Starr Summons White House Aides
WASHINGTON (AP) _ In a legal subplot to the escalating Monica Lewinsky story, Whitewater prosecutors Tuesday summoned a White House aide and a private investigator for questioning about how negative information about Kenneth Starr’s office was fed to news reporters.
And in another surprise move, Starr subpoenaed White House lawyer Lanny Breuer, who has been part of the president’s legal defense team in the Whitewater investigation. Breuer is tentatively scheduled to appear Wednesday before the grand jury.
The latest turn in the case prompted an outcry from the White House over subpoenas that brought presidential aide Sidney Blumenthal and private investigator Terry F. Lenzner to the federal courthouse. Prosecutors postponed Blumenthal’s appearance and he was to return Thursday, but Lenzner went before the grand jury. Starr`s staff even tried to subpoena Clinton lawyer Mickey Kantor but relented when his law firm raised objections.
``This smacks of Gestapo,″ said former senior White House aide Harold Ickes, who is now advising the Clinton camp informally. ``This outstrips McCarthyism. What is this, a police state?″
``It’s us today and probably you tomorrow,″ presidential spokesman Mike McCurry told reporters.
The prosecutor’s office ``has received repeated press inquiries indicating that misinformation is being spread about personnel involved in this investigation,″ Starr said.
``We are using traditional and appropriate techniques to find out who is responsible and whether their actions are intended to intimidate prosecutors and investigators, impede the work of the grand jury, or otherwise obstruct justice,″ Starr added.
``I find this total disregard for other people’s livelihood and rights and lives just to be absolutely horrible,″ Blumenthal’s lawyer, Jo Marsh, told reporters outside the federal courthouse. ``This is all so Mr. Starr can just find out which one of you guys Sidney has been talking to lately.″
On the main track of Starr’s investigation into an alleged presidential affair and cover-up, the grand jury summoned:
_Ms. Lewinsky’s former White House boss, Jocelyn Jolley, who testified to the grand jury for 1 1/2 hours _ as prosecutors delved into the still-unanswered question of why Ms. Lewinsky and Ms. Jolley were both abruptly transferred out of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs simultaneously in April 1996.
_Jennifer Palmieri, deputy director of the White House scheduling office. Her lawyer, Richard Sauber, said she has no information about any impropriety and he has no idea why she was called to testify.
_Clinton friend Marsha Scott, who waited outside the grand jury room, but did not testify. Scott is deputy assistant to the president and chief of staff of presidential personnel.
The appearances of Blumenthal and Lenzner at the U.S. Courthouse were the focus of attention.
Starr’s subpoena to Blumenthal is ``very broad,″ said his lawyer, Ms. Marsh.
``We view it as an assault on the First Amendment″ and ``I think this is obviously intended to ... intimidate the press,″ Ms. Marsh added.
Blumenthal was directed by grand jury subpoena to produce all records of his conversations with reporters about Starr’s investigation.
Both Blumenthal and Lenzner met in separate closed-door sessions with U.S. District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson to contest Starr’s effort to make them testify. Lenzner appeared twice before the grand jury, saying in between sessions that he would raise objections of attorney-client privilege in challenging the subpoena.
Lenzner, head of Investigative Group Inc., is working for the law firm of President Clinton’s private attorney in the Whitewater probe, Williams & Connolly, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, the law firm, representing Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.
Clinton’s lawyers, David Kendall and Robert Bennett, said ``we have not investigated, and are not investigating, the personal lives of ... prosecutors, investigators, or members of the press.″ Kendall and Bennett said that ``it is commonplace for private counsel to retain commercial investgative services to perform legal and appropriate tasks to assist in the defense of a client.″
Lenzner was a controversial figure in last year’s Senate campaign finance hearings when it was disclosed he was approached by an Oklahoma Indian tribe to dig up dirt on Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., a member of the Senate panel. Lenzner and tribal representatives were brought together by Cody Shearer, an acquaintance of the president and brother-in-law of Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Talbott’s wife, Brooke Shearer, once worked for Lenzner’s firm.
In recent days, a number of news organizations, including The Associated Press, have published stories about two prosecutors in Starr’s office, Bruce Udolf and Michael Emmick. The two supervised earlier cases in which prosecutors’ conduct was sharply criticized.
The AP story said that the pasts of Udolf and Emmick are now being publicized as defense lawyers and critics of the Lewinsky investigation intensely examine the careers of Starr’s prosecutors.
Legal experts said there are serious questions about Starr’s latest move.
``It’s hard for me to conceive of a specific and focused law enforcement reason for subpoenaeing Blumenthal; and it’s easy for me to conceive of a personal and vengeful motive for the conduct,″ said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers, an expert in legal ethics.
Starr’s prosecutors tried to subpoena Kantor at the end of last week, but Kantor and his family weren’t home to receive it when representatives from Starr’s office showed up. When Kantor’s law firm raised objections, citing attorney-client privilege, the prosecutors decided not to press the subpoena.