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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Sex Allegations Electrify Washington




WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Bill Clinton was under siege politically Thursday as a potentially devastating scandal involving alleged furtive sex between him and a former White House intern gathered powerful momentum.


Clinton's lawyer, scrambling to coordinate damage control, suggested that the president was the victim of a political "sting" as rapid-fire revelations about the case rocked the U.S. capital.


Attorney Robert Bennett, appearing before television cameras outside his law office two blocks from the White House, deplored a flood of leaks alleging that Clinton had carried on an extramarital relationship with Monica Lewinsky and tried to cover it up by urging her to lie under oath.


Clinton, who has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, repeated his denials during an Oval Office photo session with visiting Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.


"The allegations are false and I would never ask anybody to do anything, other than tell the truth," Clinton said.


Just before the president spoke, an angry Bennett condemned the manner in which the accusations facing Clinton had arisen.


"I am very troubled about the tactics that are being used in this case. I think we should think long and hard before we have sting operations involving a sitting president," Bennett said.


He was referring to published reports that the FBI last week secretly recorded Lewinsky, 24, telling a coworker about her involvement with Clinton, then confronted her with the tapes to persuade her to cooperate with an investigation being conducted by Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr.


Starr pledged Thursday to move quickly and get to the truth in the case.


"We are going about our work, our activity, in a very prompt manner and a professional manner. We're moving as promptly as we can," he told a crowd of reporters outside his office building midway between the U.S. Capitol and the White House.


If Starr's criminal investigation is able to corroborate the allegations, it would pose a grave threat to Clinton's presidency. Republicans in Congress already have raised the specter of possible impeachment proceedings.


The potentially devastating new scandal shook Washington like a powerful earthquake just four days after Clinton testified under oath in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Paula Jones.


Jones contends Clinton exposed himself to her and asked for oral sex in 1991 when she was an Arkansas state employee and he was that state's governor. Clinton denies the charges.


During the nearly six-hour deposition, Clinton acknowledged for the first time that he had an affair with cabaret singer Gennifer Flowers, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.


Clinton categorically denied the relationship during his 1992 campaign for the presidency.


The Post said Clinton denied under oath that he had an affair with Lewinsky, but acknowledged giving her personal gifts. It said Starr was looking into reports that those gifts had included a dress.


"I read in the morning papers very selective and grotesque leaks, distorted leaks of what occurred in the depositions," Bennett said.


He reminded reporters that U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright had forbidden the parties to discuss the case. "I'm in an impossible position because the only way I could refute them [the leaks] is to breach the order."


Bennett said he intended to ask Wright to intervene, adding grimly, "This unfairness has just got to end."


Unfair or not, the bombshell allegations threatened to plunge Clinton into the gravest political crisis of his five-year old presidency.


"I think tremendous amount of damage has been done already and, regardless of whether the allegations turn out to be true, I think this is going to be something the president's going to have a hard time living down," Clinton's former White House spokeswoman, Dee Dee Myers, told NBC television's "Today" show.


Myers added that if Clinton was not telling the truth in denying he had had an extramarital affair with Lewinsky and asked her to lie about it under oath, "I think that the consequences are just astronomical."


The charges have triggered talk of impeachment from credible lawmakers like Illinois Representative Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, because they could involve felonies that corrupt the judicial system -- suborning perjury and obstruction of justice.


Elsewhere in the world, the media focused on the grave implications if the allegations against Clinton stick.


"17 sex tapes that may destroy Clinton," said London's Mirror newspaper. The Daily Mail, a rival tabloid, declared, "White House girl and `affair' tape may cost Clinton the presidency."


The news drove the pope's trip to Cuba and Asian currency troubles off the top of television coverage on many European stations.


Britain's Sky TV reported an exodus of U.S. network anchormen and reporters from Cuba, and commented this would upset Cuban leader Fidel Castro.


In France, where politicians' extramarital affairs are nothing special -- President Fran?ois Mitterrand's wife, mistress and illegitimate daughter were all at his funeral in 1996 -- most newspapers carried the story on inside pages. The left-wing Liberation, for example, ran a short account under the headline "Another Embarrassment for Bill Clinton."