Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday August 1, 1998
Clinton pledges to tell complete truth: FBI to test Lewinsky dress stain
An outwardly confident Bill Clinton insisted yesterday he is looking forward to telling his story in the Monica Lewinsky investigation and pledged to testify “completely and truthfully.”
But the U.S. president received ominous reports later in the afternoon that FBI forensic scientists had discovered a “definable stain” visible to the naked eye in a dress Lewinsky has claimed contains a sample of Clinton’s semen.
Television news networks said the FBI determined the discovered stain was sufficient to warrant further testing, which could take another few days, to determine whether it is seminal fluid, and if it can yield definitive DNA evidence.
Earlier, Clinton seemed unconcerned about the investigation that could cut short his presidency. Waving off a cacophony of shouted questions from reporters at a White House event, Clinton smiled broadly while holding up his hands to forestall reporters.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait, ” he said. “No one wants to get this matter behind us more than I do.
“I am looking forward to the opportunity, in the next few days, of testifying. I will do so completely and truthfully. I am anxious to do it.”
The president’s advisers have been apprehensively awaiting any news of the forensic tests ever since Lewinsky turned over the garment to independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr as part of her immunity deal shielding her from prosecution.
And it is likely to renew discussions inside the White House on what the president should say Aug. 17, when he is questioned by Starr on videotape from the White House for showing to the grand jury.
Many political analysts have suggested that the popular president could still survive if he admitted to the affair with the former White House intern and that he lied about it on television and in the Paula Jones sexual harassment civil suit in January.
But if he continues to deny the affair against overwhelming evidence, Clinton risks a perjury charge that could lead to impeachment hearings in Congress.
In his brief statement to reporters yesterday, Clinton refused to answer shouted questions about what version of “the truth” he will testify to.
“I would advise him to tell the truth and let’s get this story behind us, ” said Lanny Davis, a former White House counsel and one of Clinton’s staunchest defenders. Davis did not specify, however, whether the president should admit the affair.
Lewinsky’s soiled dress is potentially the most dangerous evidence against the president because it would elevate the evidence to the realm of science, rather than a test of credibility between the president and Lewinsky.
The latest report of the FBI testing potentially sets the stage for Starr to request a court order compelling the president to submit a blood sample so it can be matched to the months-old stain on the intern’s dress.
While Starr is under no legal obligation to reveal the results of the tests, which could be completed within days, most believe the president will be informed about those results before he gives his testimony.
If the stain turns out not to be the president’s seminal fluid, Lewinsky’s dress will give a boost to Clinton’s story that there was no sexual relations, while further undermining Lewinsky’s credibility.
Should DNA be retrieved from the dress, however, the physical evidence could be catastrophic to the president, who might be forced to admit the affair and ask forgiveness.
The other option is to testify to the grand jury that no affair took place and risk the consequences, including impeachment. (Hamilton Spectator, C3, 8/1/1998)