Hillary Clinton believed her husband's affair with Monica Lewinsky was merely a "lapse", dismissing the White House intern as a "narcissistic loony toon", according to newly released private papers from one of her closest friends.
The fresh insight into the mind of Clinton at the height of the scandal that engulfed her husband's presidency in 1998 came as a new biography on the former Secretary of State was published in the United States and momentum continued to build towards a possible presidential run in 2016.
The new papers are the private memos of Diane Blair, a political science professor from Arkansas Clinton once described as her closest friend, who was a regular guest at the White House and advised on two Clinton presidential campaigns.
Polls show Clinton to be the out-and-out frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, but the publication of new documents on the Lewinsky affair show that any presidential campaign will inevitably entail a re-inspection of 35 years of the Clintons' political baggage.
"It was a lapse, but she says to his credit he tried to break it off, tried to pull away, tried to manage someone who was clearly a 'narcissistic loony toon'; but it was beyond control," wrote Blair in a September 1998 note published yesterday by the conservative Washington Free Beacon website.
"HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] insists, no matter what people say, it was gross inappropriate behaviour but it was consensual (was not a power relationship) and was not sex within any real meaning (standup, liedown, oral, etc.) of the term."
The note, which recorded a phone conversation with Clinton, was in documents given to the University of Arkansas after Blair's death in 2000, but were only scrutinised and published by the conservative website this week. The note appears to show Clinton accepting Bill Clinton's own narrow definition of what constituted meaningful sexual contact in his now-infamous denial - "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" - given at a highly charged White House press conference.
Although now nearly 20 years ago, Republicans have made clear the Lewinsky affair - and the Clintons' controversial record in office - is far from forgotten and will resurface if she hits the campaign trail in 2016. Last month Rand Paul, a Republican senator expected to run in 2016, referred directly to the Lewinsky incident to attack both the Clinton brand and challenge the notion that Democrats had a monopoly on the affections of female voters. Paul accused Bill Clinton of "predatory behaviour" for "taking advantage of a young girl in his office" - a characterisation of the affair that Hillary Clinton seems to have rejected in her own mind both then and now.
The documents depict Clinton as "a loyal friend, devoted mother, and a cut-throat strategist" according to the Washington Free Beacon website, a portrait echoed in HRC, a new biography of the former Secretary of State published yesterday.
The book also tells of how Clinton wrote to David Petraeus when he resigned as head of the CIA following an affair with his biographer to express her sympathy and joke "I have a little experience with infidelity".