S1: I think that the cultural chef, the shift in our values is a healthy thing, that individuals are being called to account, especially those in power positions. Now, in fairness, Monica brought it on, as I think she would she would agree.
S2: Hello, Slate Plus listeners. This is Episode 6 plus of slow burn season 2 I am We are Neyfakh and I’m here with my colleague Slate producer Mary Wilson. Hi, Liane. As you all know, if you’ve heard any of these episodes before, we use this time to talk about some of the details and subplots that could not fit into the mainframe episode, just slow burn.
S3: We also talk about LeAnn’s process and rereporting the story of the Clinton impeachment and asking questions like why did we have to hear James Carville stuffing his face with an Egg McMuffin?
S4: I actually don’t think we heard him literally stuffing his face with Egg McMuffin, merely announcing his intention. All right. Just the analysis. Well, you know, that was a decision we had to make as to whether we would keep that intern.
S3: We’ll get to it. We’ll get to it. What are we going to hear later in this episode?
S2: We actually have two exciting things this week. Not just one. Usually we have an interview and that’s it. This week we have an interview and something special, something of a plus to the plus. That’s right. Gone. Something special. The plus of the plus. It’s a montage of people, former kids, as I’ve been calling them, who remember processing the Clinton scandal as children. This is something that a lot of people getting my age, I’m thirty three have in common. We all sort of vaguely recall hearing certain words we’d never heard before. And so we interviewed a bunch of them. Madeline Kaplan, our researcher, interviewed a bunch of them. And we put together a montage of all of their hilarious recollections.
S3: Oh, great. So we’ll hear that later this episode. What else?
S5: The other thing is an interview with Ken Starr, who, of course, is the former independent counsel who investigated Clinton. Starr has a new memoir out called Contempt. And so he came into our studio and let me ask him other questions.
S3: OK. I’m just a few minutes. We’re gonna get a montage of former kids and we’re gonna get former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, also a former kid and also a former kid. But first, let’s talk about Slover in Episode 6 God mode. In this episode, we hear from NPR reporter Mara LIASSON. We hear from Clinton attack dog James Carville. We hear from the Bennett brothers when Bennett a Clinton antagonize or the other Bennett, a professional Clinton defender. We get the story of how the Clinton Lewinsky affair broke, the story of Clinton’s fervent denial, then his subsequent admission and legalistic explanations. We get the story of the blue dress.
S5: Yeah, all that and so much.
S3: There’s so many things in this episode, as per usual. Let’s dig into it. What pained you to not be able to include in this episode?
S2: So the main thing that I wish we could have made more of in this episode is the story of Bill Ginsburg. This is Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer. There’s too many bills in this show. Bill Bennett, Bill Clinton, Bill Ginsburg. That’s as good a reason as any to keep me out. But I wish we could have made more of him because he’s such a larger than life character. He was this like extraordinarily reckless lawyer who was love publicity wants to be on TV all the time. There’s a phrase in cable news, the full Ginsburg. I’ve heard the phrase, you’ve heard it Yoda of hers, too.
S3: I figured it referred to a Supreme Court justice.
S4: I know it refers to the day when Bill Ginsburg appeared on all of the Sunday talk shows at once. Got it. Or not at once. But, you know, he went from one to the other. And I guess there’s been a couple of people who’ve done it besides him. But I think most of them are like elected officials. He’s like the one. I’m not. Yeah, perhaps I’m not. Glavin. Yeah. Is that true? I have no idea. I would be surprised.
S2: But yeah, he he he he achieved this like milestone. That’s now named after him, the full Ginsburg. He also at one point helped negotiate a Vanity Fair photo shoot for Monica. In the midst of all this stuff happening, she posed for photos in Vanity Fair and it sort of blew up blew up in their face a little bit. I think it wasn’t very well received. But at the time, Bill Ginsburg was like, oh, she like she needs it for her, like self-confidence. I gather it sort of reinforced this image of her as a as an unserious person.
S5: Mm hmm. There were two other things they left out very quickly. One, when Monica Lewinsky agreed to sit down with the Starr people and talk about this immunity deal, they had to find a place where she would give what’s known as a proffer. So she had to like. Tell them what she knows so that they know that giving her immunity is worth it. Right. And the place where they did this was Ken Starr’s mother in law’s house. They referred to as grandma’s house in Manhattan.
S6: So she wakes up, jogs, sings hymns and takes proffers at grandmother’s house. Yeah.
S4: That’s what how long does that take to say that I left that in? That’s true. Well, he would have required like introducing the idea of a proffer explaining what a problem was. This is the kind of choices we make. We have to like figure out if something is funny enough to to explain all the things you’d understand to make it funny. You really got to sweat each delicious detail. That’s why we had these episodes.
S5: And one other detail that I am obsessed with that I wish we could have used has to do with the blood test that Clinton sat for.
S2: So as you heard in the main episode, Clinton allowed one of the Starr prosecutors and an FBI agent to come to the White House and watch as a White House doctor drew his blood in order to get a blood sample to compare against the DNA on the dress. And so prosecutors, he was Bob Bittman. Bob Bittman came and they’re there in the map room, which is the same place where Clinton would later give his grand jury testimony and where he would give his TV address and that same spot. I think maybe that same chair Quinn sitting there, he’s wearing a tuxedo. He just came from a formal dinner and he gets his blood drawn and immediately afterwards. Bob Bittman, the prosecutor from Starr’s team, thought that the doctor had turned away while holding the vial of blood in a way that made Bittman think that they’d switched it out like this. They mention is that because it’s true? It was not true. It did not happen. Bittman was wrong. The FBI agent confirmed Bittman. That did not happen because the the FBI agent had a better angle on it. However, I mentioned it because it goes to show you how deep the distrust went at this point, like for for the prosecutor to think the president was trying to switch out the vial of his blood for someone else’s.
S4: I mean, it’s so it’s so scummy. And so, you know, it’s just like, yeah, that would be unbelievable on a TV show.
S5: Yeah. But apparently, you know, the prosecutors were so contemptuous of Clinton by this point that it was believable to them that he might do that. And I didn’t include it precisely because you had to make as big a deal out of the fact that it didn’t actually happen that way as you do of the fact that he thought it did. Yes. Oh, yeah. It’s sort of a perfect factoid to stand on its own decisions from this episode.
S3: That was the best decisions that age the worst 20 think propitious wished not the blood vile.
S4: Honestly, no, I don’t know. There are maybe fewer bad decisions in this episode than there have been in past ones. It seems like as we get to this point of the story, people sort of like falling in line during with her supposed to do.
S5: You know, I think I think it was a good decision for Monica Lewinsky to get immunity. It would’ve been a real tragedy. Boy, if they continue pushing the prosecution and who knows if they would have really gone through with it. Ask. You know, it was it was really here in the Ken Starr interview, I asked him whether he was prepared to really prosecute her.
S3: Okay. That’s a recap of Sullivan’s mainframe Episode 6 God mode and what we’re going to hear next.
S2: All right. Now here is this montage. I’ve been so excited for everyone to hear this. The reason it’s relevant is you might remember for Episode 6 Towards the top, we talk about how Bill Bennett and other Christian right activists were really concerned about children. Like a lot of what they talked about was how will we explain this to our kids? Like how will we live in a country where our children are are allowed to think that this is okay. And then in a country where their children are forced to hear about this stuff on TV. So I wanted to know, well, what about the children? How do the children react? So this article at Mail magazine written by Josh Berlinguer, he interviewed like probably a dozen or maybe more people, again, roughly this age about what they remembered.
S5: And so I e-mailed him and was like, hey, you know, I’ve been so curious about how this stuff has settled in people’s memories. And your your article is great resource. Can you please connect me to some of the folks you interviewed? And he very kindly did. And so Madeleine Kaplan, our researcher, called them up and interviewed them. And we put together this little montage so that we can all think of the children together.
S7: My name is actually Devo and I was nine in 1980. My name is Alex Nickols and I was 9 years old in 1998.
S8: My name is Andy Michael and I was 11 years old in 1998. My name is Andrew Jobe and I turned eleven years old in 1998. So I was in the sixth grade.
S7: I was up later than usual for some reason. And I think The Daily Show is on. They made a reference to Bill Clinton and oral sex. And I didn’t know what that was.
S9: Try to ask my parents why. Why someone would want to put a penis in their mouth. They really weren’t up for explaining that to me.
S7: So my only context for anything because I was like nine was school. And so I thought, OK, oral oral exam. So must have something to do with talking. Because that’s that’s what an oral exam is. So I just thought that I thought that Bill Clinton had been talking about sex stuff with an intern. I think there are probably other kids in school that were maybe a little bit more on top of it.
S10: And in fifth grade, we did like presidential reports. I remember like all of the presidential names or I put in the hat and then like somebody made a joke about like, oh, I hope I get Harrison because he was barely there. The teacher was like one thing about me, my dad. And then somebody else made a joke like, oh, I hope I get Clinton and the teacher. That’s kind of being like red-faced. I’m like, well, you know. Well, he’s the current president, so we’re not going to do that.
S9: We weren’t allowed to talk about it in class. And so like whenever we were in the bathroom. The girls would all talk about what was going on and what the president was doing, and so it was just different ideas of where penises went and. What what you would do with them, what they even look like.
S10: You know, a lot of my friends that I like around that time, like we have this huge misconception about like what the president was actually in trouble for. I don’t think we understood, like the legal mechanism for why he was being impeached. You know, it was just sort of like what you get from The Tonight Show and the playground and, you know, adults blushing. Is that. Well, he did a blow job and now he’s in trouble.
S8: My history teacher. Do you want us to just kind of understand what the charges were for the impeachment proceedings? And I misunderstood that, that you wanted us to read, like the whole Starr report. When I read the whole thing, my mom was rather upset. Like, I think that was where I learned what oral sex was. It was educational for me in that respect, I suppose.
S9: I think I had maybe a little more romantic than it, but it really was. I think I was under the assumption that somehow this all led to making babies. I thought maybe that Monica Lewinsky wanted to have this baby or maybe that they were in love. And it was like a star crossed lovers kind of thing. I guess I thought that all adults were the same. I didn’t. Realize what the age gap could mean. Because I was nine. So she was an adult to me. It wasn’t till much later that I realized she was she was young.
S10: You know, I think the investigation got to a point where, you know, Clinton said, like, I did not have sexual relations with that woman, but he had oral sex and was saying, you know, like, well, that’s not sex. And like the kind of joke with my mom, you know, as I got older and yes, you and to have a talk and like, you know, you’re a teenager. It’s you know, if I’m sexually active, like the way she kind of passed that conversation would be like, why are you having Democrats sex or having Republicans sex? You know, became like the euphemism to talk about like levels of sexual intercourse then activity.
S11: All right. And those are our former kids. What are we giving her next now from Kandahar? Yeah. Now it’s Ken Starr.
S3: So let’s let’s talk about Ken Starr. He’s held up in this episode as a principal truth seeker by friends, and he’s smeared as a prurient obsessive by his enemies. You talked to him. Did you get a better sense than than we could? What he what he was like?
S5: He’s really good at making all this stuff quite boring. Right. He’s good at talking about in this very even way. You know, he’s all super emotional. He’s not super like animated. So he presents as just a very steady hand. And obviously, Carville and the rest of them made a caricature out of him. I think no caricature is accurate. That said, you know, I won’t pretend that I like cracked him in this hour long interview I did with him. You know, like he’s he’s he’s there to provide sort of an official response rate to certain to certain questions that I asked him. As you’ll hear like. Your regrets about that day at the Ritz Carlton Hotel? Like it’s it’s important what he thinks of it. It’s not. Doesn’t tell you a whole lot about him, what he says. But you think it’s you know, it’s good to sort of get on the record, sort of. So like I said your earlier, he was he was in the studio to promote his new book, Contempt. And I got to say on the book, he really does not hold back. It really does. It opens with a thunderclap. I mean, he says in the intro, the basic proposition of this book is that the president is that President Clinton and the first lady knowingly embarked on a continuing course of action that was contemptuous of our revered system of justice. He also talks about how Clinton’s shockingly callous contempt for the women he had used for his pleasure. He was perhaps a little more restrained in this interview, but there are a bunch of good parts that I’m excited for people to hear.
S12: I want to ask you first about the book called The Book. Why did you wait this long and why did you decide that now is the time?
S13: Well, my personal circumstances were such that I never had the freedom to reflect and to do the book. And then my personal circumstances changed. And Hillary lost the election. The combination of those two, it all came together.
S14: Why was Hillary Clinton’s defeat part of your calculation?
S13: Well, it seemed to me as if the Clinton political era had ended. I wish them all well. They’ll make. I’m sure, many contributions to the common good. But the politics had obviously changed. And so I felt a sense of freedom and I guess, appropriateness. I would not have wanted to do it. Had she won the election and had been our president, I had no interest in raining on anyone’s parade, but I was eager to tell the inside story.
S15: And of course, as the 20th anniversary.
S13: Well, exactly. Moreover, then the Bob Mueller investigation got underway a few months into the book, and so certain parallels were and still are being drawn to the two eras and the broad principle of the president’s accountability to the rule of law. So there are echoes from 20 years ago that we’re hearing now.
S15: Well, so I want to I wanted to ask you about the beginning of 1998, sort of right after the OIC becomes aware the Lewinsky matter. Do you remember how you found out there was a person named Monica Lewinsky who would be of interest to your investigation?
S13: Well, it was a step by step process in that as I recount in the book itself and in contempt, the information first came to my deputy independent counsel in Washington. Once they had the information from Linda Tripp, a person who we knew from our investigation earlier into the death of Vincent Foster Junior. So there was someone who we knew. A witness comes in and says, essentially, I’m being asked to perjure myself.
S15: And when you say that your office knew her, it was it was because she’d come and testified about the Vince Foster suicide. Or would you describe the way in which you guys knew Linda Tripp very well in connection with the Vincent Foster death investigation?
S13: We interviewed a number of witnesses. And Linda was one of those. She was his executive assistant in the West Wing. And I know that office. So I knew where she would have been sitting. And it is a very small, surprisingly small set of offices. So she knew Vince very well. She had been there. She was a holdover right. From the prior administration. And so our people had viewed her as a knowledgeable, intelligent and credible witness.
S15: And the fact that she’d been a witness earlier in the investigation was part of why was. You felt there’s a natural connection between this new sort of, let’s say, chapter of the investigation and the older ones. Is that right?
S13: Yes. In terms of the personnel. But it also was consistent with what we had seen before, an effort to affect the investigation by helping shape witnesses testimony or encouraging witnesses to take a particular position or whatever. So as both you’re referring to Webster Hubbell and Webster Hubbell primarily. Yes. That we were very concerned about what had happened unbeknownst to us, until after the fact that after he left the White House or this is Hillary’s there’s just for our listeners, this is Hillary’s Hillary Clinton’s close friend from the Rose Law Firm who came with with the Clintons to D.C. to be third and commanded the DOJ, I suppose, was under Fiske that it was discovered that he had stolen money from the Rose law firm.
S14: Right. And then did you guys bring the charges or did fiscally conservative that we brought the charge?
S13: Okay. Yeah. But. Bob Fisk, my predecessor, the independent counsel appointed by Janet Reno, had moved far down the trail of finding out the facts with the full cooperation, I must say, of the Rose Law firm, which was really outraged that their partner and a very senior partner and a respected partner had in fact defrauded them, defrauded their clients, which included the federal government.
S15: Right. And then the connection was later in the prosecution process, you guys became aware that there had been some consulting fees paid to Hubbell Visa, Bill Clinton’s friend, Vernon Jordan. Is that right?
S13: Vernon Jordan had been involved in the process, but actually Webster Hubbell was paid very generous amounts of money for exceeding his income at the Rose Law Firm for consulting services. And the effort to reach those who would provide funds to Webb was actually carried out out of the White House, carried out by the chief of staff himself. So we were deeply concerned. Webb at that time had Webb. Judge Hubbell, as I called him, had a cooperation agreement with the Office of Independent Counsel, and he was very ably represented by counsel. And we were stunned, generally stunned to learn that he was being provided tens of thousands of dollars by particular clients for rendering consulting services. And we could never determine what those services were.
S14: So your suppositions was that he was being essentially paid for his lack of cooperation, for his refusal to cooperate?
S13: I believe in a subtle way he was being taken care of. That was our suspicion. You know, we could never prove that it was, quote, hush money. But obviously, any reasonable prosecutor in my career, prosecutors to a person said that this is highly suspicious and it was orchestrated by the White House and that in there and you saw an echo from from that to the Monica Lewinsky situation, that there certainly was an echo that now through the good offices of Vernon Jordan, we would work to get we being the White House would work to get her a job. We would get her out of the jurisdiction. So she would be out of harm’s way, so to speak, in connection with the unfolding discovery that was going on in the Paula Jones litigation right after the Lewinsky story broke.
S14: Your office really came in for a lot of, let’s say, criticism from the White House. I ruined it to hear your recollections of what that felt like being on the receiving end of a media war, you know, by by Clinton surrogates. You talk this guy, build it.
S13: Yes. It was actually an echo of what had occurred in 1994 when I was first appointed. The appointment was actually reasonably well received by newspapers. My record as a judge, my record as solicitor general, the United States side also having returned to private practice, been engaged by the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee to conduct a very sensitive review of the personal diaries of Robert Packwood, a United States senator from Oregon. So I was a law person. I’d been considered for elevation to the Supreme Court of the United States. But within very short order, I was transmogrified by essentially the White House spin machine into a partisan, rabid Republican, which was not. So I am a Republican. That’s the whole genius of appointing a special counsel from the other party. The history was looking to the other political party to appoint special counsel as we as we now call them. So that was the tradition. But the point being, the assault began by the Clinton White House and its partisans in 1994 and never really let up. It was just the intensity of the attacks increased tremendously. Well, you remember them saying about you in, let’s say in 1998 that he was a Republican partisan and that this was an effort to get the Clintons. And it was tied to the appointment by the special division of the U.S. Court of Appeals. And the head of that special division, David Sentelle, was a Reagan appointee and had a personal relationship with two Republican senators from his home state of North Carolina.
S15: All that was brought together and then this caricature was created of a partisan theory, if I remember if I remember correctly, was that Senator Jesse Helms had had lunch with Syntel and that soon after that you received the call. Right now it was then the supposition was that Helms had somehow orchestrated your appointment.
S13: It was just a huge leap. And. I know David Syntel, I’d served with him on the United States court, goes to the D.C. Circuit, a very respected judge. Then as now, he’s still a judge on the on the D.C. Circuit. So it was all made up. It was completely phony. There was no one who overheard the conversation. It was one of those. The appearance of the judge in a public setting having lunch was not as if behind closed doors. They had a public lunch. And it wasn’t tarmac. It was open public. And Davidson tell publicly denied that there was any conversation at all about that that issue. But it took on a life of its own. And the Clinton White House had a very effective spin machine. Every White House does to a greater or lesser extent. And so that was used, again, as a way of saying that the investigation was somehow not what it should be.
S15: One thing I noticed is that after the Lewinsky story broke, both Clinton surrogates and journalists began paying new attention to your faith. Is that something you remember at all very vividly?
S13: It was, I thought, a very anti-constitutional approach, which I mean by that, that the constitution is very clear that there can be no religious oath or test for holding any office in the United States. And it’s one of the precious dimensions of our freedom. And so I viewed it as unfortunate, but just any weapon that the White House and its friends could use, they would use it. Now, the irony was, of course, that Bill Clinton was, I assume still is a very strong member of the Baptist church. He would sung in the quiet First Baptist Church, which is an enormous church in Little Rock, Arkansas, dutifully went to church, foundry Methodist with Hillary and carried his Bible and so forth. So there was a kind of a juxtaposition of a bit of cognitive dissonance. Well, excuse me, but isn’t this the president who faithfully goes to the National Prayer Breakfast and speaks very deeply and movingly about his own faith journey and so forth, but that was politics.
S15: One thing I’ve been reading about and this is part of why I’m asking you these questions about religion is how this sort of fallout from the story during the beginning 98 and in that spring and summer during that strange period when Clinton was insisting that none of it was true. Well, everyone sort of pretty much was sure that it was true, really, that parts of it were true during those six or seven months. There was this question of how will people help the American people respond? And to some, I think, you know, in the Christian conservative movement, it was terribly disappointing to see public opinion polls show that people felt a sort of degree of indifference towards the president’s behavior. How did that make you feel as you were working?
S13: Trying to get our focus was on the legal dimension and whether crimes had been committed. But I felt that the nation rallying around President Clinton, especially during the impeachment phase, was actually a sign of our political health. That is, we don’t like impeachment. Impeachment is hell and we don’t like the destabilisation that comes from a serious discussion of let’s overturn an election. And who is overturning the election. No one who is elected by the nation, but those who elected from 435 districts around the nation. And then, of course, the United States senators who don’t stand nationally for election, but they come from states from Maine to California. The issue for Bill Clinton and for the American people were, are you going to take a perjury, obstruction of justice, intimidation of witnesses seriously? Is that a disabling crime and disabling from carrying on the functions of the presidency? And I think, again, the American people’s interest in stability and don’t overturn elections is so strong that it turned out that the Dick Morris poll was wrong. The American people are a forgiving people. His poll suggested they would forgive adultery. But his poll, his overnight poll also suggested that the American people would not forgive perjury.
S14: If he could switch gears a little bit and talk about someone who I’m sure you’ll be asked about a lot during this press run.
S15: Monica Lewinsky, someone whose public image, I think has changed a lot since 1998. Since your paths first crossed, you know, I knew there was indifference, I think, towards Clinton’s behavior then now 20 years later, including very much on the left. I think there’s a a new and quite profound outrage at Clinton’s behavior towards her stemming mostly from the power differential between the two of them. I wonder what that feels like to you, seeing that shift, particularly among people who 20 years ago saw us as a villain and someone who is doing, you know, a political job?
S13: Well, I think that the cultural shift, the shift in our values is from my lt’s a healthy thing that individuals are being called to account, especially those in power positions to intrude into the physical and spiritual dignity of another human being. Now, in fairness, Monica brought it on, as I think she would. She would agree.
S15: I know that when you guys were doing your work, the sex was different, was separate from the legal questions that you were trying to solve. Right. But do you remember thinking about the power differential back then and thinking of. Yeah. I’m curious if you remember how you conceptualized this relationship at the time between Clinton and Lewinsky.
S13: I honestly was looking at the entire episode through a very thick lens of the law. So what are the facts? And did the president, in fact, engage in intimidating witnesses trying to suborn perjury and so forth? I did not reflect beyond just thinking that it was unwise and imprudent of the president to let himself get into this situation. To me, the real questions were questions of fidelity to law, not fidelity to spouse.
S14: I didn’t ever know the story of the day.
S15: Your office confronted Lewinsky before I started working on this show, and it really, really stunned me to know that, you know, she was set up by Linda Tripp, not only with the phone stuff, but also like she was led to the mall where the FBI agents confronted her. She spent 18 hours in a hotel room with Mike EMMICK and pursued off. I just didn’t know any of that stuff. I left a really big impression. I mean, I’m wondering I’m wondering whether in retrospect, you feel any kind of regret over how that day went?
S13: Yes. Deep regret that Monica didn’t immediately agree to cooperate. But Monica, I think, was determined as a very intelligent and determined young woman to protect the president, United States. And she used very strong language, which we overheard saying that she was not going to bring down this president. And that’s the way she viewed it. She was viewing her role now in apocalyptic terms. Now, remember the circumstances where she was seeking to get Linda to engage in perjury. So let’s not forget one of these phone calls being made. Why was that lunch being set up? We didn’t set up the lunch. Monica set up the lunch. And so here you are. You’re in the jaws of the criminal justice system and you have you have a choice. Do you want to cooperate with the investigation? Do you want to run the risk of being charged with a felony? But she chose to run that risk. So my great regret is that Monica’s loyalty, which is at one level is obviously very admirable on a human level. Her great loyalty to the president took the country through those many months. Until then, the family fired their very difficult lawyer from Los Angeles, who they first retained. And he was not even a criminal defense lawyer. Medical malpractice, Emily. Right. Was a medical malpractice lawyer. And he’s to see so not to speak ill of those who have departed. But only months later did the family say, we’ve had it with this lawyer and we’re going to bring in the pros. And he did. And the system works. If you have professionals with integrity doing the job, they immediately knew the Tudeh, new defense lawyers, Jake Stein and Plato co-chairs. They needed a deal and they knew we wanted to make a deal. We were not saying, oh, we’ll make a deal only if you go to jail for six months. We just said we’re trying to get to the truth as quickly as we possibly can. And thus far it’s been very, very difficult to do that.
S15: You didn’t you did not know you personally, but your office did threaten her with prison time. Right, for the crimes that she was being accused of, perjury, suborning perjury, witness tampering. Right.
S13: We did not threaten her. I just totally disagree with that characterization. We just said, here’s the situation. And what we’re doing is we’re offering you a complete immunity deal right now. And by the way, there is a suggestion and a contention made that somehow we had had her in custody and so forth. The chief judge, Norma Holloway Johnson, who was appointed by Democratic administration, we had a mini trial and just said no, absolutely untrue. We treated her with dignity and respect. She watched movies. I tell the story. She went out for a latte. And I always remember this. She goes to a payphone. There are pay phones in those days. And she said, Hoover. Hoover. Hoover, as in J. Edgar. Hoover as in. I’m in the custody of the FBI. She left that message for the president’s executive assistant, Betty Currie, who he the president was encouraging to lie.
S14: Right. Do you think he would have gone through with the prosecution if she hadn’t agreed to the immunity deal?
S13: Would have a very tough judge recall. I was not interested in it. I viewed that as total last resort. I was optimistic all the way through that. Eventually, I thought it would happen sooner than it did. Bill Ginsburg, God rest, his soul would go away and that we would have real pros who we could deal with, tough criminal defense lawyers who were no pushovers. Hey, you want to go to trial? Let’s go to trial. But it never came to that because they knew as professionals, Jake and Plato knew they needed to get Monica out of harm’s way.
S14: You write in the book that you called it prom night in your office, the night today that you had confronted her. Why was that?
S13: I didn’t fashion that. It just kind of emerged out of our process of bantering and reflecting on it. But it has become to my colleagues and comrades forever known as. But by that name. But it could have been a very happy event. And it didn’t turn out to be so happy given the fact that she just said, no, I’m not going to make the deal. And the rest of the story had to unfold.
S15: Who gets my curiosity was who is the one who is going to problem in the in the in the analogy or in the metaphor?
S13: Well, she was being invited to be a part of our community. So welcome to the truth seeking parties. So we’re we’re trying to get to the bottom of this. These are very serious allegations. And again, the allegations echoed with what we suspected in the Arkansas phase of the investigation, which was that the president had lied under oath about his own involvement in Whitewater.
S14: You know, you mentioned your your your colleagues and your comrades in the team. I want to play you something. If you don’t mind not to put you on the spot. Sincerely curious for your reaction. This is from an interview I did with Bruce Rudolph, one of one of the prosecutors in the team. And I don’t know how much you know here. You’ve spoken to him or about him in the year since, but he came across to me as very torn up about what happened. Right. And this is him sort of responding, I think, to one of his colleagues who had said that the metoo movement made him feel as though the world had caught up essentially to where you guys were, the humiliation and hurt.
S16: To Monica Lewinsky, the hell with that. She’s expendable. That’s something to be proud of. Does that vindicate one? For advocating that kind of position. I don’t think so.
S14: What do you think? I mean, why does he feel that way and what’s the gulf between the two of you there?
S13: Yes. Bruce, I greatly respect and he simply has a different view. And while one can say is I respectfully disagree. I understand what he’s saying. I appreciate the humanity of what he is saying. But in this country, we also believe in the accountability of our highest elected officials, including the president. A lot of conversation about that right now.
S14: One of the most well remembered aspects of this story and one of the things I’ve learned over this process is that very few things are remembered correctly by by most people. But one thing has been through most well remembered is the detail that you guys went into in the referral. And I think you guys came in honestly for a lot of criticism for that. And I think I understand the reasons why you went into the detail, which is that you felt that in order to show the precise way in which the president president perjured himself, you had to really get into the details. Do you think even stipulated that was a sound legal legal judgment? Do you feel like you went too far?
S13: No. The referral actually left out a fair amount about we were determined to adduce for the benefit of the House of Representatives for its determinations review proof that we felt was beyond a reasonable doubt that the president had engaged in various crimes. And the only way to do that was to demonstrate the truth of that, which he denied. Once again, self-inflicted wound by the very able president of the United States. Had Monica been helpful at the beginning, you would have been over probably in two weeks or three weeks. Certainly our work would have been over. Who knows what would have transpired on Capitol Hill, if anything. But recall that we were marching toward a watershed event. And I will always remember, as I describe in the book, that day, August 17, 1998, when the press, United States had been warned by the leaders of his own party on Capitol Hill. In effect, we know you lied in the civil deposition. Not good, but don’t lie under oath to a federal grand jury. Don’t lie in front of those 23 citizens who are there to find out the truth. And he did. He had such robust self-confidence in himself, hubris that he could do it. And so, for our part, leaving out what was extraneous but putting in thanks to Monica’s corroborative testimony with her remarkable memory and her intelligent way of describing the relationship, that the grand jury believed her and did not believe the president of the United States, anything that he lied about in the grand jury testimony, just to be specific, there was this matter of whether he had stimulated her sexually or whether it was only in the other direction.
S14: Do I have that correct?
S13: That’s one dimension of his denying that he had had sexual relations with her. The point is the press, United States soffit believing in his own ability to fool people. We had a very lively discussion about it. But here is again my check and my balance. And that is Sam Dash agreed with every word in the referral, including what we thought was very important, but was a bit neglected, I think by the House of Representatives. And that was count eleven and that was abuse of power, the use of executive privilege and a very wrongheaded way, the creation of a privilege called the protective function privilege, which didn’t exist. And why, in Sam Dash, his view, what we were doing actually had a direct conceptual link to Watergate because the president had abused his power in connection with all these unfortunate relationship details that are now an undisputed matter of history. And I take satisfaction the fact that the facts are really not disputed.
S12: Right? Yeah. Like the abuse of power thing is interesting too, because every other crime alleged could have been committed by anyone. Right. If I had an affair with someone, I could lie about it and I could lie about under oath and I could tell my mistress to lie about under oath. But you’re saying that this other sort of section was what made it specifically presidential?
S13: Yes. And we made it with the structure of the referral or the other Starr report, as it’s called, let it built crescendo light to count eleven, which we’d said was the president’s abuse of power over many months, not, oh, there’s a abuse of power for five minutes, but a course of conduct, including in particular, his invocation with no justification whatsoever of executive privilege. And we were. All this in the referral, I returned to it in the book, and once again, it’s a self-inflicted wound by the press in the United States who had to know in his heart of hearts that he was playing with Nixonian fire. But though House of Representatives saw fit to just focus on the perjury and obstruction of justice dimension of it, as opposed to the abuse of power.
S14: Do you think the president should have resigned?
S13: To be honest, I’ve not sorted that out in my own mind, I really haven’t, but I do think that there should have been a resolution of censure, the impeachment or or nothing approach was done in good faith. You know, 31 Democrats joined in one or two of the articles of impeachment. So it wasn’t simply along party lines. But when you have thoughtful members of the Senate like Dianne Feinstein urging resolution of censure, that I think would have to carry the day by a supermajority requirement. And then who knows what would have happened as a result of a virtually unanimous but supermajority resolution of censure of the president for crimes, not for the relationship, but for crimes. Who knows what that dynamic would have been. But we like stability in this country. We have elections. We’re gonna have midterm elections soon. Let’s have elections. Let’s don’t chase people out of office. Although we’re having that conversation right now.
S14: Yes, I’m sure. All right. Judge Starr, thank you so much for being here. Pleasure to talk to you. Thank you, Leon.
S5: All right. That was Ken Starr. I hope you all enjoyed it. Thanks so much for listening. Thanks for supporting Slate. Plus, tell your friends to also supports they plus tell them it’s worth it. Really appreciate it.
S3: These episodes are produced by Jeff Friedrich and Jeff. Thanks for listening.