Washington (CNN) — A government report obtained by CNN on Friday states that government agents and lawyers mistreated Monica Lewinsky when they approached the former White House intern in January 1998 to get her to cooperate with an investigation into President Bill Clinton.
The report, which was first reported by the Washington Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman, notes that while “no lawyer involved in the confrontation with Monica Lewinsky committed professional misconduct,” the encounter “could have been handled better by all of the OIC lawyers involved.”
At the center of the government report is what happened after FBI agents and lawyers from the Office of Independent Counsel, who at the time was investigating the affair with Clinton, approached Lewinsky at a food court and moved the conversation to a hotel room nearby. The counsel — which was led by Ken Starr — was investigating Clinton for a number of issues, including his extramarital affair with Lewinsky.
“Associate Independent Counsel Michael Emmick confronted Lewinsky with her false affidavit and other criminal activities relations to the Jones case,” the report states. “In an effort to gain her cooperation, Emmick told her she could be prosecuted on multiple criminal charges, but said if she cooperated, the OIC would take it into account in charging decisions.”
In doing so, however, the agents and lawyers denied Lewinsky attempts to speak with her lawyer, Frank Carter.
“Because they feared she would want to call Carter,” the report — which was posted online by the Post — states, “OIC lawyers devised a deliberate strategy to discourage her from doing so.” One way of doing that was telling Lewinsky that contacting the lawyer would “get less value for her cooperation.”
To sum up the confrontation, the report — which was ordered by Robert W. Ray, Starr’s successor — states: “On the slippery slope, Emmick did not stop.”
The National Archives provided CNN with the report and Spokeswoman Laura Diachenko said the reason this report was able to be released – but other from the Starr investigation were not – was because the report was not clearly marked as sealed.
“If the Special Counsel report authored by Jo Ann Harris was considered sealed by the Special Division, it should have been clearly marked to indicate its status. It was not,” Diachenko said in an emailed statement. “If the report was marked as under seal, it would not have been released.”
The release of the 2000 report on Lewinsky comes at a time when the former White House intern has stepped back into the public eye after more than a decade of trying to be private.
Lewinsky delivered her first high-profile speech since the affair at Forbes’ 30 Under 30 summit on Tuesday and earlier this year Vanity Fair announced that the former White House intern was a contributor to the magazine. Since then, Lewinsky has penned pieces on cyberbullying and her life after the Clinton affair.
At the Forbes appearance, Lewinsky spoke at length about her confrontation with agents and lawyers that was detailed in the government report.
“It was just like you see in the movies,” Lewinsky said of the encounter. “Imagine, one minute I was waiting to meet a friend in the food court and the next I realized she had set me up, as two FBI agents flashed their badges at me.”
She added: “Immediately following, in a nearby hotel room, I was threatened with up to 27 years in jail for denying the affair in an affidavit and other alleged crimes. Twenty-seven years. When you’re only 24 yourself, that’s a long time. Chillingly, told that my mother too might face prosecution if I didn’t cooperate and wear a wire… My friends and my family were subpoenaed to testify against me.”
The government report – titled the “Report of the Special Counsel Concerning Allegations of Professional Misconduct By the Office of Independent Counsel in Connection with the Encounter with Monica Lewinsky” – substantiates Lewinsky’s story.
“For nearly twelve hours, the OIC lawyers were in a hotel room with this hysterical but very focused young woman,” reads the report.
Monica Lewinsky’s Story Is A Scandal Of Americans’ Double Standards
“How does it feel to be America’s premiere blow-job queen?”
Every generation has its Hester Prynne, its Tess of the d’Ubervilles, its Becky Sharp, its Emma Bovary. Monica Lewinsky was ours, and while our mothers (or our mothers-in-print) sniped at her and about her – and were amply rewarded for it – some of us sat silently in dorm rooms and on first-apartment couches and wondered what it meant for us, for what we were supposed to want from men and ourselves (and how other women would chastise us for it).
Reading Monica Lewinsky’s first-person Vanity Fair article, it’s hard not to go back to that place with her, the place where it seemed totally within bounds to talk about how she could “rent out her mouth” for a follow-up act (author Nancy Friday), or refer to her as “a dessert cart” (Camille Paglia), or write her off as “too tubby to be in the high-school ‘in crowd'” (Maureen Dowd).
It wasn’t just Monica who read all that. The rest of us did, too – and we all wondered which of our bad decisions could stand up to that sort of scrutiny, and whether we could ever risk making any.
It was hard – is hard – not to feel a kinship with Monica because (straight) women are intimately familiar with the idea that, if we make one wrong decision about a guy, it could mean the end of our dreams for ourselves. Pick up the wrong stranger at a bar and wind up dead. Trust the wrong frat boy to walk you back to your dorm, and wind up raped. Have sex once without birth control, and wind up pregnant, or with HIV or “that girl” filling her Valtrex prescription for the rest of her forever-alone life.
Give the wrong man a blow job, and find yourself unable to ever find an actual job.
“How does it feel to be America’s premiere blow-job queen?”
Blow jobs were fraught in the nineties. They weren’t really outré any more – no longer the thing the bad girls did and the good girls avoided. If anything, they were more of a thing that good girls did to avoid being “bad” girls by having vaginal sex. (Kevin Smith’s 1994 movie, Clerks, just said out loud what a lot of women already practiced when counting their “number” – always 3, never 37.)
But they were also the ultimate expression of sex that men wanted and women gave: supposedly “unfeminist,” unreciprocated, gross, uncomfortable, heavy with unspoken power dynamics. Women who gave blow-jobs willy-nilly were the ones who made it harder for other women not to give blow jobs – so somehow, no matter what you did, you weren’t ever going to be doing it “right.”
That Catch 22 of being a sexual person and a woman hasn’t changed in 15 years. But while most women can, in their professional and even personal lives, leave behind the blow-job queen stigma, Monica has to face it nearly every day, all these years later – at job interviews, on dates and every time a photographer lies in wait outside of her apartment.
Imagine having your whole life defined by the worst guy you ever blew.
At the time – at least from my point of view – it was an authentic connection, with emotional intimacy, frequent visits, plans made, phone calls and gifts exchanged.
There was always the other camp of Monica opinions, too – the ones who looked at a 22-year-old intern involved with the leader of the free world and called the relationship coercive. “Sure,” Monica wrote in Vanity Fair, “my boss took advantage of me, but I will remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship.”
Can we yet reconcile those two things? Not every disparate power dynamic in every relationship means that the less dominant party was coerced into it. Maybe the relationship they had wasn’t one any of us would sign up for in our thirties (or even would have allowed to happen in our twenties). But just because a woman isn’t yet experienced enough to make the perfect decisions – I’m personally still waiting to get to that point – doesn’t mean she didn’t have agency in making her mistakes.
Besides which, it might be worth it to consider Monica’s other options in 1997: current CNN chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper, who in a 1998 Washington City Paper article, wrote about their one date and described her as “cute, if a little zaftig.”
Anybody who doesn’t understand why a 23-year-old would happily consent to a relationship with a 50-year-old, even one that seems one-sided from the outside, didn’t date a lot of twenty-something men in DC at that age.
I wish I could have had a chance to have spoken to Tyler [Clementi] about how my love life, my sex life, my most private moments, my most sensitive secrets, had been broadcast around the globe. I wished I had been able to say to him that I knew a little of how it might have felt for him to be exposed before the world.
Clinton special prosecutor Ken Starr was the Hunter Moore of my generation. Like the revenge-porn king, Starr published the intimate sexual details of someone else’s life for no good reason other than the titillation of the viewing public, as assembled in secret by someone she once trusted who, it turns out, wasn’t really on her side (Linda Tripp). Unlike Moore, Starr isn’t facing a prison sentence – he’s the president and chancellor of Baylor University, a supporter of Hobby Lobby’s efforts to deny its employees contraceptive coverage, former defense counsel for Blackwater and a defender of California’s now-scuttled ban on same sex marriages.
So, Hunter Moore might yet have quite an indefensible future ahead of him.
The Starr report chronicled in graphic detail not just the blue dress but the (unnecessary) specifics of Monica’s sexual encounters, from the infamous cigar to “oral-anal contact” to Monica’s orgasms. It was released as a bound volume and is available, to this day, as an audio book voiced by two soap opera alumni. It was used in an effort not to expose deep-seated corruption, indefensible criminal acts or government involvement in war, death or spying on its own citizens – but rather in an ultimately unsuccessful endeavor to impeach a sitting president over whether he had lied under oath about the affair itself.
It cost taxpayers an estimated $70m. It cost Monica something much more immeasurable: her dignity, her privacy, her ongoing ability to be unrecognized in public for sex she had 17 years ago (and counting) and a lot of her ability to trust people.
Unlike the other parties involved, I was so young that I had no established identity to which I could return. I didn’t “let this define” me – I simply hadn’t had the life experience to establish my own identity in 1998. If you haven’t figured out who you are yet, it’s hard not to accept the horrible image of you created by others.
There is a very small universe of people to whom it would make sense to hear me called “Rob’s ex-girlfriend” – to take an example from my own life circa 1998. I got to build a life outside of that relationship and the people who knew us in it, to become a co-worker to some and a grad school classmate to others; an intern and an employee; someone’s writer and someone else’s editor; an aunt, a good neighbor and (hopefully) a good boss.
Monica, however, is still defined by her participation in a relationship that is long since over. She was assigned her role in the world based on some very old dichotomies – bad girl, slut, mistress – that only ever apply to women, and she became, as she wrote, “a social canvas on which anybody could project their confusion about women, sex, infidelity, politics, and body issues.”
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk