WASHINGTON (AP) _ A final report by Independent Counsel Robert Ray concluded Wednesday that prosecutors had ample evidence for criminal charges against President Clinton in the scandal involving former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
``President Clinton's offenses had a significant adverse impact on the community, substantially affecting the public's view of the integrity of our legal system,'' stated the report.
``The independent counsel's judgment that sufficient evidence existed to prosecute President Clinton was confirmed by President Clinton's admissions,'' the report stated. ``President Clinton admitted he `knowingly gave evasive and misleading answers''' about his sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.
It wasn't until Clinton's next-to-last day in office that he finally put the investigation of allegations of perjury and obstruction in the Lewinsky matter behind him.
The president's lawyers cut a deal with Ray that spared Clinton from criminal charges in the Lewinsky controversy. The president admitted that he had made false statements under oath about his relationship with the former White House intern and surrendered his law license for five years.
The report stated that ``President Clinton engaged in conduct that impeded the due administration of justice by testifying falsely under oath ... that he could not recall ever being alone with Monica Lewinsky; and he had not had a sexual affair or engaged in sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.''
In response to the report, Clinton attorney David Kendall said ``The investigation of President Clinton from 1994 to 2001 was intense, expensive, partisan and long. There's still no Whitewater report, and there's nothing new in this report. It's time to move on.''
Clinton spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said, ``It's not clear what the purpose of the report is other than to promote Robert Ray's Senate campaign, Monica Lewinsky's HBO special and the Paula Jones vs. Tonya Harding boxing match. The release of the report is a nonevent. This investigation started as a political process and it ends as a political process.''
Ray's report was released by a three-member panel of federal appeals court judges who appointed Ray and his predecessor, Kenneth Starr, to investigate the president and the first lady in 1994.
The independent counsel's report on the perjury and obstruction probe involving Clinton and Lewinsky is to be followed soon by Ray's last report, on Whitewater. It involves the business partnership of Clinton and now-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton with the owners of a failing Arkansas savings and loan in the 1980s.
Starr's investigation of possible perjury and obstruction by the president regarding his sexual relationship with Lewinsky led to the impeachment crisis that threatened Clinton's presidency and resulted in serious political damage to his second term in office.
Clinton was impeached by the House, but the Senate acquitted him. Senators split 50-50 on an obstruction of justice charge and voted 55-45 to acquit the president of perjury. The congressional battle followed up the detailed findings of Starr that there was ``substantial and credible information ... that may constitute grounds for impeachment.''
The Lewinsky controversy grew out of a sexual harassment lawsuit by former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones. Testifying in the lawsuit, Clinton denied having sex with Lewinsky and said he didn't recall being alone with her.
The criminal investigation of Clinton in the Lewinsky matter began in January 1998. Former White House employee Linda Tripp, a friend of Lewinsky, turned over to Starr secretly taped phone calls in which the ex-intern confided her relationship with Clinton. The tapes contradicted Clinton's sworn testimony in the Jones case, which the president gave just days after Tripp had turned the tapes over to Starr.
The sequence _ first turning over the tapes, then Clinton testifying in the Jones case _ led Clinton and his defenders to accuse Starr's office of setting a perjury trap for the president.
Starr's prosecutors and the FBI looked into whether Clinton had tried to silence Lewinsky by getting presidential friend Vernon Jordan to find a job for her. Besides opening doors for her job-hunting efforts, Jordan arranged to hire a Washington lawyer for Lewinsky so that she could file an affidavit in the Jones case. In the affidavit, she denied having had a sexual relationship with Clinton.
When Lewinsky eventually agreed to cooperate with investigators in the summer of 1998, she turned over a stained blue dress from an encounter with Clinton, making it impossible for the president to deny a sexual relationship. Lab tests showed Clinton's DNA on the garment.
Jordan said he kept the president informed of his efforts on Lewinsky's behalf. Jordan said he had known of no sexual relationship between Lewinsky and the president and Jordan said he engaged in the job search at the request of presidential secretary Betty Currie. Lewinsky insisted she was never promised a job in exchange for her silence.
Currie said that after the president testified in the Jones case, Clinton summoned Currie into work the next day, a Sunday, and told her that she had always been present when Lewinsky and the president were together in the White House.
Obstruction issues also revolved around Clinton's conversations with Lewinsky in which the president discussed innocent explanations for Oval Office visits by Lewinsky.
Lewinsky testified about a 2 a.m. phone call from Clinton in which the president said her name had turned up on the witness list in the Jones case. According to Lewinsky, Clinton said she should say she visited the White House to see Currie. The president's use of this ``misleading'' story amounted to a continuation of a cover story they had already agreed to regarding their relationship, Lewinsky testified.
When he appeared before a federal grand jury for questioning in August 1998, Clinton said he didn't remember much about the 2 a.m. phone call eight months earlier.