Excerpt from A Vast Conspiracy by Jeffrey Toobin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Vast Conspiracy

The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President

by Jeffrey Toobin

A Vast Conspiracy
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  • First Published:
    Dec 1999, 352 pages
    Oct 2000, 496 pages

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Starr's history with women made the OIC's solution to its Lewinsky problem all the more striking. Who would ask Monica Lewinsky about the gory details of the caresses in the presidential study? Mary Anne Wirth and Karin Immergut. Ironically, they were two of the more experienced federal prosecutors in the group, and they had compiled admirable records on opposite sides of the country, Wirth in New York and Immergut in Los Angeles. In light of their accomplishments, it was all the more poignant that they agreed to be used in this manner, because the session they conducted with Lewinsky on August 26 was a disgrace-to the prosecutors themselves, to Starr, to Lewinsky, and, indeed, to the criminal process. It was also a monument to the absurdity of the entire Starr investigation, that an inquiry about a land deal in the 1970s had come down to . . . this.

"We are on the record," Karin Immergut began. "Ms. Lewinsky, could you please state and spell your full name for the record?

It was 12:35 p.m. on August 26. Immergut, Wirth, and Lewinsky were gathered with a female court reporter in a conference room in the independent counsel offices on Pennsylvania Avenue. In light of the questions Lewinsky was going to be asked, the prosecutors thought she would find it easier if they conducted a private deposition rather than confront her in front of the grand jurors. For her earlier grand jury appearances, the prosecutors had prepared a chart listing each of Lewinsky's sexual encounters with the president. On this day, Immergut handed the chart to her and said, "What I would like to do is go through the events that are written in bold, which deal with the private encounters you had with the president."

Immergut started with the first one, the thong-induced intimacies of November 15, 1995. Lewinsky recounted that in the president's study, "I know that we were talking a bit and kissing. I remember-I know that he-I believe I unbuttoned my jacket and he touched my, my breasts with my bra on, and then either-I don't remember if I unhooked my bra or he lifted my bra up, but he-this is embarrassing."

"Then he touched your breasts with his hands?" Immergut offered. "Yes, he did." "Did he touch your breast with his mouth?" "Yes, he did." "Did he touch your genital area at all that day?" "Yes," Lewinsky said. "We moved-I believe he took a phone call in his office, and so we moved from the hallway into the back office, and the lights were off. And at that point, he, he put his hand down my pants and stimulated me manually in the genital area." "And did he bring you to orgasm?" "Yes, he did."

Immergut was just getting started. She asked, "Was there any discussion during the November seventeenth encounter about sex during the encounter?" "I don't know exactly what you mean. . . ." "Well, either about what he wanted or what you wanted, or anything like that, in terms of sex?" Immergut asked.

"No," said Lewinsky. "I mean, I think that there were always things being said, but not necessarily in a conversational form. Does that make sense?" Both Lewinsky and Immergut were kind of struggling at this point. "Okay," the prosecutor resumed. "And when you say there were always things being said, do you mean kind of chatting while you were having sex, or things that felt good? I don't mean that. I mean-" "Okay," Lewinsky said, trying to rescue the floundering prosecutor. "-trying either implicitly giving you direction about what he wanted, or why he wouldn't ejaculate, anything like that?"

"I believe why he wouldn't ejaculate was discussed again," Lewinsky said. As the prosecutor and witness continued their desultory march through the "encounters," certain themes emerged. Lewinsky was defensive about the brevity of the trysts. (She generally removed her underwear before going to the Oval Office, which moved things along.) About the third one, Immergut asked, "Do you know how long that sexual encounter . . . lasted . . . ?" "Maybe ten minutes. Not, not very long. We would always spend quite a bit of time kissing. So." "And kissing and talking and just . . . being affectionate?" Immergut interjected helpfully. "Yes."

Copyright Jeffrey Toobin 1999. Published with the permission of the publisher - Random House.

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