Former Secret Service officer Gary Byrne offers a ground-zero look at the Lewinsky scandal — and other Bill Clinton misadventures that should have been national scandals — in his new book Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience With Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate.
On Tuesday’s edition of Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM, Byrne recalled how his life changed when, as a uniformed officer of the Secret Service, he heard the first report about Monica Lewinsky on his car radio in 1998.
“I knew right then that myself, and quite a few other people, were going to be embroiled in some crazy Clinton scandal,” he told SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon.
“Years before that, I was working in the Secret Service uniform division in the White House, and I was assigned in the West Wing,” Byrne recalled. “As an officer in the West Wing, you see everything coming and going. We knew, by that time, all the rumors about President Clinton when he was in Arkansas were true, that he just brought that same show to Washington, D.C.”
“When I heard the intern’s name, I almost threw up. I had to pull the car off the side of the road. I knew we were hammered,” he said. “I knew we were going to end up like some of these other people, being between the truth, the President, and whoever was investigating him. And it even got more out of hand than I was afraid it would. It was just insane, over that next four to six months, and even longer for some of us.”
Byrne recounted how he was subpoenaed to testify in the Lewinsky case: “Basically, what happened was, I was the first employee of the Secret Service to be compelled to testify against the President in a criminal case. I was forced. Nobody wanted anything to do with this. We knew what had happened, but we didn’t feel it was our responsibility to talk about it.”
“I was subpoenaed six times,” he said. “Eventually I had to testify. I was ordered by Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist. That’s a huge thing. The top lawyer in the country forced us to talk. We didn’t have a choice.”
“The crazy thing was, you can’t just go in and talk about the President and his behavior. They tried to invent something called the ‘protective function privilege’ to keep us from testifying. When that failed, we went forward, and there were all these rules. We could say this, but we couldn’t say that. I could talk about ‘the President lives in the mansion and works in the West Wing,’ but I couldn’t describe him walking over. I couldn’t describe any of the things that I saw until I was ordered to testify,” he explained.
He found the presence of a young intern named Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office unusual, although less so than it would have been on the tight ship run by Bill Clinton’s predecessor.
“The Clinton Administration was kind of badgering and hammering the Secret Service about, ‘you’re too strict, we want you to be more user-friendly,’ which translates to ‘do as we say, when we want it,’” Byrne recalled. “We came up with this process where, let’s say this intern worked for you, and you wanted to send a piece of paper over to me in the West Wing. You could give it to her, she’d make a phone call, the officer where she entered would acknowledge that she’s an intern. She would call the post, my post, E6, and say hey, they’re coming up to deliver something, or they’re going to the Chief of Staff’s office.”
“It worked fine for a little while, but then all of a sudden, what was supposed to be two or three interns became eight, twelve. It was crazy. In the beginning, they were walking around with sodas and coffee, and they were spilling — you know, the White House is a working museum, and some of the younger people, not everybody, but some of the younger people showed this incredible disrespect. They treated the place like it was a dorm on a college campus,” he said.
Byrne described Lewinsky as “a determined young woman” who initially “wanted to put herself in a position where she could get a really good job.”
“I can’t speak on her emotional attachment to the President, you know how people’s feelings are, but she put herself in a position — I talk about it in my testimony, and I talk about this in my book, Crisis of Character, I classified her my own mind as a cross between a stalker and a rock star groupie,” he said. “At one point I asked, ‘What is your real job?’ — because everything that she seemed to do is to try to put herself in the path of the President.”
He knew that when the log book for his post outside the Oval Office was subpoenaed, “that was the signal that this is going to get really crazy,” because all access to the Oval Office, right down to routine visits from maintenance crew, was logged in detail.
“It got to the point where she was showing up so much that myself and some of the other officers started writing her name down. We started using the book just to keep track of it,” he said of Lewinsky. “Eventually, when she started getting access into the Oval Office with the President — she befriended Betty Curry, the President’s secretary, and again, I can’t really speak to whether they were friends or not, but certainly from my perspective, she befriended her to give herself access.”
Byrne noted that Lewinsky’s presence became especially obvious during the “government shutdown” that occurred during Clinton’s administration, when she was suddenly one of the few people constantly moving around the West Wing. Nevertheless, he said it was not the Secret Service’s job to file constant reports on who the President chose to spend time with.
He did try to bring the “reckless” situation to the attention of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Evelyn Lieberman, who he described as a highly competent administrator he had a great working relationship with, asking her to try to get Lewinsky reassigned away from the West Wing. Byrne knew this was irregular — he said he even invited Lieberman to report him for improperly bypassing his chain of command to speak with her — but the sloppiness of the Clinton White House was beginning to affect the Secret Service.
He cited an incident where he refused an order to shut off the metal detectors at a presidential event, because Clinton staffers wanted to pack as many people into the venue as possible to convey an impression of immense popularity for Bill Clinton, as an example of “user friendliness gone bad.”
As Bannon pointed out, the deterioration of Secret Service standards has arguably continued to the present day — one of two scandals presaged by the Nineties events recounted in Byrne’s book, with the other being Hillary Clinton’s email server.
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