Has Monica Really Been Questioned 23 Times?

That’s what White House lawyers claim. And they also believe a 24th questioning in the Senate won’t tell us anything new. Of course, their implicit argument is: She’s been interrogated repeatedly and been made to suffer. Can’t we leave the poor girl alone already!? Given the White House’s lawyerly reputation, it seems fair to ask: Is this an honest statistic?

To paraphrase the president, the White House’s count, though technically correct, is also misleading. Explainer estimates that Monica was interrogated–by Starr and the House managers–for the equivalent of only 14 ordinary workdays. Here’s how the White House gets its figure, and why that figure is too-clever-by-65-percent:

The White House Math:

The White House can point to 23 formal conversations with Lewinsky:

No. 1: Starr and the FBI “interviewed” her last January at the Ritz Carlton in Virginia. (That is, they questioned her and documented her answers as rough notes–e.g. “LEWINSKY also thought that all the phones in the Pentagon City mall were ‘tapped’ by the FBI.”)

Nos. 2-19: After granting her immunity, Starr interviewed Lewinsky again on 18 separate days this summer.

No. 20: On one of the 18 days this summer, they also “deposed” her, which means recording her answers verbatim. (“Q: Miss Lewinsky, could you please state and spell your full name for the record. A: Monica Samille Lewinsky, M-O-N-I-C-A, S-A-M-I-L-L-E, L-E-W-I-N-S-K-Y.”)

Nos. 21-22: Lewinsky appeared twice before the grand jury in August.

No. 23: And the House managers questioned her on Monday of last week. (Video clips aired on Saturday, Feb. 6.)

Why 23 Is an Inflated Figure:

The initial “interview” (Questioning No. 1) shouldn’t count because it occurred before she received immunity, when it’s reasonable to suspect that her answers were either false or misleading. And the two grand jury appearances (Questioning Nos. 21-22) shouldn’t count either, since there she mostly restated information she’d already given Starr in Questionings 2-19.

The only questionings of Starr’s that truly count as investigative interrogations are the 18 days this summer (Questioning Nos. 2-19 and 20). Of these, four lasted all day while six lasted for less than four hours. The remaining eight sessions were not timed, but notes taken at these sessions indicate that at least half of them took less than four hours. In sum, Starr questioned Monica for eight full days and ten half days, while the House managers questioned her for one day. Grand total: 14 days.

Next question?