icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
30 Dec, 2021 15:12

UK hired US lawyers to advise on Monica Lewinsky affair

Downing Street quietly hired a law firm before Bill Clinton’s British visit over concerns about his affair with Monica Lewinsky
UK hired US lawyers to advise on Monica Lewinsky affair

Prime Minister Tony Blair hired a US law firm to advise on President Bill Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky over concerns about damage by association at the height of the American leader’s legal troubles.

Newly released documents by the National Archives reveal Downing Street’s private concern about the fallout from Clinton’s infamous affair ahead of then-US President Clinton’s February 1998 visit to the UK.

With Clinton’s trip coming at the peak of an investigation into the conduct of him and his wife, the White House was hoping for a “Bill and Tony show” to bolster the American leader’s support, according to Blair’s chief of staff.

To protect Blair against any collateral damage from his association with Clinton, Downing Street hired US law firm Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan LLP to advise on the US leader’s legal exposure.

The lawyers looked at the potential risk Clinton faced amid Special Prosecutor Ken Starr’s investigation into the Clintons’ financial dealings, which later expanded into a probe of sexual misconduct allegations.

A January 25, 1998 memo two weeks before Clinton’s visit warned Blair that the president would “almost certainly” be charged with perjury if it was proved he lied about his sexual relations with Lewinsky.

“You remember that Al Capone was eventually convicted of tax evasion. It is no different in this case. Starr has spent 30 million dollars and is desperate to get Clinton on the hook,” the memo stated. However, it accepted that there was currently no “smoking gun” to charge the US president.

Despite the law firm’s guidance, Blair proceeded with the visit, which was heralded by media at the time as a success after the British prime minister expressed support for Clinton at a joint press conference.

Then-UK Ambassador to the US Sir Christopher Meyer later admitted that the Lewinsky affair “cast a long shadow” over the trip, but Blair managed to turn the visit to Britain’s advantage, putting a lot of “credit in the American bank.”

The Lewinsky affair would eventually see Clinton face charges of perjury and be impeached by the US House of Representatives. He was acquitted by the Senate but, after his impeachment trial, was held in civil contempt of court, fined $90,000, and had his law license suspended for five years by Judge Susan Webber Wright.

Podcasts
0:00
24:35
0:00
28:53