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White House Prepares To Assert Executive Privilege

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WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 25) -- White House lawyers are preparing legal briefs to defend the administration's position that executive privilege should shield several of President Bill Clinton's top aides from certain questions in the Monica Lewinsky investigation, sources tell CNN.

The administration first asserted executive privilege last week during the grand jury testimony of Clinton confidant Bruce Lindsey. Lindsey declined to discuss his conversations with the president about the Lewinsky controversy.

Sources familiar with the case say Independent Counsel Ken Starr then filed a motion to compel Lindsey to testify. A hearing was held before the judge overseeing the grand jury. She asked both sides to try to work out a compromise to avoid a constitutional showdown over executive privilege.

Also in this story:
A First Amendment debate?
More grand jury appearances

But sources report no substantive progress, and say talks between the White House and Starr's office are virtually nonexistent. As a result, both sides are preparing detailed legal briefs to defend their positions, and expect the judge to call a hearing within the next week.

The grand jury is looking into reports that Clinton had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern, and encouraged her to lie about it under oath. Clinton has denied both accusations.

lindsey

The battle affects more than Lindsey. Deputy White House Chief of Staff John Podesta and senior communications aide Sidney Blumenthal are prepared to declare some questions off-limits on grounds of privilege.

The issue may also come up in the questioning of White House special counsel Lanny Breuer who, like Lindsey, believes some of his deliberations are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Sources close to Starr's office say he is prepared to appeal if no compromise is reached and he loses before the judge supervising the grand jury.

The White House has hired attorney Neil Eggleston to prepare its brief, in consultation with White House lawyers. He used to work in the Clinton White House counsel's office and defended the administration's position in a prior case over executive privilege.

A First Amendment debate?

Also at issue is the independent counsel's contention that the White House is conducting an organized effort to discredit Starr's team of prosecutors. Starr's latest subpoenas have targeted information about what has been said about himself and others connected with his investigation. Sources close to Starr complain that these attacks are a means of delaying and obstructing the Lewinsky investigation.

Starr's decision to look into White House contacts with reporters drew criticism from Clinton supporters.

"This smacks of Gestapo. ... This outstrips McCarthyism. ...Forget chilling effect, this is deep freeze," former White House adviser Harold Ickes said.

Blumenthal, who is now scheduled to appear Thursday, will be asked to discuss his conversations with reporters about Starr's operation.

Officials familiar with the Clinton legal strategy say Breuer's subpoena also requests material and information related to any White House effort to spread information about the conduct and tactics of Starr's investigators and prosecutors.

Starr defended the subpoenas Wednesday, saying, "It isn't in the interest of the First Amendment for distortions, lies about career civil servants to be spread about. We don't know who is spreading them about. But lies and distortions have no place in our First Amendment universe."

More grand jury appearances

thomasson

Tim Keating, a former Lewinsky co-worker, appeared before the grand jury Wednesday. Keating was a veteran Capitol Hill aide before working as a top deputy to former White House legislative affairs director John Hilley.

Keating hired Lewinsky for a paying job in the Office of Legislative Affairs after her White House internship, and later transferred her to the Pentagon. He now works in the private sector in Washington.

Also appearing Wednesday were Patsy Thomasson and Nancy Hernreich. Thomasson was the deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of presidential personnel. She is now at the State Department. Thomasson was questioned about Lewinsky's time at the White House and the details of her transfer to the Pentagon. Thomasson said she didn't even know Lewinsky and had "nothing to offer" about any relationship between Lewinsky and the president.

Hernreich appeared at the courthouse with her lawyer Gerard Treano. Hernreich, director of Oval Operations, worked with Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas. Hernreich shares an office with Clinton secretary Betty Currie.

In Other News

Wednesday Feb. 25, 1998

White House Prepares to Assert Executive Privilege
Jones' Lawyers Say Clinton Lawyers Made Settlement Offer
Lott Says Annan Appears 'Bent on Appeasement'
House Limits Profits Of Doctor-Congressmen
Executive Privilege Old As The Union
Trie Documents To Be Released Thursday
White House Scandal At A Glance
Rep. Paxon To Retire From Congress

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