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E-mail From Washington

From: Wolf Blitzer/CNN
In: Washington
Posted: 5-2-97

Subject: Court Battle Brewing Over First Lady's Whitewater Testimony, Notes

A Supreme Court battle between the White House and Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr is looming.

At issue are the notes taken by former White House deputy counsel Jane Sherburne following First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's testimony in January 1996 before a Whitewater grand jury in Washington. Mrs. Clinton briefed Sherburne on the six hours of her testimony upon her return to the White House.

Starr wants those notes but the White House says they are confidential, citing lawyer-client privilege. The White House has refused to make them available to Starr.

But the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the White House, noting that Sherburne was a government official and not the first lady's private attorney.

That court ruling was unsealed this morning at 10:30 a.m. EDT. The White House is now expected to take its case to the Supreme Court.

In response to the circuit court's ruling, Starr issued this statement:

"We are very pleased by the ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit. The Court rejected the White House's unprecedented assertions of attorney-client and work product privileges as bases for a federal government agency to withhold relevant information from the federal grand jury.

"In reaching its conclusion, the Court stated: 'We believe the strong public interest in honest government and in exposing wrongdoing by public officials would be ill-served by recognition of a governmental attorney-client privilege applicable in criminal proceedings inquiring into the actions of public officials. We also believe that to allow any part of the federal government to use its in-house attorneys as a shield against the production of information relevant to a federal criminal investigation would represent a gross misuse of public assets.'

"The Court's decision reinforces a bedrock principle that we have been articulating for over two years in discussions with the White House: White House attorneys are government attorneys, not private attorneys," Starr's statement concluded.

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