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White House targets Starr contact with Jones lawyers

Clinton's legal defense team to meet with committee lawyers

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, October 16) -- House Judiciary Committee lawyers will meet with White House lawyers next Wednesday afternoon to discuss the impeachment inquiry, the committee announced Friday.

The session will take place in the Judiciary Committee Rayburn building office. White House special Counsel Jim Kennedy called it "an initial meeting."

"We welcome this opportunity to have initial discussions with the committee, following their vote to proceed with an inquiry, and we are interested in hearing from the committee about its plans and procedures for going forward," Kennedy said Friday.

As the White House continues to fine tune its anti-impeachment strategy, President Bill Clinton's supporters are targeting the issue of alleged connections between the Paula Jones legal team and Independent Counsel Ken Starr.

Former Paula Jones Attorney Gil Davis says in 1994, a month before Starr was appointed independent counsel, Davis and Starr had a half dozen conversations on whether a sitting president could be sued for private conduct.

Clinton

"I called to get his view on immunity, nothing else," Davis said. "And in fact, he made it clear he had no opinion or position on the merits of the facts in the Paula Jones case."

Following charges of Starr office leaks, contacts with known anti-Clinton activists and the issue of Linda Tripp working simultaneously with both Jones lawyers and Starr prosecutors, the White House sees a new political opening.

Kennedy said Thursday, "There's an overriding public interest here into whether the independent counsel was truly independent -- into whether his jurisdiction was properly sought and properly expanded and that gets to the heart of this whole investigation."

Critics say Starr should have revealed his Jones team contacts to Attorney General Janet Reno when he requested authorization to expand his Whitewater investigation to include the Monica Lewinsky matter.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said because of the overlaps between the Jones case and Lewinsky investigation, Starr "never should have been appointed" to probe the president's relationship with the former intern.

There is a conflict of interest, Frank said, because "He's (Starr's) deeply involved" in the Jones case.

Stephen Salzburg of the George Washington University Law School said, "I believe the attorney general would not have granted him the jurisdiction over the Lewinsky matter had she been fully aware of his contacts and the number of contacts he had with the Jones lawyers."

Starr's office says, "This office did not mislead the Department of Justice regarding relevant facts relating to its jurisdiction, or any expansion thereof."

Further, it says Starr's communications with the Jones camp were long known and reported.

Sources tell CNN the Justice Department will review the issue.

Consider the new questions about Starr a preview. When the House Judiciary Committee begins presidential impeachment hearings, Democrats can be expected to forcefully argue the need to investigate the investigator.

CNN's Gene Randall contributed to this report.


Investigating the President

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Friday, October 16, 1998

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