President Clinton’s lawyer Monday asked a court to find prosecutor Kenneth Starr in contempt, accusing him of illegally leaking information about the investigation into an alleged presidential affair. Starr, meanwhile, scheduled former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky to testify on Thursday about whether she had an affair with Clinton and was urged to lie about it.
The day of dueling legal strategies came as Lewinsky’s attorney, William H. Ginsburg, renewed his call for negotiations with Starr about whether Lewinsky will testify in exchange for a grant of immunity. If a deal is not worked out by Thursday, Lewinsky could refuse to testify by citing her constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Lewinsky previously had been subpoenaed to testify, but the date was postponed while negotiations continued. Ginsburg is expected today to try to block Lewinsky’s Thursday appearance on grounds that Starr broke a deal to grant her immunity. Starr has said he wants his aides to interview Lewinsky in person before granting her immunity, but Lewinsky has refused.
Attorneys for Clinton and Lewinsky were in agreement on one thing Monday: no more leaks.
“The leaks must be stopped,” Ginsburg told reporters in Los Angeles.
Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, Monday asked a federal court that Starr be found in contempt, alleging he leaked information from grand jury proceedings. But Kendall, who on Friday released a 15-page complaint about Starr, filed his motion Monday under a court seal of secrecy.
Indeed, in a telling example of how Washington operates, word about Kendall’s secret court motion, filed to protest leaks, was promptly leaked to reporters. Kendall declined to comment on the filing.
At the same time, White House officials Monday acknowledged that Clinton’s lawyers have quizzed attorneys for individuals who have testified before the grand jury in the Lewinsky case. That widens the circle of people who could leak testimony.
On a related matter, Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart acknowledged that Clinton is not barred by law from talking about the Lewinsky case. Clinton said at his Friday press conference that he is merely following court rules by refusing to discuss it. But while Clinton is barred from discussing the Paula Corbin Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against him due to a gag order, there is no such restraint in the Starr probe.
“Probably the best description is just the common sense rule,” Lockhart said. Asked whether Clinton had misspoken, Lockhart responded: “To the extent that you interpreted it as a hard-and-fast rule, then that is not the case.”
Clinton aides, meanwhile, sought to play down a Newsweek report that a White House employee, Ashley Raines, has testified that Lewinsky told her about having a sexual relationship with the president. Clinton aides said Raines, an Arkansas native and customer-service director in the White House Office of Administration, has no direct knowledge about whether Clinton had an affair.
“I can’t see she has done anything to deserve this publicity except be at the White House when this occurred,” White House spokeswoman Ann Lewis said. “I don’t know how statements are being used and misused.”
Raines’ attorney, Wendy White said, did not confirm or deny that Lewinsky told Raines about a sexual relationship with the president.
“Neither Ms. Raines, nor I, nor any member of her family will have any comment on any aspect of the investigation by Mr. Starr’s office,” White said on CNN.
Raines could be valuable for Starr if she backs up the story of former White House employee Linda Tripp, who tape-recorded Lewinsky saying she had an affair with the president.