Leading criminal defense lawyer who represented Clinton in sex scandals dies at 84

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Attorney Robert S. Bennett in April 2007. Bennett, known for his representation of high-profile clients enmeshed in scandal, died Sept. 10 at his home of kidney failure. He was 84 years old. Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press.

Lawyer Robert S. Bennett, known for his representation of high-profile clients enmeshed in scandal, has died at age 84.

Bennett died Sept. 10 at his home of kidney failure, his daughter told the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Bennett represented former President Bill Clinton in a lawsuit by Paula Jones, who contended that the then-Arkansas governor had sexually harassed her. And he represented Clinton when he lied about a sexual relationship with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Other clients included two former secretaries of defense: Clark Clifford, accused of fraud in a banking scandal, and Caspar Weinberger, accused of lying about his knowledge of the Iran-Contra scandal.

The charges against Clifford were dropped after Bennett argued that he was too frail for a trial at age 86. Weinberger received a presidential pardon before trial, partly because of Bennett’s urging.

“Bennett was a robust warrior for his clients, not least for his ability to deliver an earnest defense of them not only inside the courtroom but outside it as well, before television cameras and reporters,” the New York Times reported.

Among his notable quotes:

  • The Jones suit was “tabloid trash with a legal caption.”

  • An article that reported on rumors of an improper relationship by then-Sen. John McCain was “a big piece of cotton candy. You bite into it, and there’s not much there.”

  • “When you do what I do, you are a kind of orchestra leader, bringing all the instruments together.” The “final piece comes out pretty well.”

Bennett is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center who also received a master of laws from Harvard Law School. A former federal prosecutor, he once once co-led the white-collar crime group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

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