Downing Street quietly hired a law firm before Bill Clinton’s British visit over concerns about his affair with Monica Lewinsky
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”Perjury charges could be filed against him if it is proven that he lies about his sexual relationships with Lewinsky.
“You remember that Al Capone was eventually convicted of tax evasion. The case in this instance is no different. Starr has spent 30 million dollars and is desperate to get Clinton on the hook,”The memo said. It accepted, however that at the moment there wasn’t one. “smoking gun”The US president should be charged.
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.
Sir Christopher Meyer, then-ambassador to the UK, later admitted the Lewinsky matter “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.”
Clinton was eventually charged with perjury for the Lewinsky scandal and would face impeachment by the US House of Representatives. The Senate acquitted him, but he was held in civil contempt by court and fined $90,000. His law license was also suspended by Judge Susan Webber Wright for five-years.
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