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Parsing a Scandal

Sifting Fact and Fiction

Unlike the complicated financial intricacies of Whitewater, the accusations now engulfing the White House are relatively easy to understand.

Nevertheless, as fact and allegation commingle, and the motives of the parties involved remain unclear, the following guide may help sort out the murky details and list of characters involved.

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The Allegations

There are two basic allegations being invested by investigated by Independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Did President Clinton commit perjury? Did he and/or his close friend Vernon Jordan ask former White House intern Monica Lewinsky to lie?

Mr. Starr is investigating whether Mr. Clinton perjured himself during a sworn deposition with Paula Jones's attorneys on Jan. 17. Jones's attorneys questioned him in an effort to establish a pattern of infidelity with workplace subordinates. In the deposition, The Washington Post reported that the president denied having any sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.

Also under investigation is whether the President or his close friend Vernon Jordan "suborned perjury," legalese meaning, did they ask Ms. Lewinsky to lie about the alleged affair and was there a conspiracy to cover up the relationship?

The Penalties

If the charges of suborning perjury and obstruction of justice are proved true, they could trigger impeachment hearings in Congress. While legal experts are divided over whether a sitting president can be prosecuted, these are felony crimes punishable by prison time.

Sex between consenting adults is not illegal. But due to the age difference, and Lewinsky's subordinate position as an intern, the nature of the relationship may raise questions about the president's moral character and abuse of power.

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The Evidence

The key evidence is a collection of secretly taped conversations in which Lewinsky tells former co-worker Linda Tripp details of an alleged affair with the president. In excerpts of the tapes, published in Newsweek magazine, Lewinsky also says, "If I need to, I would say ... this [affair] did not happen."

Lewinsky has also given a sworn statement to Jones's attorney's denying that she had a sexual relationship with Clinton. The president has also denied repeatedly that he had "sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." He also says, "I never told anybody to lie.... These allegations are false."

Vernon Jordan says that "at no time did I say, suggest, or intimate to [Lewinsky] that she should lie."

Starr has subpoenaed White House logs to see when Lewinsky entered the building. There are media reports that gifts were exchanged between the president and Lewinsky. The FBI has confiscated items from Lewinsky's apartment. Clinton is said by colleagues to be a generous gift giver. It is unclear if there is a pattern of such generosity with interns.

The Participants

Monica Lewinsky worked for 10 months as an intern in the White House. In April 1996, she was transferred to a job at the Pentagon public-affairs office. Last month, she left to take a position in the public-relations office at Revlon in New York. A friend of the president and member of the cosmetics company board, Vernon Jordan, helped her line up job interviews. Last week, Revlon rescinded the job offer.

Linda Tripp became an aide in the Bush White House in 1990 and stayed on under Clinton until 1994. She then took a job as an aide in the Pentagon public-affairs office. The Washington Post reports that she told colleagues she had been exiled there because "she knew too much about Whitewater."

In 1996, Tripp befriends a new office mate: Lewinsky. In the fall, Tripp tells Newsweek that Clinton had an alleged sexual encounter in the White House with Kathleen Willey. Clinton's lawyer says it's untrue.

New York book agent, Lucianne Goldberg, encourages Tripp to tape her conversations with Lewinsky for a possible book.

Kenneth Starr's investigation began 3-1/2 years ago, examining potential illegalities of a 1980s "Whitewater" land deal the Clintons were involved in. Critics say Starr is pursuing a partisan vendetta. Starr denies such claims, saying "We're acting properly and within our jurisdiction."

Chronology of a Scandal

Jan. 7: Monica Lewinsky gives sworn statement to Paula Jones's attorneys in which she denies any sexual relationship with President Clinton.

Jan.12: Linda Tripp gives authorities 20 hours of secretly taped phone conversations with Ms. Lewinsky discussing details of the alleged affair.

Jan.13: Ms. Tripp, wearing a hidden recording device meets with Lewinsky at a Washington hotel. Lewinsky tells her Vernon Jordan, the president's close friend, asked her to deny that she had an affair with Mr. Clinton.

Jan. 16: Independent counsel Kenneth Starr is given permission to expand his Whitewater investigation to include whether anyone had encouraged Lewinsky to lie about the relationship.

Jan. 17: Clinton becomes the first president in history to testify in a deposition as a defendant. He reportedly denies any sexual relationship with Lewinsky.

Jan 21: The Washing-ton Post and the Los Angeles Times break the Lewinsky story. Starr subpoenas White House for documents and records that may indicate when Lewinsky entered.

In a series of pre-scheduled interviews, the president denies any "improper" relationship.

Jan 22: Mr. Jordan, in a short news conference, denies inducing Lewinsky to lie. But he says he helped Lewinsky find a job in New York.

Jan. 26: Clinton issues his most forceful denial: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman.... I never told anybody to lie." Lewinsky's attorney negotiates with Mr. Starr for his client's immunity.

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