Bombarded by Republican attacks, President Clinton will amend a Supreme Court appeal to make it clear he is not relying on his status as commander in chief to fend off a sexual harassment suit, the pres-i-dent's lawyer said Tuesday.
"That is correct," said the attorney, Robert Bennett, when asked in an ABC-TV interview if the court documents would be refiled."And that has been our position all along," he quickly added. "At no time have we relied on" the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act of 1940 to argue the harassment suit by Paula Jones should be delayed, Bennett said.
He said GOP attacks on Clinton were "a grotesque and disgraceful distortion" of the truth.
In the original brief filed with the Supreme Court, Bennett suggested that the president as commander in chief of the armed forces is covered by the law. It provides that some lawsuits against men and women in uniform must be delayed until they leave military service.
Bennett was not asked if Clinton ordered him to file a new brief.
Republicans had ridiculed Clinton, who avoided the draft during the Vietnam War, for the reference to the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act.
GOP senators have threatened to attach resolutions to all pending legislation attacking the president's reliance on the act unless, they said, Clinton dropped the legal argument. And the Republican National Committee has paid for television ads attacking Clinton over the issue.
Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, alleges in her lawsuit that Clinton propositioned her in a Little Rock hotel suite in 1991 when he was governor of Arkansas. Clinton has denied the allegation.
The Supreme Court appeal in the case is an attempt to postpone the case while Clinton is in office.
On ABC's "Good Morning America" Tuesday, negative ads by Republicans and Democrats touched off a shouting match between Republican National Chairman Haley Bar-bour and his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.
Dodd said the Republican ads were "garbage." Barbour accused Clinton of "trying to hide behind" his status as commander of chief.