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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Admits Improper Relationship

WASHINGTON -- Denying that he committed perjury and stopping short of admitting to sex, U.S. President Bill Clinton has nonetheless acknowledged for the first time that he had a relationship with Monica Lewinsky that was "wrong.''

In a precedent-setting day for the American presidency, Clinton first gave testimony Monday about his relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern. He refused to answer specific questions about the relationship, but denied asking her to lie about it.

Then, he told the nation in a brief, forceful television address that independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation had "gone on too long, cost too much and hurt too many innocent people."

"I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that,'' Clinton said. "Now this matter is between me, the two people I love most -- my wife and our daughter -- and our God.''

Some congressional critics weren't satisfied. The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, expressed anger at the president's attacks on Starr.

"Wasn't that pathetic? I tell you, what a jerk,'' Hatch was overheard saying Monday night to his entourage as he left a television studio in Utah where he had given a number of interviews.

Still, Hatch said the president's expression of regret may be enough to persuade lawmakers to stop any possible impeachment inquiry unless prosecutors find evidence of obstruction of justice.

Representative Barney Frank, a Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Clinton may have done enough to stave off impeachment: "No matter what he said before, I cannot believe that would rise under any definition to perjury or impeachment.''

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton came out Tuesday and said she would stand by her husband. Spokeswoman Marsha Berry said Mrs. Clinton "believes in the president and her love for him is compassionate and steadfast."

She first learned over the weekend how her husband would testify, Berry said. "Clearly, this is not the best day in Mrs. Clinton's life," she said.

Friends and advisers rallied around the president in Tuesday morning television appearances, amplifying his plea for an end to Starr's lengthy investigation that turned from Clinton's financial affairs to his private life.

Saying "all of this is part of a much bigger story,'' House Speaker Newt Gingrich reserved judgment and signaled that other Republicans should do the same for now.

"I think that everyone would be best served if they waited for Judge Starr's report and found out what all the facts were,'' Gingrich said. "We'd all like to get that done as quickly as possible.''

The Democratic leaders of Congress, Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Representative Dick Gephardt of Missouri, expressed disappointment in Clinton's personal conduct and said it is time to end the investigation. "There is a country to run,'' Daschle said.

One of Clinton's harshest critics, Senator John Ashcroft, said he thinks the president "lost his moral authority to act'' when he admitted to an inappropriate relationship with the young intern.

"He has basically said that he has lied to the American people, he's lied to his daughter, lied to his wife, lied to his staff, lied to the legal community,'' the Republican presidential hopeful said on ABC TV.

Early polls were in Clinton's favor, with around 60 percent of people in a CBS/New York Times survey taken just after the speech saying they were satisfied with the president's statement and 40 percent not satisfied. About 60 percent said the matter should now be dropped. Sixty-nine percent of those in an ABC News poll said the investigation should end.

A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found Clinton's favorable rating plunged from 60 percent to 40 percent, and a 46 plurality said they did not believe Clinton had told the whole truth in testifying. But 72 percent said the country would be better off if he stays in office.

Both sides will watch broader polls that come out later in the week for signs of stability or erosion in the president's public support.

Although Starr is in the final stages of his investigation of an alleged presidential affair and cover-up, his grand jury is still at work and was to hear testimony Tuesday from former Clinton political adviser Dick Morris.

Sources said Starr may try to force the president to give fuller answers in a second grand jury appearance.

The president and his family, meanwhile, were due to leave Tuesday for vacation.

Clinton said in his TV address that he disputed the most serious charges against him.

"I told the grand jury today and I say to you now that at no time did I ask anyone to lie, to hide or destroy evidence or to take any other unlawful action,'' the president said, standing in the same Map Room where he testified before the grand jury via video camera hours earlier.

Seven months ago in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, Clinton denied having sexual relations with Lewinsky. "My answers were legally accurate,'' Clinton said in Monday's television address.

But now he says he "did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.''

Lewinsky has detailed an alleged sexual relationship with the president in her own grand jury testimony, and she has turned over a dress she told prosecutors may have been stained from sex with Clinton.

The president's refusal to answer explicit questions about the nature of his contacts may prevent prosecutors from determining whether he committed perjury when he testified in the Jones case.

Prosecutors told Clinton's lawyers they would have to review the president's answers before deciding whether to seek additional testimony, the sources said. "There is some small chance he might be back,'' one source said.