Former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson doesn’t deny he offered Monica Lewinsky a job. But his testimony to Kenneth Starr’s prosecutors raises questions about whether he told the whole truth.
(This article ran in the December 1998 issue of The American Spectator.)
Of all the central characters in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, only Bill Richardson has emerged with his reputation virtually untouched. At the time U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richardson offered Lewinsky a job just when President Clinton was struggling to find a place for his desperately unhappy former girlfriend. Richardson then kept the position open for an extraordinarily long period while Lewinsky made up her mind. But his actions attracted far less public scrutiny than those of Clinton friend Vernon Jordan, who arranged a job for Lewinsky in private business; a search of the Washington Post and New York Times reveals Jordan’s role has been mentioned five times more often than Richardson’s in the months since the story broke.
In some ways, the light treatment of Richardson is surprising; unlike Jordan’s job search, his actions represented an attempt by the Clinton administration to arrange a taxpayer-funded job to make Lewinsky happy and ensure that she remained silent about her affair with the president. But Richardson’s role in the scandal seemed less suspicious because — again unlike Jordan — he spoke openly to the press, insisting he did not offer Lewinsky any special treatment. For the most part, reporters have accepted Richardson’s word, and as the scandal dragged on, no evidence emerged to cast doubt on his account of events.
But in September, the House Judiciary Committee released thousands of pages of grand jury testimony, depositions, letters, phone records, and other evidence that sheds new light on Richardson’s actions. Taken as a whole, the material gathered by Kenneth Starr’s prosecutors shows Richardson was more deeply involved in the Lewinsky job effort than has been previously understood. And it raises questions about Richardson’s testimony in the case; on several key points, his account of events is contradicted by other evidence. The inconsistencies create doubts as to whether Richardson was telling the whole truth about his role in the Lewinsky matter; after nine months of investigation, the answer is still not clear.
“We Can Place Her in the U.N. Like That”
The United Nations made its first, brief, appearance in the Lewinsky saga in July 1997. At the time, Lewinsky was hoping to return to work at the White House; the president had promised she could come back after he was re-elected. But more than six months had passed with no White House job. Depressed, Lewinsky told presidential secretary Betty Currie that she might give up and move to New York. Of course, she would need a job there, and Lewinsky mentioned a friend who worked at the U.N.
Currie quickly passed Lewinsky’s comments on to the president — and then she passed his answer back to Lewinsky. “He said, ‘Oh, that’s no problem,’” Currie told Lewinsky. “‘We can place her in the U.N. like that.’”
But Lewinsky still clung to hope that she might be given a job at the White House. She remained hopeful until the morning of October 6, 1997, when she had a conversation with her friend Linda Tripp that in retrospect proved to be a turning point in the scandal. Tripp said she had spoken to a friend at the National Security Council, where Lewinsky had applied for a job. “She said she doesn’t care whether your connections are, you know, huge,” Tripp told Lewinsky, recounting her friend’s words (and recording the conversation). “She has heard that you will not be placed over there….And she said, ‘I promise you that if they wanted to have her placed, they would have done it by now. And the last thing on earth that they want is her in this White House.’”
Lewinsky was stunned. “This is just — I’m going to vomit,” she told Tripp. “You know what? I’m going to call Betty and I’m going to tell her to go f — k herself. That’s what I’m going to do. I don’t care. I don’t care anymore…. It’s like, wake up. This thing is over. It’s over.”
Lewinsky was so upset she left work for the day. Stewing at home, she made a decision: she was going to forget the White House, leave Washington, and get a job in New York. And she was going to make Bill Clinton find her one.
That night Lewinsky wrote a letter to the president. As she wrote, she talked each line over with Tripp. “I’d like to ask you to secure a position for me,” Lewinsky read aloud. “Or how about, ‘Help me secure?’” Tripp thought “help me obtain” might be better. “But you know,” Lewinsky answered, “maybe I’m being an idiot. I don’t want to have to work for this position. I want it to be given to me.”
“Right,” Tripp responded. “You don’t want to go through the whole interview process.”
“Right,” Lewinsky said.
Lewinsky sent her letter to Clinton by courier the next day. She didn’t hear back from the president that day or the next. But late Thursday night, October 9 — actually it was about 2:00 in the morning on Friday — her phone rang. Clinton was furious.
“He just yelled at me,” Lewinsky told Tripp the next day. “And I’m not kidding you….I mean, Linda, he got so mad at me, he must have been purple.” By her own account, Lewinsky was confrontational; she wanted a job and she wanted to make the president pay for “f—king up my life” (by which she meant his not taking her back into the White House). For his part, Clinton feared Lewinsky might one day reveal their sexual relationship; a few months earlier, at a time she was similarly angry about her job prospects, she had hinted she might tell others. Clinton, enraged, told her “it’s illegal to threaten the president of the United States.”
Lewinsky was so upset by the conversation that she called in sick on Friday, spending much of the day talking to Tripp. Early Saturday morning, October 11, Lewinsky’s phone rang. It was Currie, who said Clinton wanted Monica to come to the White House. (Currie was very busy that day. A family member was ill; she actually called Lewinsky from a Washington hospital. It was also the Clintons’ wedding anniversary, and the president had assigned Currie to buy a present for Mrs. Clinton.)
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H/T to National Review Online