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Starr Gets Access To Whitewater Notes

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 23) -- Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to hear a White House appeal of a lower court ruling giving Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr access to notes taken during meetings between First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and White House attorneys.

The decision effectively required the White House to surrender the notes, which it did, delivering them to Starr late Monday.

The first lady's spokesman, Steve Cohen, told CNN that neither Mrs. Clinton nor her office would comment. When the decision came down, Mrs. Clinton was in San Francisco, where she accompanied her husband from Denver Sunday night following the conclusion of the Summit of the Eight.

Starr would only say, "We're very pleased with the Supreme Court's action."

At issue are notes summarizing two conversations that Mrs. Clinton had with a team of government and private lawyers. One conversation was on Jan. 26, 1996, during breaks in Mrs. Clinton's grand jury testimony that day. The second was during a July 11, 1995 meeting that Mrs. Clinton had with the team of attorneys.

Starr subpoeaned those notes but the White House refused to make them available, saying they were confidential and citing attorney-client privilege.

But in April the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the White House, saying that the relationship between a lawyer and a client did not apply in the case because the White House counsels were government officials and not the first lady's private attorneys.

A source with knowledge of the Whitewater investigation told CNN that although he does not know what's in the notes, the fact that they are being turned over could well mean one more grand jury subpoena for Mrs. Clinton.

Starr has already spoken out about what he calls inconsistent versions of events by the the first lady, and has singled her out as a "central figure" in the Whitwater probe.

As for the notes, another source close close to the inquiry say some lawyers have advocated releasing them to the public. As to whether they're incriminating, she responded "attorneys with that experience would not write down something incriminating."

The White House says that it pursued a Supreme Court review because the implications of the case go beyond Whitewater to a question of legal representation for government officials.

In a statement issued after today's announcement, White House Counsel Charles F.C. Ruff said, "We continue to believe that government lawyers must be allowed to have confidential discussions with their clients if they are to be able to provide candid and effective legal advice, and we regret that the court has decided not to resolve this important issue."

The Justice Department had submitted a friend-of-the court brief also requesting the high court to grant review, arguing that courts should weigh a prosecution's need for the information against government officials' need for effective legal advice.

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