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President Clinton’s press secretary assured the nation yesterday that
Clinton would not exercise his presidential prerogative to pardon
himself to avoid prosecution in the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky
investigations.

At the regular White House press briefing, a reporter asked Press
Secretary Joe Lockhart whether Clinton might pardon himself before the
end of his term.

“Can you assure us the president will not pardon himself on or before
January the 20th?” the reporter asked, to which Lockhart replied, “Yes.”

Earlier this week, Whitewater Independent Counsel Robert Ray
announced that he considers the investigation of the president’s
relationship with Monica Lewinsky “open,” and is evaluating whether to
seek a criminal indictment against Clinton after he leaves office next
year. Ray took over the role of independent counsel from Kenneth Starr
last year.

A Little Rock, Ark., federal judge fined Clinton $90,000 after
concluding a year ago that he gave “false, misleading and evasive
answers that were designed to obstruct the judicial process” during a
deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. That suit,
later dismissed, led to the Monica Lewinsky investigation.

Federal District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright, the presiding judge
in the Jones case, issued a civil contempt citation to Clinton because
of his misrepresentations under oath.

“It is not acceptable to employ deceptions and falsehoods in an
attempt to obstruct the judicial process,” states the April 1999
citation.

Wright added that the president’s “conduct in this case, coming as it
did from a member of the bar and the chief law enforcement officer of
this nation, was without justification and undermined the integrity of
the judicial system.” The judge cited 10 specific instances in which
Clinton denied having had sexual relations with Lewinsky, and also
denied recalling being alone with her.

So as to preserve the independent counsel’s option to prosecute
Clinton, Wright specified civil, not criminal, contempt.

What about a pardon of Clinton by Gore, should the vice president
succeed Clinton as president? Lockhart said he has not been privy to any
discussions between Clinton and Gore about a possible presidential
pardon.

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