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Starr Calls Leak Allegations 'Baseless'


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 14) -- Independent Counsel Ken Starr on Saturday attacked as "baseless" allegations that he leaked information to the media in the ongoing Monica Lewinsky investigation.

The claim comes from Brill's Content, a new magazine focusing on the media that hits newsstands this week. In a story released to news agencies Saturday, editor Steven Brill writes that during a 90-minute interview in April, Starr admitted to "briefing" members of the press on a background basis, but insisted that the leaks did not violate grand jury secrecy rules.

"Steven Brill has recklessly and irresponsibly charged the Office of Independent Counsel with improper contact with the media. These charges are false," Starr said in a written statement Saturday.

The cover
The story appears on the cover of the upcoming issue  

"The contacts between the Office of Independent Counsel and journalists have been legal, appropriate and consistent with Department of Justice policy," the statement said.

Brill, in a cover story headlined "Pressgate," said that several reports attributed to unnamed sources contained information from Starr and his deputy, Jackie Bennett, including a January 21 Washington Post article. That article was the first to report that Starr was investigating allegations Clinton had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, a former intern, and encouraged her to lie about it. Both Clinton and Lewinsky have denied any wrongdoing.

Asked by Brill whether the leaks violated Justice Department or American Bar Association guidelines, Starr justified his media briefings.


"That would be true except in case of a situation where what we are doing is countering misinformation that is being spread about our investigation in order to discredit our office and our dedicated career prosecutors."

"I think it is our obligation to counter that kind of misinformation," he said in an apparent reference to White House efforts at spin control. "And it is our obligation to engender public confidence in the work of this office."

In the interview, Starr identified Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, the Post's Susan Schmidt, and Jackie Judd of ABC News as three reporters Bennett talked to "extensively." Starr also said he met with two New York Times reporters before a February 6 article about Bettie Currie, Clinton's secretary, who has appeared before the grand jury on several occasions.

White House urges investigation of Starr

"This article raises grave concerns about Mr. Starr's entire investigation," White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said Saturday. "There are now very serious questions about the way this investigation began and whether Mr. Starr has a conflict that prevents him from investigating his office's conduct in this matter."


"It is now clear that an independent investigator must not only evaluate how Mr. Starr has conducted this investigation, but also address his pattern of violating grand jury secrecy laws," he added.

In February, Clinton's lawyers sought contempt of court sanctions against Starr for what they called a "deluge of leaks." Starr has suggested that the White House itself was the source of the leaks. The motion is still pending.

In the Brill interview, Starr said he had done "nothing improper" in his media contacts, "because we never discussed grand jury proceedings."

"It is definitely not 6-E (the federal rule requiring grand jury secrecy) if you are talking about what witnesses tell FBI agents or us before they testify to the grand jury about related matters," Brill quotes Starr as saying.

But on May 5, after the interview was conducted, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the secrecy rule covers "not only what has occurred and what is occurring, but also what is likely to occur."

The article in the new issue of Brill's Content is highly critical of the media's handling of the Clinton-Lewinsky alleged affair. Brill was equally critical in an interview with CNN.

"In the whole (reporting of the alleged) Monica Lewinsky affair, what we see the press doing, by and large, with some exceptions ... is acting as an enabler of Ken Starr's abuse of power," he said.

In an open letter on the magazine's Web page, Brill, the founder of the CourtTV cable network, says that the mission of his magazine is "to tip the balance of power away from the increasingly arrogant and defensive media and put it back with those who use information, not those who manufacture it."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Sunday, June 14, 1998

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Starr Calls Leak Allegations 'Baseless'

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