Two days before President Bill Clinton was questioned by a grand jury about his relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky, Brett Kavanaugh, now President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, urged independent counsel Ken Starr not to go easy on the president, and provided Starr with a list of tough, explicit questions to ask.
Kavanaugh — who as a judge on the federal circuit court of appeals for the District of Columbia has taken an expansive view of presidential power and prerogatives — at that time was “strongly opposed” to giving Clinton a “break” in his questioning.
In the Aug. 15, 1998, memo released by the National Archives Monday, Kavanaugh, then Starr’s associate counsel, suggested avenues of questions for Clinton, who at that point was denying that he had “sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” He later admitted that the allegation was true. Among Kavanaugh’s questions for Clinton:
“If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?”
“If Monica Lewinsky says that on several occasions in the Oval Office area, you used your fingers to stimulate her vagina and bring her to orgasm, would she be lying?”
“If Monica Lewinsky says that you ejaculated into her mouth on two occasions in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?”
“If Monica Lewinsky says that you masturbated into a trashcan in your secretary’s office, would she be lying?”
The existence of the memo was first published by the Washington Post.
In it, Kavanaugh advised Starr and “all attorneys” working for the independent counsel to move ahead with the sharp line of questioning unless Clinton “resigns” or “confesses perjury.”
“He has required the urgent attention of the courts and the Supreme Court for frivolous privilege claims — all to cover oral sex from an intern,” Kavanaugh wrote. “He has lied to his aides. He has lied to the American people. He has tried to disgrace you and the Office with a sustained propaganda campaign that would make Nixon blush.”
Lawyers ultimately did not ask Clinton the explicit questions posed by Kavanaugh. (During his Aug. 17, 1998, testimony, Clinton was asked if “the insertion of an object into the genitalia of another person with the desire to gratify sexually” would constitute sexual relations. “I don’t know that I ever thought about that one way or the other,” Clinton replied.)
Clinton later admitted to the affair, which led to his impeachment by the House in late 1998. His trial in the Senate resulted in his acquittal.
Kavanaugh, for his part, later expressed regret about the sexually explicit details contained in the Starr report.
The release of the news memo is part of a review by the National Archives of more than 20,000 documents related Kavanaugh’s work for Starr, before the Senate begins to consider his nomination on Sept. 4.
In a subsequent Aug. 31, 1998, memo entitled “Possible Grounds for Impeachment,” Kavanaugh seems to poke fun at the explicit nature of the case.
“Does the term conspiracy work?” he wrote. “IS IT TOO GRAPHIC? SHOULD IT BE MORE GRAPHIC (KIDDING).”
With Christopher Wilson and Laina Yost reporting.
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