President Clinton's personal secretary has told investigators that Clinton called her into his office last month and led her through an account of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky that differs in one critical aspect from her own recollections, according to lawyers familiar with her account.
The secretary, Betty Currie, has also retrieved and turned over to investigators several gifts - a dress, a brooch and a hat pin - that the president had given to Lewinsky, the lawyers said.Currie, who sits outside the president's office, said the meeting with the president last month occurred the day after he gave a deposition in the Paula Jones case. In that deposition, Clinton denied that he had had a sexual relationship with Lew-in-sky.
Currie has told investigators the president asserted in that January meeting with her that he had never been alone with Lewinsky and that he had resisted her sexual advances, the lawyers said.
The lawyers also said Currie had recalled that the president characterized his relationship with Lewinsky by asking a series of leading questions, such as: We were never alone, right?
Currie has told investigators that the president and Lewinsky were sometimes alone, the lawyers said.
The gifts Currie retrieved from Lewinsky are among several pieces of new evidence that Currie has provided to investigators, who are trying to determine whether the president tried to hide aspects of his relationship with Lewinsky.
The gifts became an issue in December when lawyers for Jones issued a subpoena demanding that Lewinsky surrender any gifts she had received from the president.
According to Lewinsky's account, given by her lawyers to the independent counsel, she discussed the subpoena with Clinton, and he told her if she did not have the gifts, she would not have to turn them over, according to lawyers familiar with the account provided by Lewinsky to the Whitewater independent counsel.
Soon after that conversation, Currie collected the items from Lewinsky. It is not clear who, if anyone, instructed Currie to retrieve the gifts from Lewinsky or whether Currie knew they had been subpoenaed by Jones' lawyers.
Two weeks ago, Currie turned over a box of gifts to investigators working for the independent counsel, Kenneth Starr.
William Ginsburg, the Los Angeles attorney who represents Lewinsky, told The Associated Press that Starr's office is trying to "pressure Lewinsky into statements that are not true."
Earlier, Starr said his office was being denied a face-to-face interview with Lewinsky - a claim that Ginsburg denied.
White House political aide Paul Begala said Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America" that Clinton is being smeared by "criminal leaks."
"Let's find out who's behind these criminal leaks and let's get to the bottom of that, because someone wishes the president ill, and they are lying and leaking every day," he said.
Ginsburg, in his statement Thursday, said Starr secretly had granted Lewinsky full immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony but that Starr was continuing to pressure her into making statements "that are not true."
Starr said his office could not grant Lewinsky immunity because his investigators had not been granted a face-to-face interview with her. The prosecutor wrote that "there is no substitute for looking a witness in the eye."
In response, Ginsburg said: "His continued insistence that he cannot have a face-to-face talk with Ms. Lewinsky has no basis in fact."