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Larry King Live
Jeffrey Toobin Revisits the Monica Lewinsky Scandal in `A Vast Conspiracy'Aired January 13, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: It's stirring up almost as much fuss as the Starr investigation and the Clinton impeachment. Tonight, it's the controversial new book "A Vast Conspiracy." It's author, Jeffrey Toobin, joins us from Washington. And in Little Rock, the woman who sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment, Paula Jones. In Chicago, the former senior adviser to the president Rahm Emanuel, plus former Deputy Independent Counsel Bob Bittman, and Democratic Congressman Marty Meehan of Massachusetts, a member of the House Judiciary Committee: all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin with Jeffrey Toobin. He is the author of a new book "A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President," just published, by Random House. There you see its cover, with that famous pointed finger of the president.
Are you surprised, Jeffrey, at the reaction -- and a lot of it negative -- that this book is getting?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, AUTHOR, "A VAST CONSPIRACY": Not really. This has been the most polarizing political and cultural event of our generation. And I think if you are -- if you engage the issues, you are going to get a lot of people angry, and I think I've done just that.
KING: And was that your point? Or did you begin this with, I am open to both sides, or I have an opinion, I'm going with it?
TOOBIN: Oh, absolutely. In fact, you know, I think one of the reasons why I am pleased by the reaction is that is I've had people on both sides angry at me. You know, I tried to look at this. I didn't have a horse in this race. I am not a politician; I'm a journalist. And I, you know -- I take strong views in this, in the book, but I certainly didn't come into the case or the book with those views, but I just was shaped by what I saw.
KING: You're usual also, though, a lawyer, and a former special prosecutor, right?
TOOBIN: I am, and that's one of the great things about being able to write this book, is that I have the experience of working in another independent counsel's office, one almost as controversial, that of Lawrence Walsh, in the Iran-Contra investigation, but I was also a regular federal prosecutor, an assistant U.S. attorney in Brooklyn. And you know, the experience of seeing how real federal prosecutors operate and how independent counsels operate and the difference between the two was invaluable, and I think very important, particularly to this case.
KING: Were you surprised and/or hurt, Jeffrey, that The New York Times was rough on you, and the roughness being they thought you were pro-Clinton?
TOOBIN: Well, I actually wasn't bothered by that review, because you know, it read to me like it was written by one of the House managers. I mean, this was a, you know, a political disagreement with me. And look, there are a lot of people in the country who thought Bill Clinton should have been impeached. Apparently, so did the reviewer. I didn't. And you know, I can't quarrel with the review that simply disagrees with me on the issues.
KING: Does he, in fact, come out best of all parties concerned in this? It was naturally a pox on all thy houses, but does he come out best of the worst?
TOOBIN: I think this is a story, uniquely in American history, without heroes, almost without exception that people did not cover themselves with glory.
But I think in the crucial issue of this case, there was no doubt that Bill Clinton behaved abominably here in his private behavior. The question was, what was the appropriate remedy? Was it censure? Was it contempt by -- a finding of contempt by district court judge? Or was it impeachment and removal by the House of Representatives? I am proud that I come down strongly, that impeachment was the wrong remedy in this case, even though Bill Clinton's behavior was abhorrent.
KING: Are you surprised that a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll released today has Clinton at his highest approval rating in six months?
TOOBIN: You know, not really, because I think one of the glories of this story was that the American people were way ahead of the press. You know, we worked ourselves into a frenzy about this, and we talked endlessly as we still talk about the character issue. But what I think the public recognizes and what I think is the real message of my book and of this story, is that in fact, there is a difference, between public behavior and private behavior, and there is a difference between the personal and the political. And I think the American people had a far easier time telling the difference than we in news media did. (AUDIO GAP)
KING: ... with regard to Ken Starr.
KING: ... when Mr. Bittman comes on, we will discuss some of the things that you bring up relevant to the special prosecutor, but let's stay on other areas of subject.
A literary agent, Lucianne Goldberg, has threatened Random House with a libel suit over this book, over allegations that you said she had an affair with Lyndon Johnson when she was a young girl in the White House and that she committed adultery with a prominent Washington writer. What is your source? What is your defense of that?
TOOBIN: Well, what I said was -- I mean, it's very important. What I said was that she said she had an affair with Lyndon Johnson. I have no idea whether she actually did. And you know, one of the interesting things is since Lucianne Goldberg threatened this lawsuit, people have been coming out of the woodworks saying, oh, of course I heard her claim she had that affair. In fact, in an amazing and hilarious article by Lloyd Grove in The Washington Post this week, we learned that Lucianne Goldberg claimed to have had an affair with Hubert Humphrey as well, if you can believe that. I have no idea whether it was true.
My point in including this information...
KING: Yes, why?
TOOBIN: ... was -- look, this was a woman who said she got involved in this controversy because she was so outraged that Bill Clinton would prey on an innocent White House staffer like Monica Lewinsky, a young staffer like Monica Lewinsky. Yet this is the same woman who claimed to have a nearly identical affair herself. I think that's eccentric, bizarre and very much worth including in this story.
KING: Was it difficult for you, Jeffrey, since one of your critiques is that the emphasis was on sex, that you also wrote about sex? When Paula's on, we'll discuss the fact that you print her entire deposition with regard to private parts of the president, which we had never read before.
TOOBIN: Absolutely. And you know what? I am shocked that it took my book to have that famous distinguishing characteristic affidavit come out, because you know, Larry, that was the single most important document in the case.
TOOBIN: Because without that document, this case was simply a he said, she said, and Clinton's lawyers felt that Paula Jones wouldn't be believed, but that document had the potential to establish without doubt that Paula Jones had actually seen the president's private parts. So as you know, as I tell the story, the -- Clinton's lawyers, led by Bob Bennett, went to extraordinary lengths to try to get a copy of it. They even threatened Paula Jones with disclosing what they said were bad aspects of her past.
And I think one of the most shocking documents in the whole case is a different one, and I'd love to know what Paula thinks about this.
KING: She'll be on in a couple of minutes. TOOBIN: She'd never -- this has never come out before either. You know, the Democrats and Bill Clinton, they were so outraged by how Anita Hill was treated by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But wait until you see how the defense team treated Paula Jones in her deposition, Bob Bennett asking her to draw a picture of the president's penis, forcing her to go through boyfriend by boyfriend what she did with each of her boyfriends. It was an absolute disgrace, and I think that was very important to bring out.
KING: She'll be on in a couple minutes, by the way. And we'll also discuss the title, which you take from Hillary's famous quote, when this story first broke, and which some reporters say you believe in the conspiracy concept. And then after the next segment, Paula Jones will join us.
By the way, William Ginsburg returns to television, his first- ever appearance since he was dropped as the attorney for Monica Lewinsky, will be on this program tomorrow night. He is also in the book.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA TRIPP, FORMER LEWINSKY FRIEND: My first and my initial reaction to the notion of documenting this way was distasteful. That just was not something I was comfortable with. I didn't know where else to go. I didn't know what else to do. I didn't know how to get the evidence that said -- when I had to go testify truthfully, and as I was told I was being set up for perjury, how did I prove that I was telling the truth? How?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm not going say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie: not a single time, never. These allegations are false, and I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Jeffrey Toobin's book is "A Vast Conspiracy." He is also a staff writer for "The New Yorker," and an ABC News legal analyst.
Do you buy it? Was it a conspiracy of sorts?
TOOBIN: I think Hillary Clinton greatly underestimated her own husband's culpability in his problems. But by and large, I believe Mrs. Clinton was more right than wrong when she called this a conspiracy against her husband. KING: Between?
TOOBIN: Basically what happened in this case, practically from the day Bill Clinton took office -- I mean, I think it is important to remember that the Paula -- people started arraying themselves behind Paula Jones in December-January of 1993, '94. Bill Clinton hadn't even been president for a year, and what happened was they decided to use the legal system to try to destroy this president.
First it began with the civil lawsuit in the Paula Jones case, and then in the independent counsel investigation, both of which were largely engineered by one of Clinton's old enemies in Arkansas, Cliff Jackson. Those were attempts to use the legal system for political ends, and I think it was a conspiracy, if you want to use that colorful term, and I think that is -- that was a -- played a big part in why the story resolved the way it did.
KING: You also state that he was lucky in his enemies -- his enemies in Congress, his enemies on the radio -- all helped him by being so vituperative in their speech and manner.
TOOBIN: And extreme and disproportionate.
One of the only great moments in this story that I was privileged to be present for was Dale Bumpers speech in the well of the Senate in defense of the president. And he used a word that so summed up what was wrong with Clinton's enemies in this story, and that word was proportionality.
Yes, Clinton did wrong -- I don't think there is a doubt in world, and if you read my book, and you are a Clinton hater, you will find even more reasons to hate Bill Clinton. But impeachment was a disproportionate response, and I think the American people recognized that from the word go.
KING: You are saying they should have taken the censure when they had the opportunity?
TOOBIN: They should have taken the censure, they should not have devoted all these resources to investigating sexual matters. All of it was wildly disproportionate, and the Starr investigation was incredibly incompetent and overzealous -- I don't believe it was illegal, like a lot of the Starr -- the Clinton people said.
But all of that helped Clinton ultimately in the end, because he was -- because he -- the attacks on him were so excessive.
KING: Was the public, Jeffrey, ahead of the pundits, the doomsayers and the attackers?
TOOBIN: Remarkably. I mean, one of the things -- and you know I did my share of punditry on this story, and I would...
KING: On this program.
TOOBIN: On this program, and I was as wrong as other people. Because remember one of the things we used to do all the time during this, we would say, oh, you know, this event is really going to change things. You know, the release of the Starr report, his speech in August, the grand -- Monica Lewinsky going in the grand jury.
And the polls were like this the whole time. From the day the story broke, nothing changed. No matter what question you asked, the answers were about 60 percent supporting Clinton, 30 percent against, 10 percent undecided. And I think the public was right, I think the public had remarkable common sense about this story, and I think history -- and I hope my book is a first cut at that -- will judge this event as an extremely excessive reaction to personal misbehavior.
KING: He will make his only appearance since being dropped from the case, on this program tomorrow night, and he will be with us for the full hour. And you state that he did a better job for his client than given credit for?
TOOBIN: Bill Ginsburg?
KING: And that would be Bill Ginsburg. Did he get a bum rap?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, whenever I think of Bill Ginsburg, I think of the great line from Monty Python, which was: I may be idiot but I'm no fool.
You know, he behaved pretty silly in -- you know, he was way too in love with the press. But there was a climatic early moment in this investigation. If you recall, Larry, the story broke in late January, and Clinton gave his finger-wagging denial on January 26th. On February 2nd, less than a week later, Ginsburg worked out an immunity agreement with the Office of Independent Counsel. It was a written agreement, it was signed by Monica Lewinsky and Ginsburg. And that would have meant that the week after the finger-wagging, Monica Lewinsky would have turned over the dress, would have become a government witness, and Clinton would have been exposed as liar.
But there was this meeting in Starr's office, and Bob Bittman was there, and he was an outspoken member, and perhaps can he tell us about it. And they said no, you know, she is holding back. She is not telling us the full truth. We are going to tear up the immunity agreement. And they didn't sign the deal. And you know what? It was seven more months before they got Lewinsky as a witness, and they...
KING: And they took the same deal?
TOOBIN: And they -- it was exactly the same deal. Lewinsky said exactly the same thing. And they had lost their chance, because seven months later, the country had come to terms with it, and it was a catastrophic miscalculation on the part of the Starr office.
KING: We have discussed Paula Jones and we have discussed Bob Bittman, and they will be with us -- Paula first and then Bittman. Paula is next to join us, Jeffrey Toobin remains. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAULA JONES, FORMER PLAINTIFF IN LAWSUIT AGAINST PRESIDENT CLINTON: He slid a little piece of paper, and I said, what's this? I was really surprised. And he had said, the governor -- this is a room number, the governor would like to be -- to talk with you or to meet with you. And he said, this is the room number if you can meet him up in the room.
And I -- we did discuss it, me and my co-worker, for a few moments, and that is when we decided, well, I can trust this man, he is the governor. I had never met -- had any type of personal contact with him before. I trusted him. I -- I did not know not to trust him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Jeffrey Toobin is with us from Washington. His book is "A Vast Conspiracy."
Joining us now from Little Rock, Arkansas, is Paula Jones.
Paula, have you had a chance to see or read the book?
JONES: I got a copy sent to me FedEx overnight by someone, and I just glanced at a few things in it, and I think I can -- kind of construed it wrong when I first glanced at it.
KING: Why? You construed it badly and now you don't? Or what?
KING: I don't want to put words in your mouth. What?
JONES: Yes, I think I was reading the bad points of the book, and construing it as though Jeffrey Toobin was saying that those things were true about me. And I think in fact -- and I hope I'm right -- he was just repeating what the White House was doing to try to scare me away, and make up all these terrible things about me, and...
KING: Well, he writes -- he writes that they treated you terribly when they had you as a witness, his defense team. Was that true? Do you think you were treated terribly?
JONES: Oh, I was treated horrible. I mean, they did everything to make me look like a cheap tramp, somebody that dressed terrible and in short skirts, and partied all the time. And I didn't, and people that know me, really know me, knew that I was never that type of person.
But they did everything they could to try scare me away and try to drag up all these people that -- guys, like Dennis Kirkland, that I met one time, through a friend, that I didn't know...
KING: Jeffrey, can we say that of all the people involved in this, the only one who didn't do anything wrong was Paula Jones?
TOOBIN: Well you know, I have to say...
KING: I mean, she may have been used, but what did she do wrong?
TOOBIN: I don't think she is a major -- is a perpetrator here. I think what the tragedy of Paula Jones in this story was, that she was manipulated by people who had agendas that were not helping her, but they were basically, the people had political aims. And the White House -- and I think Paula characterized it accurately, that they went after her with a vengeance about her personal life, in the deposition.
KING: Did you ever think, Paula, that you were used by the political end of this?
JONES: Yes, and I think I've told you that on the other show that I've been on with you, that I do believe that a lot of people that were supposed to be my friends and helping me were using me as a pawn to get to their political enemy, who was Bill Clinton, and it wasn't my fault, but a lot of people took it all out on me, saying that I was this conspiracy, and I was trying to get my day in court, and people used me to...
TOOBIN: Larry, could I ask Paula a question?
TOOBIN: It's a question that I've always wondered about. You know, in August of 1997, after you won your case in the Supreme Court, but before the case started having depositions, you know, your former lawyers, Gil Davis and Joe Cammarata, worked out a settlement with Bob Bennett and Mitchell Ettinger of Skadden Arps, and they said, you know, for $700,000, and you turned that down, and I never understood why, because it seemed like a pretty good deal to me, and you would have wound up with much more money than you eventually did wind up.
JONES: Well let me ask you this, did you do some really thorough research on that certain part of this, because...
TOOBIN: I did my best.
JONES: But wait a second, I'm not getting on to you. But as far as I knew, that there never was an agreement with Bob Bennett, and he has even stated since that time that there never was a settlement offer toward -- presented to me from the other side. And I'm having problems again, so bear with me; I'm having some static in my ear, but...
KING: You never had a definitive $700,000 offer?
JONES: No. What was going on was my attorneys -- and I think the world of them for doing what they did for me -- they had worked this up, the settlement, and was going to present to Bob Bennett and them, and if they turned it down, then I would have to release them as my counsel. So I was kind of caught in a 20-20 situation. If Bob Bennett and them didn't accept it, then I was going to lose them as my counsel anyway. So things...
TOOBIN: But I think What's important to remember about this chapter of the story -- and I think it reveals a larger theme of the book. What really happened, I think, was Susan Carpenter McMillan -- I think everybody remembers Paula's famously blond adviser.
JONES: But you love her. Jeff, she's great. You love her.
TOOBIN: No, look, you know, that I spent a lot of time with Susie, and she's a very interesting person.
TOOBIN: But she basically said no, we want language in the settlement, apologizing by Bill Clinton. Now she knew that was never going to happen, because Bill Clinton was never going to apologize for what he did; he was never going admit it.
JONES: But he did it.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, so you say.
JONES: He did.
TOOBIN: But her involvement illustrates, I mean, she had a personal and political agenda that was very different from yours, Paula.
JONES: And I'm sure everybody did. I'm sure everybody did, except for me and my husband at the time.
KING: Jeffrey, at this point, do you doubt Paula Jones's story?
TOOBIN: I do doubt Paula Jones story. In fact, I mean, I go through this in the book.
JONES: You doubt it?
TOOBIN: Yes, you bet I do, Paula.
JONES: Why do you doubt my story?
TOOBIN: Well, I'll tell you, I go through the story at length, and I don't want to embarrass you sitting here on television, but my own view in what happened in that hotel room is that...
JONES: You weren't there though, Jeff. I was there, and I drew picture, remember, of his penis, if that's what you were talking about in the book, if you say that that could have been proof that it happened like that. Or are you saying you are not for sure that it happened in the way that I said it happened?
TOOBIN: I'll tell you what I believe, and I...
KING: Let me get a break, then tell us Jeffrey. This is called holding them. We'll be right back with Jeffrey Toobin and Paula Jones, and Bob Bittman still to come.
Don't go away.
KING: We are fighting a little time here.
But, Jeffrey, what don't you believe?
TOOBIN: I believe that both Bill Clinton and Paula Jones have not been telling the truth about what went on in that hotel room from day one. I believe...
KING: Hold on. Let him finish, Paula, and then you respond.
JONES: I believe that there was in fact a consensual sexual encounter between the two of them.
KING: Why do you believe that?
TOOBIN: Well, I go through the backgrounds of both people. I go through the circumstances and what was said afterwards.
JONES: But, Jeff, what you're getting about me, you're getting it from the false people that do not know me and a bunch lies, so you definitely have not done your homework on this, because if you had talked to real people that do know me as a person...
TOOBIN: I talked to a lot of people who know you, Paula.
JONES: ... you could never come to this -- no you don't. You may talk to people that are acquaintances with me, but do not know me as a person that has grown up with me or known me. If you did, you can tell me names and that would be -- maybe I will have a different thought on it, but you do not know what you're talking about, because it happened exactly the way I said it happened, and that's the way it was.
KING: Well, we're not going to solve -- do you reveal your sources, Jeffrey? Do you print the names?
TOOBIN: Some of them are very much in the book.
KING: The names of people who said that.
TOOBIN: The names of people who said this.
JONES: Like who, Dennis Kirkland?
KING: Because if she had a consensual affair, Jeffrey, why would she bring the charge? TOOBIN: Because I think, you know, she had a very difficult and now over relationship with her husband, who was controlling and jealous, and she didn't want to admit.
KING: Is that all speculation, or is that based on information...
JONES: And where do you get that information from? That's where -- if you could tell us where you're getting this information...
TOOBIN: Paula, I saw you with Steve together, and I interviewed Steve.
JONES: One time. One time. Does that mean that you know me now for my life?
KING: Is there any one person you can name that gave you some of this information, so that Paula can respond?
TOOBIN: Actually Dennis Kirkland is one.
JONES: He doesn't even know me. Let me tell you that something that you did forget to put in that book. He is a second ex-felon. He's a felon. He was kicked off of the Arkansas Razorback team -- football -- for using cocaine. He's been...
TOOBIN: That's all in the book.
JONES: Well, maybe I didn't get that far, but why you would believe somebody like that over somebody like me that's never had a record, and I've never -- I don't have a reason to lie about this.
KING: Well, we're going to take a break and hold Paula Jones for another segment and then bring in Bob Bittman.
We'll be right back. Jeffrey Toobin's book is "A Vast Conspiracy." He's in Washington. Paula Jones is in Little Rook. When she leaves, we'll meet Bob Bittman, former deputy independent counsel, for his response to the charges made in the book.
Back with more right after this.
KING: We're back with Jeffrey Toobin, author of "A Vast Conspiracy." And Paula Jones is with us in Little Rock.
Jeffrey, on balance, though, you said earlier that Paula Jones comes out pretty good in this book.
TOOBIN: I do. I mean, I think Paula Jones is a decent person who got caught up in forces that were bigger than she was. And I don't -- and I don't really have a great quarrel with her personally.
KING: And maybe could you possibly be wrong, because she is so vehement in what happened in that room and she was there? TOOBIN: Well, you know...
TOOBIN: I mean -- I mean, I -- yes. Of course I could be wrong. And I'm very careful -- I mean, it is the understatement of the century to say I was not present in that hotel room. But it is worthwhile to point out that the president of the United States is just as vehement that the events did not take place as she said. So I think vehemence...
JONES: Well, look at his track record. Look at his track record of lying.
TOOBIN: Yes, look at -- look at his track record.
JONES: Well, I don't have that track record.
TOOBIN: His track record -- well, his track record is of having consensual affairs with woman, not assaulting them in that manner.
JONES: Well, you know what? He messed up when he got to me.
He didn't realize that he picked the wrong little girl from Arkansas.
TOOBIN: You know what? I think -- I think he'd even agree with that.
JONES: And so why can't I start something that's brand new? Say no, you know, and get out of that room.
KING: Paula, do you think that the president got away with something in all of this?
JONES: Well, yes, he got away with everything. And look who's up for charges now, Linda Tripp for taping somebody's recordings on -- on tape. And she was probably -- had to do that or she was going to be in trouble herself. She probably felt that she had to do that. And she's the only one who's going to get in trouble with this whole mess. And the president can lie to the American people and wag his finger at us and do all kinds of stuff and still get away with it.
And everybody thinks he's a hero in all of this, and he survived it and he's stronger and bigger and better. And he's the best president. He's going to go down in history as the -- the -- who knows? The sex president.
KING: Jeffrey, that is rather amazing, is it not, because everything she just said is true?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, it is, and you know, it is rather extraordinary that Linda Tripp is only person being prosecuted. And as you know, I mean, I -- you know, it's no holds barred. I think Linda Tripp is an odious human being. And I think with equal passion that the prosecution of her is unfair and outrageous and never should have been brought.
So you know, I think, you know, that -- that things have not exactly worked out as they should, at least with regard to Linda Tripp.
KING: Paula, tell us how your life is going.
JONES: Oh, my life is going wonderful. Thank you for asking. It's going great.
KING: Are you permanently living back in Little Rock now?
JONES: Yes, I am. I've been back here for a year now, and I love it. It's going wonderful.
KING: And are you divorced completely and...
JONES: No, not yet, but I don't want to talk about that.
KING: How are the children?
JONES: They're doing great. They really are.
KING: And are you -- are you working? What are you doing?
JONES: Well, I'm -- I'm getting into some stuff, but I'm not going to talk about it on TV. I don't want people to know, but it's nothing to do with entertainment.
KING: Do you plan to read the complete book, Paula?
JONES: I want to read some of it, I think, yes. I didn't go out and buy it, though, so I didn't contribute to your money. Somebody sent it to me.
TOOBIN: Fair enough. You know what, Paula? Your story has been very good to me. You don't even have to go buy the book.
KING: Paula, thanks very much. Thanks for joining us
JONES: Thank you, Larry.
KING: And we'll take a break and come back, and Jeffrey Toobin, and also in Washington, Bob Bittman, the former deputy independent counsel under Ken Starr. We'll let them go at it.
The book is "A Vast Conspiracy." It's just published. I'm Larry King. Don't go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)] KING: Jeffrey Toobin is with us. His book is "A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President," just published by Random House.
Joining us now is Bob Bittman, the former deputy independent counsel who is -- what, are you practicing law now, Bob?
BOB BITTMAN, FORMER DEPUTY INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Yes. I'm practicing law in Washington, D.C., Larry.
KING: Good to see you.
BITTMAN: Thank you.
KING: About Starr, Mr. Toobin writes: "Starr's lack of experience as a prosecutor was such that he exercised almost no critical judgment on the key decisions made by his office." True?
BITTMAN: No. That's totally false. Ken had a lot of experience in government. He had been the chief of staff to the attorney general. He had been a distinguished federal judge on the second most powerful court in the nation. He also had handled many criminal cases while he was solicitor general. And he was extremely involved in every decision that was being made.
KING: All right.
BITTMAN: And he hired some very experienced prosecutors.
KING: Was it a mistake, Bob, to turn down the Ginsburg proffer in early February that was later accepted by other lawyers -- when presented by the lawyers?
BITTMAN: Well, that's an interesting question, and Jeff referred to it as an agreement. In fact, it was absolutely positively not an agreement. Bill Ginsburg may have thought it was an agreement, but it wasn't.
He sued -- he sued us in court to try to enforce this alleged agreement. And after a lengthy hearing before Chief Judge Johnson, she determined that there absolutely was no agreement. So...
KING: Did he make an offer? Did he make an -- forget the agreement part. Did, Bob, did he make an offer to you of immunity for her in return for testimony?
BITTMAN: Absolutely. We were -- we really wanted a deal with Monica Lewinsky. But Larry, you have to remember -- and this is -- the point is made actually in Jeff's book extensively -- about Bill Ginsburg and about how untrustworthy he was, and about how he not only lied to us, but he also lied to the media. He also made numerous disparaging statements about his own client in the media.
And the question for us was -- including, by the way, one of the things that Jeff says is that the office of independent counsel would have gotten the dress. Well, if you remember back then -- and I'm sure Jeff remembers this -- Bill Ginsburg said on national TV that there was no dress.
So how were we to trust this person? When he says all these statements.
KING: Jeffrey, how do you respond?
TOOBIN: This is just, you know, the incredible bad judgment of this office. Who cares about Bill Ginsburg? This was a case about whether Bill Clinton lied about whether he had sex with Monica Lewinsky. That's what the case was about. You needed Monica Lewinsky as a witness. She was the whole case.
Her lawyer acted like a horse's ass. I don't doubt that for a second. But it took prosecutors with judgment to recognize who cares about Bill Ginsburg, we need this woman in.
They had the deal. They faxed her a written agreement, which, you know, is -- is -- is technically perhaps not a contract, but it shows that negotiations were pretty far along. They -- they -- Bill Ginsburg and Lewinsky signed it. They blew the chance that they had because they were mad at Bill Ginsburg, which was a terrible reason.
BITTMAN: No. We were not mad at Bill Ginsburg. We were disappointed that we couldn't work out a deal. But the fact was this was a bad deal. And we went by the Department of Justice standards that had been in place for years and years and years, and that is that if you don't enter into an immunity agreement, a cooperation agreement with a witness who you don't trust and with an attorney who you have no -- no reason to believe is going to get the truth out of her client.
KING: Did -- and did you -- did you then, Bob, trust them six months later?
BITTMAN: Absolutely. When Jake Stein and Plato Cacheris came in, these guys are professionals, and they knew what to do. They knew that we held a lot of cards, that they had some cards. And we worked out the exact same deal, Larry, that we had offered Bill Ginsburg and Monica Lewinsky.
KING: Bob, how do you react to this quote from Jeffrey Toobin?
"Starr placed Bittman in direct charge of the first criminal investigation of the president of the United States since Watergate, and perhaps no lawyer in American history had been given an assignment for which he was less qualified."
BITTMAN: Well, as you stated earlier, you know, Jeff takes a lot of pokes at a lot of people.
KING: Were you hurt by that?
BITTMAN: Well, no, I'm not hurt by that. I mean, you know, Jeff comes here and he says that he had no ax to grind on either side, he had no horse in the race. You know, but the fact is that the president and his supporters, like Jeff -- and I think he is one -- they won't be able to change history. And the history shows that the president engaged in behavior to obstruct justice and to commit perjury, and get others to commit perjury.
And in fact our investigation unveiled that beyond a reasonable doubt, in my view. And that is proven by Chief Judge Wright's opinion in Arkansas, where she held for the first time ever -- an unprecedented opinion -- that the president of the United States, chief law enforcement officer of the United States, was going to be held in contempt of court.
KING: All right, Jeffrey, he says that you were not impartial, that you came to this with a viewpoint, that you are pro-Clinton, and that the pro-Clinton people like you. And by the way, why are you -- why were you so you rough on Bob?
TOOBIN: Well, because I think it was pretty outrageous. I mean, you know, Bob is a nice guy. I don't doubt that. Bob had not prosecuted a single case in federal court in his entire life, and now he is in charge of investigating the president of the United States? I mean, I just think that is ridiculous to put someone like that in charge of this investigation. Especially when Ken Starr had not prosecuted a single case in any court in his life. I mean, you know, this was not an investigation run by professionals.
KING: All right.
KING: And that you did not come to this in a completely impartial manner?
TOOBIN: I mean, you know, look, I -- you know, I came to this as a former prosecutor, as a former associate independent counsel, as someone -- as a journalist who wanted to, you know, reach the story, you know, who wanted to find out what the story was, you know.
I mean, Bob is right. I came to some very strong conclusions and announced them in the book, but I didn't know Bob Bittman from a hole in wall when I started this story, and I -- you know, so I don't have any ax to grind here.
KING: Are you saying a that different prosecuting staff would have gotten an indictment and conviction here?
TOOBIN: I think things might have been very different. It is always hard to play "What if?" But, you know, one of the wonderful ironies of this story is that, you know, the Clinton people were outraged when Bob Fiske was fired, and -- as the special prosecutor -- and Ken Starr was brought in. But, you know, it may have been best thing that ever happened to Bill Clinton, because...
KING: You think Fiske would have gotten him?
TOOBIN: Well, I think Fiske was a real professional. He couldn't be discredited as politically motivated. He had a top staff of people who had actually prosecuted, say, one case, in federal court. And it would have been very hard to make the arguments that the Clinton people made very effectively against Starr.
KING: Bob Bittman, what would you change, now that the story is over, that you did that maybe you would have second thoughts about?
BITTMAN: Well, first of all, Larry, I think I'd like to comment on Jeff a minute.
BITTMAN: He's the guy who's criticizing me for having never tried a federal case, yet this is the guy who, first of all, says that -- calls President Clinton's conduct personal misbehavior. And this personal misbehavior is lying under oath before a federal judge, obstructing justice in a federal case, and getting others to commit perjury.
Now, if that is just personal misbehavior, I suppose there are a lot of people walking free who have obstructed justice, committed perjury, in the state of New York where Jeffrey was a prosecutor.
This is also the guy, the prosecutor who is criticizing me, who would give immunity to a woman who has committed perjury, admittedly, lied on tapes, and work out a deal with a lawyer who has lied to your office and lied in public. I mean, I don't think there is much to be said for that.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean I just -- let's be lawyers here for a second. I don't think that Bill Clinton did obstruct justice. I think he did lie in his deposition, but I don't think he did do those other things.
And, you know, one thing Bob said that I agree with is that Chief Judge Susan Webber Wright issued a wonderful, accurate, devastating opinion, finding Bill Clinton in contempt of court. And that is what he deserved -- he did not deserve to be impeached.
BITTMAN: How could you say that there was no obstruction of justice when Chief Judge Wright -- in particular, she said that he committed -- that he made false statements, false and misleading statements for the purpose of obstructing the judicial process?
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, false -- he made a false statement. I mean, I...
BITTMAN: Under oath.
TOOBIN: Absolutely, I'm in no disagreement. But he did it in a personal matter that related to a peripheral matter in a civil case, and that is a case that I don't believe would be prosecuted by any U.S. attorney's office in the country. And it certainly does not rise to level of high crimes and misdemeanors.
KING: Let me get a break, and we will come back with some more moments with Bob Bittman and Jeffrey Toobin, and then we'll have some of the thoughts of Rahm Emanuel and Congressman Marty Meehan.
Tomorrow night Bill Ginsburg will be here. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN STARR, INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: She had a lawyer, malpractice lawyer from Los Angeles. He would not let us sit down with Monica Lewinsky. Said here, here is the deal, here is a written proffer. And we were entirely uncomfortable with that. It would have been, you know, perhaps never -- I'm not saying it is completely unheard of, but it was very odd. Why can't we talk? Why can't we look at the individual and come to assess? Because the key point is, do we think this individual is telling the truth?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We are sorry about time being so pressing. We have a few more minutes with Bob Bittman, and then we want to get the thoughts of Rahm Emanuel and Marty Meehan.
Bob, do you think there was a conspiracy involved here?
BITTMAN: No, Larry, I think this conspiracy notion is really exaggerated. And I will give you an example of, you know, how things work in Washington. And Jeff said he had no horse in this race, or anything like that. He had a book party earlier tonight. You know, one of the people that attended the book party was the president's lawyer, David Kendall. Now, does that mean that there is conspiracy between Jeff Toobin and the president's lawyer? I don't think so. I mean, I'm sure there is a reason for David Kendall to be at the book party.
TOOBIN: Lindsey Graham was invited, he couldn't come. Jim Rogan of the House, the Republican, I -- there were a lot of -- I mean, you know, I -- these are the people I covered, and they were invited, and, you know...
BITTMAN: I wasn't invited.
TOOBIN: Bob was not invited. He wouldn't talk to me, as Bob will illustrate...
BITTMAN: That's right.
TOOBIN: You know, I tried to interview him, he wouldn't talk to me. So why should I invite him to my book party?
KING: You didn't talk to him for the book, Bob?
BITTMAN: No, I thought that Jeff had a slant going in. And he called me many times, and I refused to talk to him. And see what happens to somebody who refuses to talk?
TOOBIN: You know, you can only ask. Bob, I asked.
KING: Bob, do you think there might be indictments after the president leaves office ?
BITTMAN: I don't think actually, Larry, that it is appropriate for me to comment on that. Obviously, the case is in the hands of Bob Ray, the independent counsel, and I don't think I should opine on that one way or the other. And obviously I don't speak for the office now, I'm just a former old colleague.
KING: Do you think, Bob, history will be kind to Ken Starr?
BITTMAN: Absolutely. They will be very kind, because you have to remember, we submitted, Larry, a 452-page report, 1060 footnotes, 18 boxes of supporting material followed by 20-some boxes of additional material. And the test of time is that that report has remained virtually unassailable.
The only real criticism has been that we didn't put a quote in, we rather -- we just summarized one piece of testimony. The facts are is that the president -- we showed with that report, and through our investigation, that the president committed some very serious offenses. Impeachment...
KING: Thanks, Bob...
BITTMAN: you know, who cares? But, you know, we proved it.
KING: Bob, thank you very much for being with us.
BITTMAN: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Bob Bittman, former deputy independent counsel. And when we come back, our remaining moments, Jeffrey Toobin will be joined with the thoughts -- and we are sorry we are limited on time -- of Rahm Emanuel and Congressman Marty Meehan, on what we have heard for the past hour. Don't go away.
KING: Jeffrey Toobin is still with us. Unfortunately, we've got -- closing in on time.
Rahm Emanuel, the former senior adviser to the president, is with us in Chicago, and in Boston is Congressman Marty Meehan, a Democrat and member of the Judiciary Committee.
Rahm, overall, in what you've heard in the past hour -- have you read the Toobin book?
RAHM EMANUEL, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, I have read a number of the book reviews, but I've not read the book yet.
KING: And from what you've gathered so far, your thoughts?
EMANUEL: Well, I mean, there's one part of what Jeff says that I'm not sure I totally agree with. Some parts I do agree. Some things the other guests have said. But the basic premise is that somehow, if they had reached an agreement with Monica Lewinsky earlier, somehow this case would have been different.
One is I think -- and Jeffrey also then says that the American people basically were consistent in their view of this from day one. And I think that actually -- I mean, this is a "what if." I think the American people showed an incredible good judgment about the difference here between right and wrong, and personal and political. And I don't think it would have changed very much. That's my judgment...
KING: Congressman Meehan, what do you think?
REP. MARTIN MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, I think one of the unfortunate things, at least in terms of the House of Representatives, was that this whole case was really a foregone conclusion right from the beginning. There wasn't a real process. There was never any kind of give-and-take between Democrats and Republicans. It was strictly partisan.
I also take exception to Bob Bittman's comments about Ken Starr's place in history. The fact is that Ken Starr's conduct in this case is the reason for the demise of the independent counsel statute. I think it's contributed to the negative, cynical feeling that the American public has about law enforcement in this country, privacy rights in this country.
And frankly, Larry, I think the next administration will have an attorney general that will be much closer to the president, whomever is elected. And I think we might be looking for an independent counsel statute that's fair. And I think Starr's conduct caused a demise of that statute.
KING: Rahm, you were there when all this was going on. Jeffrey writes of Hillary's return from Washington after appearing on "The Today Show," the right-wing conspiracy. Totally believed that, didn't she?
EMANUEL: Well, she said it; yes, she believed it. And I -- you know, I think -- I don't know if I would use the word "personally" the word "conspiracy." But if you didn't think political opponents were out to -- the president's political opponents were out to get him, I've got some real estate down in the Ozarks you can by.
KING: But didn't they have grounds to get him with?
EMANUEL: Oh, listen, Larry, from day one when this guy -- when he first started running for president -- first started running for president, wasn't even president -- his political opponents down in Arkansas were out to get him. And you know, I think this situation is unfortunate in the sense that -- that in some ways we gave the political opponents something to beat him on. But I think -- beat him up on. But the fact of the matter is, from even before he was president, he had political forces that were trying to prevent him from being president and trying to prevent his presidency from ever taking hold.
And that is a part of what happened here. And not to think that that didn't happen or was in fact a force involved in this ongoing process for seven years is to be, I mean, I think to be naive about the political process and what has happened since Watergate, in the fact that people have used the legal system for political means, which I think is a central thrust of Jeffrey's book, and I think is dead on -- both the Democrats and the Republicans and what's happened over the years, in the last 25 years.
KING: And Jeffrey.
KING: I'm sorry.
EMANUEL: And why the Independent Counsel Act, as well as the organization of the office, has been politicized and used for political purposes unfortunately. And there is no trust in it.
KING: Jeffrey, there is no question in your mind that you approached this open-minded?
TOOBIN: Absolutely. I mean, I...
KING: Because Bob Bittman was pretty strong in saying that you -- you had a horse in the race.
TOOBIN: You know, I mean, I -- I fully admit that by the time I sat down to write this book I had very strong feelings about Ken Starr and Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton and Paula Jones, and my book is full of strong opinions. But when I came to this story, absolutely not. I had -- I didn't have any of those preconceived opinions.
KING: Congressman Meehan, can you say that you were also open, even as a Democrat and a member of the judiciary, that you approached this with let me see the facts?
MEEHAN: Yes, absolutely, and as a former prosecutor, I was looking to see if the independent counsel would meet that high standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. But you know, the House didn't even have a single material witness testify before us. How in the world can you impeach a president when you don't have a single material witness?
I think this whole thing has -- and by the way, I also think the president's conduct was reckless. I think he should have been censured for that conduct but certainly not impeached.
KING: Rahm, what is history do with this, do you think?
EMANUEL: Well, I think...
KING: I mean, the president is at an all -- his six-month high today in approval.
EMANUEL: Well, listen, Larry, I think that -- well, first of all, everybody else said they came to it open-minded. I came to it as a believer in what the president has done for the country is very important.
So I come at it -- I don't come from that view, and I think he gave me a unique opportunity to serve this country. And that's why -- to this day, I will always be supportive and defensive in defending him. I don't defend what he did, but I defend the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that I didn't think the independent prosecutor should be involved in where they were and investigating.
KING: Do you think history will be kind to him?
EMANUEL: I think history will acknowledge his contribution as president and his fight for -- on behalf of the American people. There is no doubt that this will be a big part -- this will be a part of the way the history books are.
I think as time goes on, though, and greater and greater distance that we have in our rearview mirror and look back, I think this will be put in perspective in the political purpose and political football that this investigation became. I don't think it will be the central piece of presidency that some would like it to be. I think that in fact it will get -- it will have its context. It will be put in balance to overall the presidency, what was going on in the country at the time.
I think they will see his presidency as having done very good things for this country...
KING: Thank you.
EMANUEL: And that -- but unfortunately, on personal stuff, that he had made clearly big mistakes.
KING: Rahm Emanuel, thank you very much. Thank you for your patience. And thanks, Congressman Meehan, always good seeing you. And I guess you're happy to have some snow up there, huh, for the skiers?
MEEHAN: I sure am.
KING: And as always, Jeffrey Toobin, great having you with us. Thanks very much, and congratulations on the publication.
TOOBIN: Thanks, Larry.
KING: The book is "A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President": just published by Random House.
Tomorrow night, William Ginsburg. CNN "NEWSSTAND" is next. I'm Larry King. Good-night.
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