Lewinsky may be compelled to testify to grand jury this week

 

It is expected that Ms Monica Lewinsky will be compelled to testify this week to a grand jury on whether she had a sexual relationship with President Clinton. Such testimony could be vital for the president, who has denied such a relationship under oath.

Efforts by her lawyer, Mr William Ginsburg, to block Ms Lewinsky's testimony until she is assured of immunity from prosecution by the independent counsel, Mr Kenneth Starr, are now expected to fail.

Mr Starr has subpoenaed Ms Lewinsky to testify tomorrow before a Washington grand jury. He postponed her testimony while negotiating on immunity for the past two weeks with Mr Ginsburg.

Mr Ginsburg has claimed that an agreement was reached whereby Ms Lewinsky would receive full immunity. Mr Starr's office has denied this and says that it wants to interview her first, and possibly submit her to a lie-detector test. Mr Ginsburg was planning to ask a court to make Mr Starr grant full immunity.

If Ms Lewinsky is forced to testify without full immunity she can plead the Fifth Amendment.

This gives her the right to silence rather than incriminate herself on an alleged perjury charge. But Mr Starr can then offer limited immunity, and ask a judge to cite Ms Lewinsky for contempt of court and commit her to jail if she still refuses to testify.

Mr Ginsburg said yesterday that in no circumstances would Ms Lewinsky be going to jail, thus implying that she will accept partial immunity if necessary.

Ms Lewinsky's mother, author Marcia Lewis, did testify yesterday before the grand jury. It has been reported that Ms Lewinsky confided in her mother about the alleged affair with President Clinton so Mr Starr would want to question her about this.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Speaker of the House, Mr Newt Gingrich, has discreetly discussed how Congress would handle an eventual motion for the impeachment of President Clinton over charges of obstructing justice or suborning perjury arising out of the Starr investigation.

The news has embarrassed the Republican leadership, which is aware of President Clinton's present high-approval ratings and the possible backlash from voters if an impeachment were attempted on shaky grounds.

Under the Constitution, the House of Representatives can vote to impeach a president for "high crimes and misdemeanours". He would then be tried by the Senate. President Nixon resigned in 1974 just before impeachment proceedings for Watergate began.

. A federal judge yesterday, denied a request by President Clinton's lawyers to move up the May 27th date for a sexual harassment suit against him by Ms Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee. Mr Clinton's lawyers had filed the motion for the trial to begin on March 23rd.