters told contributors that the money was needed for "litigation expenses." But Rutherford Institute president John W. Whitehead challenged that claim. Whitehead stated that Eberle has given the lawyers no money and that Rutherford is handling all of Jones's legal expenses through other fund-raising. [WP, Feb. 28, 1998]

Prosecutorial Zeal

While Jones's expanded story and fund-raising were entering the public domain, the parallel Clinton criminal investigation by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr was taking its own strange turns. Angered by what he called "an avalanche of lies" and suspecting a conspiracy to obstruct his investigation, Starr counterattacked by subpoenaing some of his critics before a federal grand jury.

Starr justified his actions with a novel constitutional theory. "The First Amendment is interested in the truth," Starr declared. It was not meant, he argued, to protect what he deemed "misinformation and distorted information."

In reality, of course, the First Amendment is interested in free speech, not some prosecutor's opinion about what is true or not. The Founding Fathers believed an open and vigorous debate -- unencumbered by government interference and intimidation -- was the best course for a democratic society.

Even as he sent out new subpoenas, however, Starr refused to specify the supposed lies about himself and his investigative team. Still, his choice of targets suggested that he believed a conspiracy was afoot to smear him and his deputies. Senior White House communications adviser Sidney Blumenthal had drawn the attention of reporters to published accounts of prosecutorial zealotry by two of Starr's top lieutenants.

Before the grand jury, Blumenthal acknowledged to Starr's prosecutors that he had talked with reporters about recent stories describing problems with Starr aides, Bruce Udolf and Michael Emmick. Those two prosecutors had participated in the attempt in January to pressure Monica Lewinsky into cooperating in an undercover sting operation to implicate President Clinton in the sex-and-perjury case.

Since then, press accounts have detailed past cases in which Udolf and Emmick were accused of prosecutorial abuse. In Georgia, a federal jury had assessed a $50,000 fine against Udolf for violating a man's civil rights when the man was held four days without a bail hearing or access to a lawyer. In California, a federal judge accused Emmick of bringing a tax prosecution against a woman in a manner that was "callous, coercive and vindictive."

Though Blumenthal got most of the media attention, Starr also subpoenaed two private investigators hired by the tabloid National Enquirer in 1996. Their job had been to check out rumors about Starr having an extramarital affair with trucking heiress Jane Hunt Hardin in Arkansas.

The investigators photographed cars outside the woman's home, but failed to link Starr to the woman. No story was published. But in 1996, her then-fiance (now husband) Bill Hardin, an FBI agent attached to Starr's office, confronted one of the private investigators whom he had recognized. [WP, Feb. 28, 1998]

Whether intentional or not, Starr's subpoenas against the National Enquirer coincided with the tabloid's publication of an unflattering Starr profile in its March 10, 1998, issue. The article quoted Starr's 90-year-old mother as saying that her son's favorite hobby was polishing shoes and that his bad temper caused him to get "a lot of spankings."

The tabloid also published a photo of a young Ken Starr dressed as a girl in a school skit. Several years later, Starr avoided the Vietnam War -- which he avidly supported -- by failing his draft physical "thanks to the heartbreak of psoriasis," the article said. The Enquirer then quoted Starr's college roommate, Lou Butterfield, as saying, "I never knew he [Starr] had psoriasis."

Moon Over Starr

But Starr was not without supporters in his counter-attack. Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times slammed those who were trying "to discredit a federal prosecutor in the midst of a criminal investigation." [Feb. 25, 1998]

The conservative daily quoted Mark R. Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, as expressing shock over White House criticisms of Starr and his deputies. "I really don't think there is a parallel, anywhere, in modern American history for this kind of thuggish activity," declared Levin.

In contrast to the Starr situation, The Washington Times reported "there was never a concerted effort to attack the prosecutor in [the Iran-contra] investigation, Lawrence E. Walsh." That claim by the Times, however, might surprise Walsh, who absorbed repeated attacks from The Washington Times, often over petty questions such as bookkeeping errors. [See Walsh's book, Firewall.]

Then-Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole also mounted a sustained political assault on Walsh's investigation into arms-trafficking, misappropriation of funds and obstruction of justice by senior members of the Reagan-Bush administrations. In November 1992, Dole demanded the firing of one deputy, James Brosnahan, because of Brosnahan's past involvement in Democratic politics. Walsh himself was a Republican.

Dole next demanded a list of all Walsh's employees so the Republicans could conduct investigations to judge each "employee's objectivity and impartiality." The senator also got each employee's pay records. Walsh's investigation was finally killed by President Bush's pardons of six Iran-contra defendants on Christmas Eve 1992.

Now with the shoe on the other foot, conservatives have consigned the history of Republicans harassing Walsh and his prosecutors to the memory hole. ~

(c) Copyright 1998 -- Please Do Not Re-Post

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