Hitchens/Blumenthal AP story

pms laflame at mindspring.com
Tue Feb 9 09:35:30 PST 1999

You're right. I'm obviously not watching enough tv. Damn this computor!

MSNBC Hitchens story below.

At 11:11 AM 2/9/99 -0600, you wrote:
>On Mon, 8 Feb 1999, pms wrote:
>> If Christopher Hitchens' acts will now prolong this shit for one extra day,
>> he should be left alone on a desert isle, where the lack of attention will
>> cause him to eat his own flesh.
>> An Evil Entity who has done away with Paula and taken possession of her
>> computor.
>Oh I think it should go on forever. The longer it does, the sillier
>the Repugnants look. It's fun to watch them shoot their feet off, one
>toe at a time. Apparently yesterday Hyde was complaining about
>Senators sn-wording during his bloviation. He gets shriller and
>shriller and more and more entertaining. Plus, they can't really do
>any additional damage to the country while they're playing pin the
>tail on the kangaroo court! It's all quite jolly, as far as I'm
>Joseph Noonan
>jfn1 at msc.com

Naming names in impeachment trial

Washington abuzz over allegations against Clinton aide

By Jonathan Broder SPECIAL TO MSNBC

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 — Not since the Red Scare after World War II, when Time magazine editor Whitaker Chambers denounced Alger Hiss as a Communist, has Washington been more abuzz over the naming of names.

"The Clinton Crisis" - Complete Coverage

Last words from prosecution, Clinton’s defense

Journalist Christopher Hitchens gets involved in a heated exchange Monday on MSNBC's “Hockenberry.”

IN THE WANING days of President Clinton’s impeachment trial, left-wing journalist and Clinton critic Christopher Hitchens signed an affidavit for House prosecutors over the weekend, swearing that White House aide Sidney Blumenthal described Monica Lewinsky as a “stalker” to him over dinner at a Washington restaurant last March.

Moreover, Hitchens charges, Blumenthal made it clear that the stalker story came straight from the president. Holding up Blumenthal’s testimony last week that he did not spread the stalker story to any reporters, several senators from both parties are now demanding a Justice Department investigation of the White House aide for possible perjury.

What makes this latest wrinkle in the impeachment drama so compelling is the fact that Hitchens and Blumenthal had been friends for 15 years. Even in a town where Harry Truman once said the only reliable friend is a dog, Hitchens’ fingering of Blumenthal has stunned Washington’s insider community of journalists, authors, policymakers and intellectuals.

“I didn’t believe it when I first heard it. It’s staggering,” said the executive editor of a New York-based magazine who spoke on condition of anonymity.


Many say what Hitchens did was an act of betrayal and a violation of the unwritten rule that what is shared when journalists and officials get together after hours as friends is strictly off the record. In the end, they predict, it will have no impact on the outcome of the impeachment trial, expected to end later this week in Clinton’s acquittal. Some say, however, that Hitchens’ charges could overturn the conventional wisdom and result in the president’s conviction and removal from office for obstruction of justice.

Sindey Blumenthal

But just about everyone agrees that no matter what happens to Clinton, Blumenthal now faces a lengthy investigation, the likelihood of an indictment and mountains of legal bills on top of those he already has amassed since he was called before Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s grand jury last year.

“My fear is Clinton is going to be playing the bongo drums, and Sidney is going to be left holding the bag,” said conservative businessman Jude Wanniski, a former journalist who knows both Blumenthal and Hitchens.

In his appearance before the grand jury, Blumenthal testified that Clinton had told him shortly after the Lewinsky scandal broke that the former intern was a “stalker” who “made a sexual advance on me,” but that the president “rebuffed” her. Blumenthal reaffirmed that testimony when he was questioned by House prosecutors as a witness in the impeachment trial last week. But when asked how that story made its way into the press, Blumenthal denied he was the source.

Understanding the story

Interactive guides to the impeachment inquiry, Starr's investigations, and the players involved in the White House drama Interactive guide

According to Hitchens, however, Blumenthal repeated the president’s story to him last March when they dined together with their wives at Washington’s Occidental Restaurant. Hitchens, a severe critic of Clinton, said he was reminded of the conversation several weeks ago after he concluded that Blumenthal had publicly misrepresented the questions of his grand jury inquisitors to the press, which angered him.

Hitchens said he shared his anger about Blumenthal’s misleading statements with a Republican congressional staffer, adding his dinner experience with Blumenthal to underscore his point. Hitchens suspects that staffer tipped off House prosecutors, who then contacted him and asked him to swear about the dinner conversation in an affidavit.

Saying he feared they would subpoena him if he refused, Hitchens gave his affidavit to House prosecutors on Friday night. He said he intended to inform Blumenthal the next day, but by that time the story already had leaked.

Christopher Hitchens

“If I have any regrets, it’s that I didn’t call him sooner, so he could hear it from me directly,” Hitchens told MSNBC on Monday night. “But my real regret is that I didn’t overcome my misgivings about writing an anti-Sidney column earlier.” Had he done that before Blumenthal testified to House prosecutors, Hitchens said, Blumenthal would never have sworn that he didn’t discuss the stalker story with reporters.

Hitchens said he provided the affidavit to House prosecutors only for the purposes of helping their obstruction case against the president. He said he told the prosecutors that if his affidavit were used to prosecute Blumenthal, he would “withdraw the affidavit and refuse to testify.”

For his part, Blumenthal is sticking by his statement that says, in part: “I was never a source for any story about Monica Lewinsky’s personal life. I did not reveal what the president told me to any reporter. As I testified to the Senate, I talked every day about the news stories about Monica Lewinsky to friends an family, just like everyone else in the country.”

The players

An interactive guide to key players in the impeachment hearings and in the Starr investigation. Witnesses and key players

Sources close to Blumenthal note that by the time he and Hitchens had their dinner, scores of stories had appeared in the media referring to Lewinsky as a stalker. And when Blumenthal discussed these stories with Hitchens, he was talking with him as a friend, not as a reporter, the sources said. To which Hitchens replies: “As a friend and a former journalist, you don’t have the right to say, ‘I’m going to publicly slander someone who is a witness in a trial, and I’m going to do this to shield a corrupt president, and you can know it, but as a friend, you can’t tell.’ That’s asking too much.”

Hitchens, who has a book coming out on the Clinton scandal, has been making the rounds on the talk shows to explain why he fingered Blumenthal. He said he believed that Blumenthal’s flaw was his blind loyalty to Clinton, “who did not hesitate to get others to lies for him.”


Meanwhile, Blumenthal’s friends are lining up in his defense “I think Hitchens thinks that the end — which for him is Clinton’s removal from office — justified the means,” said the magazine editor, who opposes Clinton’s conviction. “But even if I thought that Clinton should go, it wouldn’t be worth trashing a friendship over. It makes me think if he does it to Sid, why not me, why not anybody?”

Author Edward J. Epstein, a friend of both Blumenthal and Hitchens, dismissed the suggestion that Hitchens fingered Blumenthal in an eleventh-hour attempt to remove Clinton from office.

Author Edward J. Epstein, a friend of both Blumenthal and Hitchens, dismissed the suggestion that Hitchens fingered Blumenthal in an eleventh-hour attempt to remove Clinton from office. “This isn’t about Clinton or Blumenthal. This is about Hitchens,” he said, referring to the British-born journalist’s reputation for bucking the conventional wisdom in his writing, which has attacked icons like Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul and Princess Diana. “He likes to be provocative,” Epstein said.

Victor Navasky, the editor of The Nation, the liberal magazine where Hitchens’ work often appears, defended Hitchens. He noted that last year, Blumenthal’s lawyer had publicly challenged any journalist with whom Blumenthal had spoken to come forward with evidence that Blumenthal was the source of stories that exposed the sexual affairs of several Republican members of Congress. But Navasky called the violation of a trust between friends “troubling.”

Wanniski also defended Hitchens, dismissing the accusations that he betrayed his friend. “This was a courageous attempt to show that Clinton obstructed justice,” he said. “This could change some senators’ minds and disprove the conventional wisdom that Clinton is going to be acquitted.”

Hitchens believes that Blumenthal has “enough wiggle room” in his testimony to beat any perjury charges and hopefully will emerge from the ordeal “smarter about taking a bullet for Bill.”

“My hope,” Hitchens said, “is that when this shakes out, I will have directed a truthful arrow at Clinton that may seem to have gone straight through Sidney but in fact has not.”


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