Starr forced Lewinsky to change her testimony in exchange for immunity deal, reports AP

In her statement to Starr's office on February 3, 1998, Lewinsky said that it was before she was subpoenaed in the Paula Jones case that President Clinton told her she "should say she was bringing him letters ... or visiting (Oval Office secretary) Betty Currie" if ever asked why she was with the president.
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This statement was most unsatisfactory to Ken Starr, because the timing of this statement was critical to Starrís obstruction of justice case against the president. Starr needed to show that the presidentís words to Lewinsky were intended to do more than just hide their sexual relationship from the general public.

Because Starr was not happy with Lewinskyís recollection of the facts, an immunity deal was not made at that time.

Months later, after Lewinsky had changed attorneys, she reached a deal with Starr, subject to the condition that she change her testimony and say that the presidentís statements came after she was served with a subpoena. This change of testimony now forms one of the major points of difference between the testimony of Lewinsky and the testimony of others, which in turn forms the basis for the impeachment case against Clinton.

Lewinsky had essentially no choice but to change her testimony to whatever was demanded by Starr, because Lewinsky was threatened with 27 years in prison if she did not testify the way that Starr wanted her to.

Since then, Lewinsky has tried to be careful not to change her testimony in any way, because any minor deviation from her prior testimony will almost certainly result in her spending years in prison.

The fill text of the AP report follows:

January 26, 1999

Wording Change Killed Lewinsky Deal

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- During failed negotiations last year to win Monica Lewinsky's cooperation, prosecutors became upset when her original lawyers altered language in her offer of testimony that affected their obstruction-of-justice case against President Clinton, court documents show.

The wording change was a factor in killing a proposed immunity deal between Lewinsky lawyer William Ginsburg and Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's office last February, according to the documents, released Monday at the request of The Associated Press and other news organizations.

Ms. Lewinsky eventually replaced Ginsburg with Washington attorneys Plato Cacheris and Jacob Stein, and in her subsequent immunity deal she stayed with the weaker amended account given in February.

In her initial handwritten "proffer" to Starr's office Feb. 1, Ms. Lewinsky raised serious questions about possible obstruction by Clinton, stating that he had told her "she should say she was bringing him letters ... or visiting (Oval Office secretary) Betty Currie" if ever asked why she was with the president.

But on Monday, a federal judge released documents showing that Ms. Lewinsky amended her statement to Starr's office on Feb. 3, adding a paragraph that stated the president had made his comments to her before she was subpoenaed in Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton.

The timing of Clinton's comments was an important issue to Starr's office in determining whether he might have engaged in obstruction of justice in the Jones case.

On receiving the amendment to Ms. Lewinsky's proffer, Starr deputy Robert Bittman fired back a letter to Ginsburg saying that "some provisions of Ms. Lewinsky's written proffer -- including a version we received yesterday with added provisions -- contradict other provisions of the document."

Ginsburg responded by asserting that Starr prosecutor Bruce Udolf had verbally agreed to the amendment -- as well as to a complete immunity deal for Ms. Lewinsky -- in a telephone conference late on the evening of Feb. 2.

Starr's office denied making a deal and said prosecutors had information that was "inconsistent" with Ms. Lewinsky's amendment that placed Clinton's comments before she was subpoenaed.

The issue over the timing of Clinton's comments has never been previously known publicly as a reason why Starr's office rejected Ms. Lewinsky's proposed immunity deal.

Ginsburg went to court to try to enforce the proposed immunity deal, saying Starr's office had agreed to it.

Starr's office replied that the amendment to Ms. Lewinsky's handwritten proffer constituted a "counteroffer" to which they had never agreed.

U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson on May 1 denied Ginsburg's motion to enforce the agreement, saying in the newly released court decision that Ms. Lewinsky's amendment "constituted a material change requiring further acceptance" by Starr's office.

Starr's prosecutors "had not proposed" the amendment "and had never had a chance to discuss or approve Ms. Lewinsky's change in the timing of Clinton's statement", the judge said.

"Mr. Udolf's oral assent" to the change "fell short of the requisite acceptance because the evidence ... on this issue failed to prove that Mr. Udolf told Mr. Ginsburg" that Starr's office and Ms. Lewinsky "in fact had a binding deal."

The judge also ruled that the prosecutors had made clear to Ginsburg that only Starr had the authority to approve an immunity deal for his office, and she noted that Starr was not involved in the phone call.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Ms. Lewinsky's lawyers have asked Johnson to permit the former White House intern to be interviewed by Barbara Walters for ABC's "20/20" program.

Under the terms of her immunity agreement with Starr, Ms. Lewinsky is not permitted to comment to the news media without Starr's approval, "pending the resolution of this matter."

The Lewinsky lawyers are seeking a court hearing Thursday to force Starr to lift the restrictions, the Post said, quoting unidentified legal sources.


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