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Hillary Rodham Clinton was home in the White House on at least seven days when her husband had sexual encounters there with intern Monica Lewinsky, according to Sen. Clinton’s schedule, released Wednesday among 11,000 pages of papers from her years as first lady.
The words of the schedules are dry, but they take on emotional weight when coupled with revelations about the sex scandal that eventually came to light. A year later, the schedules show her pressing ahead and showing her face at public events as revelations about the scandal upended her life and threatened Bill Clinton’s presidency.
The papers also shed light on her struggle for health care reform early in the Clinton administration, her scaling back when that effort failed, her travels abroad and the legal woes that dogged the Clintons in the White House.
She also was an early champion of the North American Free Trade Agreement that she now criticizes in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. The papers show her holding at least five meetings in 1993 aimed at helping win congressional approval of the deal.
It’s unlikely she would be surprised at this late date to learn that the president was cheating on her while she was home in the White House. But the release of the documents reminds voters anew about Bill Clinton’s affair and the impeachment proceedings that brought Washington to a halt for a year.
The private crisis came at the most public of times for the first lady.
She had speeches scheduled, at home and abroad. She appeared by President Clinton’s side at an education event where he angrily dismissed the reports of having sex with Lewinsky.
Her schedule has her choosing flowers for a black-tie dinner, congratulating “Guns Aren’t Cool” award winners and reading to kids in the week in January 1998 when allegations of the scandal begin coming out. She denounced a “vast right-wing conspiracy” in a TV interview.
Almost a year earlier, the schedules show, she was home on Feb. 28, 1997, the day the report by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr says Bill Clinton had a sexual encounter with Lewinsky in an Oval Office bathroom in the early evening, staining her blue dress.
Mrs. Clinton had “drop by” events or meetings in the Map Room and Diplomatic Reception Room between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. that day, according to her schedule. It also lists plays that night and a concert, but it’s not clear whether she attended.
More than a year earlier, on Nov. 15, 1995, the first lady went to a mid-afternoon “meet & greet” photo opportunity at the White House with Nobel Laureates and their families. That night, Lewinsky had what she later said was her first sexual encounter with the president, in the private study off the Oval office.
On Jan. 21, 1996, the first lady and the president privately toured an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. That afternoon, Lewinsky said, she and Bill Clinton had a sexual encounter in the hallway by the private study.
The schedules indicate Hillary Clinton was home on at least four other days when her husband and the intern got together.
Twice, Mrs. Clinton was overseas at such times.
The National Archives released the papers in Washington and at the Clinton presidential library in Arkansas after months of pressure from critics who say the Clintons were delaying the disclosure. The issue has dogged her bid for the White House.
In all, 11,046 pages have been made available. Nearly 4,800 pages have parts blacked out. Archivists said that’s to protect the privacy of third parties. Schedules for more than 30 days of activities were not included in this release.
Clinton, now New York senator, said in her memoir that she had little choice but to carry on with her appearances after the Lewinsky revelations. It was on Jan. 21, 1998, when her husband woke her up, sat on the edge of the bed and said, “There’s something in today’s papers you should know about.” He told her of the reports of his relationship with the former intern, and she said she believed his denials.
But on Saturday, Aug. 15, 1998, with the investigation closing in on the real story, he woke her up again and owned up to his misbehavior. She said in her book that she was grateful there were no public events that weekend.
Before the Lewinsky ordeal, Mrs. Clinton faced her own legal troubles in 1996 during the criminal investigation of the Clintons’ Whitewater real estate dealings in Arkansas.
In the Whitewater probe, one of the pivotal events occurred on Jan. 4, 1996, a day in which Mrs. Clinton’s personal calendar for late that afternoon is marked “Private Meeting” with her chief of staff, Margaret Williams.
Several hours earlier, an aide had discovered inside the White House family residence long-sought billing records of Mrs. Clinton’s legal work on Whitewater-related real estate transactions that turned out to be fraudulent.
Furious prosecutors, who had subpoenaed the records 18 months earlier, ordered Mrs. Clinton to testify before a federal grand jury about the records. She appeared on Jan. 26, 1996.
Her calendar for Jan. 26 says “No Public Schedule,” although the first lady stood before a bank of microphones in front of the federal courthouse in Washington, and declared: “I am happy to answer the grand jury’s questions.” Several hours of testimony she gave that day made her the first first lady to ever be hauled in for such questioning.
Neither the federal probe by Independent Counsel Starr nor Republican-led investigations on Capitol Hill were ever able to sort out why the records of Mrs. Clinton’s work had never been turned over to investigators. She said she had no idea where the billing records had been.
Prosecutors concluded they did not have enough to prove she was a knowing participant in criminal conduct by others, including Whitewater business partner Jim McDougal.
Her Democratic presidential campaign released a statement Wednesday saying the schedules spanning her two terms as first lady “illustrate the array of substantive issues she worked on” and her travel to more than 80 countries “in pursuit of the administration’s domestic and foreign policy goals.”
Clinton says her years as first lady equip her to handle foreign policy and national security as president.
But the schedules show trips packed with plainly traditional activities for a first lady, along with some substance.
For example, in her January 1994 visit to Russia with her husband, her schedule is focused on events with other wives. She sat in on a birthing class at a hospital, toured a cathedral and joined prominent women in a lunch of blinis with caviar and salmon.
The Clinton campaign said the schedules are merely a guide and don’t reflect all of her activities.
The papers show her tackling health care reform out of the gate in 1993, with a meeting three days after her husband’s inauguration and many more as the year went on, before her effort ultimately failed.
She also pushed NAFTA on multiple occasions, including one in November 1993 at a closed meeting with 120 participants. As a presidential candidate, she blames the pact for job losses and promises to renegotiate it.
Her White House policy role diminished markedly after the collapse of the health care initiative.
Associated Press writers Pete Yost, Sharon Theimer, Larry Margasak and Ann Sanner contributed to this report.