White House Aide Leaves Grand Jury Without Testifying
By Bob Franken and John King/CNN
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 24) -- Independent Counsel Ken Starr is playing hardball, issuing subpoenas to top White House aides who are critical of his tactics. before his grand jury looking into sex-and-perjury allegations against President Bill Clinton.
White House attorney Lanny Breuer has been subpoenaed and may testify as early as Wednesday before the grand jury looking into sex-and-perjury allegations against President Bill Clinton, CNN has learned. Breuer is a top official in the White House damage control operation.
And Sidney Blumenthal, a White House strategist and close confidant of Hillary Rodham Clinton, was called to discuss his conversations with reporters about Starr's operation. After his failed attempt to have the subpoena quashed Tuesday morning, Blumenthal spent most of the day at the federal courthouse but was not called to testify. He was told to return Thursday.
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Blumenthal's attorney, Jo Marsh, was furious. She said Starr has been "unprofessional from the beginning." "Our conclusion after today is Ken Starr is out of control. He has total disregard for the rights of private citizens and for anyone else other than his staff," Marsh said.
"And this is all so Mr. Starr can just find out which of you guys (reporters) Sidney has been talking to lately and what he said," Marsh concluded.
The grand jury is looking into reports that Clinton had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern, and encouraged her to lie about it under oath. Clinton has denied both accusations.
Blumenthal's appearance was rescheduled for Thursday, but there is no assurance he will testify. "We are totally at the whim of Mr. Starr, and whenever he decides to yank us back here, I guess we'll be here," Marsh said.
The White House is harshly criticizing Starr's subpoenas of White House aides. A source close to the president's legal team said the administration viewed Starr's efforts as "intimidation, plain and simple. This is a man who needs to be asked about abuse of power."
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart called the subpoenas "a clear abuse of power that we haven't seen in this town in a long time. The use of subpoenas to silence criticism is outrageous and over the line."
But Starr defended his tactics. "This office 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 said in a statment issued Tuesday night.
Blumenthal, a former reporter, was brought in to help with speech writing and communications strategy for Clinton's second term. Starr subpoenaed Blumenthal and indicated he wanted to question him not only about Lewinsky, but also about his contacts with journalists regarding Starr and his office.
At a hearing earlier Tuesday before Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, Blumenthal attempted to have Starr's subpoena quashed. But the judge ruled Blumenthal would have to testify.
In what his lawyer called a victory, the judge ruled Blumenthal would only have to produce records about contacts he had with reporters about Starr during Blumenthal's tenure at the White House. The subpoena could have included contacts before he officially went to work for the Clinton Administration.
A source familiar with the hearing characterized the arguments of
Starr's prosecutors as saying anyone spreading misinformation could be subject to testify in front of the grand jury. It is within their jurisdiction and could be obstruction of justice.
In recent days, sources close to Starr have complained of what they consider a carefully calculated White House effort to discredit Starr's team of prosecutors and have raised the possibility of investigating if the White House and its allies are attacking Starr's prosecutors as a means of delaying and obstructing the Lewinsky investigation.
Whitewater private investigator appears before grand jury
Meanwhile, private investigator Terry F. Lenzner, also subpoenaed by Starr, appeared before the grand jury Tuesday. Lenzner was ordered to bring along any documents relating to investigations of Starr and his deputies, according to sources.
Lenzner and his firm, Investigative Group Inc., work for Williams & Connolly, the law firm representing Clinton in the Whitewater investigation and the Lewinsky controversy.
The subpoena also requested any documents or other records detailing Lenzner's dealings with reporters related to the Starr investigation, sources say.
Joseph Digenova, a Washington attorney, alleged Sunday that he and his wife, Victoria Toensing, are being investigated by people loyal to Clinton because of their outspokeness in the case.
On Tuesday, Clinton's private lawyers defended their use of a private investigator as appropriate and denied investigating DiGenova or Toensing.
"It is commonplace for private counsel to retain commercial investigative services to perform legal and appropriate tasks to assist in the defense of a client," Clinton lawyers David Kendall and Robert Bennett said in a written statement. "Public officials deserve, and from these two law firms will receive, a no less vigorous defense than private citizens under similar circumstances."
"There is public information available, which, of course, it is our duty as counsel to research and gather; but we have not investigated, and are not investigating, the personal lives of Ms. Toensing, Mr. diGenova, prosecutors, investigators, or members of the press," Bennett and Kendall said.
Kantor subpoena dropped
Starr also tried to subpoena former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, but backed off after the White House objected on grounds that Kantor is now the first family's private attorney and as such enjoys attorney-client privilege, according to sources.
Kantor signed on a month ago as the president's lawyer in the Lewinsky investigation. Sources say he was informed Friday that he would be subpoenaed. White House lawyers then objected, citing Kantor's professional representation of the president. Starr's office never served the subpoena.
In other developments at the courthouse, White House scheduling aide Jennifer Palmieri testified before the grand jury Tuesday.
Palmieri worked as a scheduler and executive assistant to former Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. In that position, she supervised Lewinsky when she was a White House intern working in Panetta's office.
Marsha Scott, a Clinton friend, was also called to testify. Scott is
deputy assistant to the president and chief of staff of presidential personnel.
Former Lewinsky co-workers subpoenaed
Two former co-workers of Lewinsky in the White House office of legislative affairs, Tim Keating and Jocelyn Jolley, also have been subpoenaed to testify before Starr's grand jury.
Jolley, who worked with Lewinsky in the legislative coordination office at the White House, and was dismissed the same day as Lewinsky, testified Tuesday.