Appeal Filed on Secret Service Rule
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department today appealed a court decision compelling Secret Service personnel to testify in the investigation of President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
Representing the Secret Service, the department asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reconsider the ruling by a three-judge panel of the court.
``The collective judgment of the only persons capable of appraising the impact of compelled testimony _ the persons required by Congress to protect the president’s safety _ cannot be set aside without very good reason,″ the department legal brief said. ``And none exists here.″
The Lewinsky probe moved forward on another front today, with one of prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s chief witnesses, Linda Tripp, returning to the U.S. Courthouse for a fifth day of grand jury testimony. Mrs. Tripp’s tape-recorded conversations with Ms. Lewinsky are at the center of the investigation.
A three-judge panel of the court ruled last week that Starr can question Secret Service personnel before the grand jury looking into allegations that President Clinton had a sexual relationship with former White House intern Lewinsky, then lied about it and asked her to lie.
Six of the full court’s 11 judges would have to agree to reconsider the case. If the full appeals court does not rehear the case, the Justice Department could ask the Supreme Court to consider it.
If the full court hears the appeal, it would set Starr further back in his attempt to question Secret Service personnel about what they saw and heard about any relationship between Clinton and Lewinsky.
Justice Department lawyers argued unsuccessfully that forcing an agent to reveal the actions and words of the president could undermine trust between the president and his bodyguards and increase the chances of an assassination.
In its decision last Tuesday, the three appeals court judges said it should be left to Congress to determine ``whether a protective function is appropriate in order to ensure the safety of the president, and, if so, what the contours of that privilege″ should be.
Starr is seeking testimony from uniformed Secret Service officers Gary Byrne and Brian Henderson and agency lawyer John Kelleher about what they or others learned while guarding Clinton.