Report: Clinton Aides May Not Talk
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Prosecutor Kenneth Starr is pressing ahead with his investigation into what role the White House has had in disseminating derogatory personal information amid reports that President Clinton will try to shield his closest aides from grand jury questioning about Monica Lewinsky.
On Tuesday, Starr’s office subpoenaed White House lawyer Lanny Breuer, who has been one of the president’s legal advisers in the Whitewater investigation. Breuer was expected to appear as early as today before the grand jury Starr is using to look into Ms. Lewinsky’s allegations of an alleged presidential affair and cover-up.
That presaged a showdown over what Clinton’s aides should be forced to reveal to Starr.
The New York Times in today’s editions said Clinton has decided to invoke so-called executive privilege to prevent his top aides from testifying about their internal White House discussions about the Lewinsky investigations.
Quoting lawyers involved in the case, the newspaper said the president made the decision after Starr filed a motion last week to compel testimony from his close friend and deputy White House counsel Bruce Lindsey. Lindsey deferred answers to some questions in two appearances before the grand jury.
A hearing before U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson on a White House motion to exert executive privilege could be held as early as this week, the newspaper said.
Two senior Clinton advisers, saying the proceedings are under court seal, would not confirm or deny Tuesday night whether Clinton has decided to invoke executive privilege. But they said many elements of the Times story were not accurate.
Meanwhile, Starr’s decision to look into White House contacts with reporters prompted a sharp attack from Clinton backers.
``This smacks of Gestapo. ... This outstrips McCarthyism. ... Forget chilling effect, this is deep freeze,″ former White House adviser Harold Ickes said.
In response, Starr said he simply wanted to ensure that his investigation was not obstructed. He said he ``has received repeated press inquiries indicating that misinformation is being spread about personnel involved in this investigation.″
``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.
At issue is a recent campaign by presidential supporters to provide damaging information to news organizations, including The Associated Press, about the backgrounds of two of Starr’s prosecutors.
Earlier in their careers, Bruce Udolf and Michael Emmick supervised cases in which prosecutors’ conduct was sharply criticized. The feeding of derogatory information about the investigators is part of a larger campaign by the Clinton camp to portray Starr as waging a political vendetta against the president and the first lady.
Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal was directed by grand jury subpoena to produce all records of his conversations with reporters about Starr’s investigation. He did not testify, but was ordered to return Thursday.
In other developments Tuesday:
_Legal sources say Starr made a contact with the Lewinsky camp, but there were no signs of any move to gain her cooperation in the investigation.
_A federal judge gave lawyers for Paula Jones more time to respond to Clinton’s request that her sexual harassment lawsuit against him be dismissed. The trial is scheduled for May 27.
Blumenthal and private investigator Terry F. Lenzner met in separate closed-door sessions with the judge, Johnson, to contest Starr’s effort to make them testify. Lenzner said outside the sessions that he would raise objections of attorney-client privilege in challenging the subpoena.
Lenzner is working for the law firm of Clinton’s private attorney in the Whitewater probe, Williams & Connolly, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, the law firm representing Clinton in the Jones lawsuit.
Clinton’s private 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.″ They said it was ``commonplace for private counsel to retain commercial investigative services to perform legal and appropriate tasks to assist in the defense of a client.″
On the main track of Starr’s investigation of Ms. Lewinsky’s reported claims that she had an affair with Clinton and he asked her to lie about it, which he denies:
_Marsha Scott, deputy assistant to the president and chief of staff of presidential personnel, waited outside the grand jury room but did not testify.
_Ms. Lewinsky’s former White House boss, Jocelyn Jolley, 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, said through her lawyer, Richard Sauber, that she had no information about any impropriety.