Today's Papers

Nelvis Enters the Building

Kenneth Starr’s latest moves lead at USA Today, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. They are also the subject of a somewhat historic story at the Wall Street Journal. The Los Angeles Times leads with the latest developments in the Iraq situation.

USAT reports that on Wednesday Starr rejected a written testimony-for-immunity offer from Monica Lewinsky. Before a deal can be reached, the paper says, Starr wants Lewinsky to submit to questioning by his investigators, who especially want to clarify whether or not there were any attempts to cover up an affair with the president. Starr particularly wants to find out more about what Lewinsky knows about the provenance of the “talking points” memo that Linda Tripp apparently received from her. The WP lead also says these are the main areas about which Starr wants more info.

The LAT front doesn’t cover the latest Lewinsky blips, but the other dailies are all over the parade of witnesses to Starr’s Washington, D.C. grand jury. (The WP points out that Starr’s rejection of Lewinsky’s offer may reflect his confidence in what he’s getting from these witnesses.) Recent testifiers include a Clinton friend who serves as his personal assistant, and the chief steward at the White House, Bayani Nelvis.

Last night’s early editions of the on-line version of the WSJ broke the news that Nelvis told the grand jury he’d seen President Clinton and Lewinsky alone together in a study adjacent to the Oval Office. After the story went on-line, it was picked up by at least two TV networks and then denied by Nelvis’ attorney. The Journal also reports that Nelvis says that he told Secret Service personnel that he’d found and disposed of tissues with lipstick and other stains on them following a meeting between Clinton and Lewinsky. The paper says Nelvis, on the White House staff for more than 15 years, related this because he was personally offended.

The WSJ also reports that in their grand jury appearances, George Stephanopoulos and Clinton personal secretary Betty Currie confirmed that Nelvis did have the access he claimed.

The Journal’s story represents a first because it was released on the paper’s web site, rather than being held for the hard-copy edition, and thus represents an occurrence you’ll be seeing again: newspapers and magazines using their electronic versions to break and refine stories round-the-clock every bit as quickly as CNN. The WP’s Howard Kurtz writes that the WSJ didn’t wait for the morning paper because it was hearing footsteps from at least one other news organization.

The NYT lead says Starr has rejected a White House request that the questioning of senior Clinton aides be restricted. And in response, says the paper, the administration is prepared to invoke the sweeping protection known as executive privilege as early as Thursday, when John Podesta, a deputy White House chief of staff, goes before the grand jury.

The LAT reports that Boris Yeltsin’s warning that U.S. actions against Saddam “could lead to a World War” took the White House by surprise. (This remark is also carried inside the WP and NYT.) The LAT says Yeltsin’s remark reflects the growing global anxiety about the seeming inevitability of a U.S. attack. William Safire is less charitable, condemning Yeltsin harshly and painting his foreign minister Primakov as a former spymaster and one-time ally of Hussein.

The NYT front reports that a split has emerged in Washington regarding any possible military response. Top Republicans are calling for the removal of Saddam, while the administration is trying to suppress expectations.

The USAT front states that Italy’s defense minister is demanding criminal prosecution for an American Marine pilot whose plane sliced through a ski gondola’s cable Tuesday, killing all 20 passengers. The NYT, in its front-page coverage, says the plane was flying far lower than the rules for training missions allow.

With crime down and the economy up, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is finally able to turn to the really big issues–like keeping the original Winnie-the-Pooh doll in a Manhattan museum against the claims of a member of the British Parliament that it belongs back in England. Hizzoner is even planning a trip to the museum to, in the words of a likewise underworked spokeswoman, “reassure the bear that he is safe on American soil.”