Closeted in an 11th-floor conference room for nearly six hours, President Clinton faced Paula Jones on Saturday and, under oath, gave secret testimony in her sensational sexual harassment lawsuit.
The president did not rule out ever being introduced to Jones but testified that he did not recall meeting her before and, according to one source familiar with Clinton's unprecedented deposition, he denied charges that he exposed himself to her in 1991 and asked for oral sex.Clinton's limousine emerged from an underground parking garage at his attorney's offices at 4:20 p.m. EST, six hours after he arrived and claimed the inglorious distinction of first American president to testify as a defendant in any criminal or civil suit.
At the White House, he waved and, ignoring reporters' questions, ducked inside to pick up a draft of his State of the Union address. He nixed plans for a dinner out and shared a private dinner in the residence with Hillary Rodham Clinton. "It's been a long day," one aide said.
Jones, who was earlier besieged by news cameras, also left through the garage without comment. At her hotel, she ignored swarming reporters and was only heard murmuring to her husband, Stephen: "Great. There's the elevator."
She was deposed for 13 hours over two days last fall.
There was no official word on the substance of Clinton's testimony, and attorneys on both sides insisted they would abide by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright's gag order. Sources spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
A source familiar with Clinton's preparation for the session said in advance that the president did not recall "anything about her" and "barely remembered anything about the (May 1991) conference" at which the incident allegedly occurred. Such accounts of his testimony were consistent with earlier public assertions that Clinton had no recollection of Paula Jones or any alleged encounter.
In a dark business suit and accompanied by attorney Robert Bennett, Clinton was whisked by motorcade the 1 1/2 blocks between the White House and Bennett's law offices.
Havoc reigned as camera crews jumped atop cars and roughly butted the Jones party. Susan Carpenter McMillan, Paula Jones' spokeswoman, called them "real jerks" and aborted plans to have Paula Jones make a brief statement.
"I feel so proud . . . to know this judicial system works, to know that a little girl from Arkansas is equal under the law to the president of the United States," Carpenter McMillan quoted Paula Jones as saying that morning before the crush of cameras rendered her speechless.
"Go get him! We're with you kid!" shouted a bystander perched on a parking meter.