What Cell Phone Records?

One of the curious effects of hearing the Flytrap story told over and over again (nine times, Slate’s David Plotz estimated in his Friday dispatch, “Is the Ninth Time the Charm?“) is that even hardened Flytrap junkies like Chatterbox are liable to be so overcome with ennui that they’ll miss important nuggets of new information. Chatterbox didn’t watch Thursday’s presentation of the impeachment evidence to the Senate on TV. (Instead, Chatterbox went to see The Thin Red Line, which wasn’t very good.) But when he read the write-up in the papers, and the extensive excerpts from Rep. Asa Hutchinson’s much-praised summary of the obstruction charges, he tripped over Betty Currie’s cell phone records. Cell phone records? Chatterbox didn’t remember any cell phone records.

According to the Starr report, Monica Lewinsky said in a sworn statement (prior to her grand jury testimony) that Betty Currie phoned her on Dec. 28, 1997 and “said that the Pres. had told her Ms. L. wanted her to hold onto something for her. Ms. L boxed up most of the gifts she had received [from Clinton] and gave them to Ms. Currie.” Later, Lewinsky told the grand jury that Currie had called her and said, “I understand you have something to give me,” or, “The President said you have something to give me.” When the grand jury later asked Currie about this, she said it was Lewinsky who had called her and asked that she, Currie, pick up the gifts. This version, of course, makes the transaction look less like an obstruction of justice and more like a (somewhat inexplicable) favor. But when confronted with Lewinsky’s version, she said, “Then she may remember better than I. I don’t remember.”

And that’s what Chatterbox thought was the last, ambiguous word on the subject. But Hutchinson’s presentation yesterday set him straight:

“Monica, you will recall, in her deposition said she thought that Betty had called her and she thought that the call came from her cell phone number. Well, it was not known at the time of the questioning of Monica Lewinsky, but since then, the cell phone record was retrieved. And you don’t have it in front of you, but it will be available. The cell phone record was retrieved that showed on Betty Currie’s cell phone calls that a call was made at 3:32 from Betty Currie to Monica Lewinsky.”

Apparently there are some discrepancies between the cell phone records and Lewinsky’s recollection about when these events occurred. Still, Chatterbox considers these cell phone records big news, and wonders why he hasn’t heard about them before. Apparently they were mentioned by David Schippers in his Dec. 10 presentation to the House, but Chatterbox missed it. They were also mentioned in a Dec. 10 Times story about Starr challenging the White House’s defense brief, but Chatterbox missed that, too. They don’t appear to have gotten very big news play.

Chatterbox is not going to go on a tirade about the media missing a big story when the real lesson may be that Chatterbox should read his newspaper more carefully. Rather, he invites readers to consider that the entire nation is losing its ability to notice or care about new evidence in this case–even when the evidence is, upon examination, fairly significant.

Timothy Noah