Lewinsky prepares to testify as Democrats hail Clinton

 

As Ms Monica Lewinsky prepares to testify to a grand jury today about her relationship with President Clinton, the beleaguered president has received a morale boost from Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Ms Lewinsky is expected to swear that she had a sexual relationship with the President, thus reversing her denial of this, also under oath, last January.

The President is preparing for his testimony to the grand jury on August 17th. White House aides indicate that he will repeat his denial under oath last January that he had sexual relations with Ms Lewinsky. Last week Mr Clinton said publicly that he would testify "completely and truthfully" on August 17th but did not repeat his denial.

Extra security precautions are being taken at the federal courthouse in Washington for Ms Lewinsky's appearance. Her testimony to the grand jury will be behind closed doors and she will not be allowed to have her lawyer in the room. She has agreed to testify in exchange for so-called "transactional immunity" which means she cannot be charged with perjury unless she lies to the grand jury.

It is not clear if the independent counsel, Mr Kenneth Starr, has yet received from the FBI laboratory the results of tests for genetic material on a dress of Ms Lewinsky. She alleges that the dress has evidence of a physical relationship with Mr Clinton. NBC News has reported that the FBI has completed its first round of tests and that the dress may have been sent to an independent laboratory for further tests.

Meanwhile, Democrats on Capitol Hill gave Mr Clinton a rousing reception when he met them yesterday to discuss issues for the November elections. Mr Clinton was greeted with five minutes of cheering and applause when he entered the room and about a dozen bursts of clapping during the 90-minute meeting. The minority leader in the House of Representatives, Mr Dick Gephardt, said later that the members had reached a "real understanding" with the President and there was a "very unified position" going into the elections.

The Democrats only need to make a net gain of 11 seats to win back control of the House. But they are nervous about the campaign being dominated by the Lewinsky investigation, and the report that Mr Starr is expected to send to Congress if he finds evidence of an impeachable offence by Mr Clinton such as perjury to a grand jury or obstruction of justice.

The latest poll shows that the public is not showing much interest in the Lewinsky investigation. The Pew Research Centre poll shows that about 29 per cent of the people are closely following the investigation in the past week, which is about the same level for April and June.

The President's approval rating is holding steady in the mid-60s.

The poll indicated that 70 per cent think Mr Clinton definitely or probably had sex with Ms Lewinsky compared with 52 per cent in February. And 66 per cent think he probably or definitely lied about it under oath, compared with 49 per cent in February.

Meanwhile, a former White House deputy chief-of-staff, Mr Harold Ickes, testified yesterday to the grand jury. He later denied to a reporter that he had ever seen Mr Clinton alone with Ms Lewinsky.