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Federal Judge Rules Clinton's Release of Willey Letters 'A Criminal Violation Of the Privacy Act'

Aired March 29, 2000 - 1:09 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Remember Kathleen Willey? She's a women who went on "60 Minute" and accused President Clinton of sexually harassing her, after which the White House released some letters that cast doubt on that claim.

Well, today a federal judge declared the release of those letters was illegal.

CNN's Bob Franken joins us now to tell us about that, about some old e-mails by Monica Lewinsky.

Bob, what's the story up there?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, let's start with the Kathleen Willey matter. What the judge has ruled -- it is Judge Royce Lamberth, a federal district judge here -- is that President Clinton intentionally violated the criminal law, which is the Privacy Act.

He was ruling in the matter, as you pointed out, of the release of letters that showed that Kathleen Willey maintained her correspondence with the president after the alleged incident, which she described on "60 Minute." That's the one where she said the president had groped her in 1993 in a room off of the Oval Office. Following that, the White House released these letters.

Then, in a lawsuit that really had nothing to do with Kathleen Willey, Judicial Watch, which is an anti-Clinton legal group, tried to do depositions, sworn statements, with some members of the White House about this. Top White House staff members, they said they should not because of a variety of privileges.

The judge has ruled that they must in fact answer the questions. He went on to say, "The president had the requisite intent for committing a criminal violation of the Privacy Act." He's saying the president knew the letters were going to be released, and he should have known that, in fact, it would violent the Privacy Act.

The White House has no immediate comment on that. The interrogatories, they're called, will be taken, according to the judge, in the next 20 days -- Lou.

WATERS: And where are we on this e-mail business, Bob? FRANKEN: The e-mails. By now, we are all aware of the fact that there has now been some evidence, lots of evidence, that there were lots of lost e-mails due to a computer glitch -- a glitch, everyone said. There have been hearings about it. This is a material that could have had to do with various criminal investigations that were going on; a material that had been subpoenaed by congressional committees and various investigators.

And now there are charges that the White House may have intentionally hidden the fact that it did not fully comply with the subpoenas.

The latest development has to do with a zip drive, one of the ways that you can record materials. Somebody who'd testified before a Congressional committee last week did not disclose that he had in fact recorded some of this material, correspondence, e-mail correspondence, between Monica Lewinsky and Betty Curry, had not disclosed that to the congressional committee last week, although he did disclose it in court.

The material between Monica Lewinsky and Betty Curry and Ashley Raines, a close friend of Monica Lewinsky, involve possibly material that was very important to the Monica Lewinsky investigation last year.

Now Burton's committee is holding another hearing tomorrow. We are told that they are going to focus on this and find out if the private contractor, who did not disclose the zip drive, could face some serious charges -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Bob, we'll talk more about this after the presidential news conference, which is scheduled in about 48 minutes from now, in which the president is likely to be asked about the e- mail controversy, the Kathleen Willey matter and gas prices and his trip overseas.

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