Clinton Allies Attack Starr Again
Jordan is set to appear before the grand jury on Tuesday
SALT LAKE CITY (AllPolitics, March 1) -- The first family wrapped up a ski vacation this weekend in Utah and prepared for their return to Washington and what promises to be a busy week in Independent Counsel Ken Starr's investigation of the president. Meanwhile, Starr took a somewhat bipartisan bashing for his work.
Democrats on Sunday called for him to step down, and even Republicans who have been critical of President Bill Clinton admitted Starr may have been unwise in extending his investigation to some of the president's top aides.
Starr was criticized for subpoenaing senior White House communications aide Sidney Blumenthal last week to ask whether he spread lies in an attempt to sabotage the independent counsel.
"I think that Ken Starr made a mistake on that," Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Vernon Jordan, a close friend of the president, has been called to appear Tuesday before the federal grand jury investigating President Bill Clinton's alleged affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
The grand jury is looking into reports that Clinton had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and encouraged her to lie about it under oath. Clinton has emphatically denied both accusations.
In a public statement, Lanny Davis, a former White House special counsel, called Starr "a prosecutor, in my opinion who has lost all judgment, who is out of control and who I think is guilty of misconduct that needs to be investigated."
Sources: Clinton admitted physical relationship
While Starr's detractors attacked his investigation, one source involved with White House legal strategy and another close to the damage control effort told CNN the president has admitted a physical relationship, but not a sexual one.
Aides have declined comment on the substance of such reports, saying only that there is no new "spin" strategy emerging.
"We're not floating trial balloons, we're not trying to put out alternate theories, all we're trying to do is have an investigation, have it fair, have it concluded, and get about the business of the country," Clinton adviser Paul Begala said on CNN's "Late Edition."
Lewinsky's attorney, Bill Ginsburg, discounted reports that the White House was considering an admission by Clinton of limited physical contact between himself and Lewinsky.
"You'll have to ask the president what the truth is, but I don't think that is going to happen. And I don't think there is any truth to it given the affidavit that my client stands on," Ginsburg said.
Tripp, Starr meet on Sunday
Meanwhile, lawyers for Linda Tripp, who secretly taped Lewinsky discussing an alleged relationship with Clinton, say she met on Sunday with Starr for a "full and complete day of talks with the independent counsel's office."
The lawyers would not comment on the nature of the discussions, but said more meetings are scheduled. The attorneys, Anthony Zaccagnini and Joseph Murtha, said they were very happy with Starr's investigation and his treatment of Tripp's case in particular.
Zaccagnini and Murtha said Tripp is under a lot of pressure but is doing well. They added she appreciates the support she is getting from letters, and that she plans to tell the truth during her upcoming testimony.
In his appearance on "Late Edition," Begala denied he and other aides were interfering with Starr's investigation.
"There's no effort to intimidate," Begala told CNN, adding that it's not Clinton's place to have Starr removed by Attorney General Janet Reno.
"Obviously there would be a political firestorm. That's not for us to judge. Far better for the American people to see for themselves," he said.
Criticism of Starr from some Republicans
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, "The fact of the matter is that ... Starr has gotten totally out of control. He has this fixation of trying to topple the president of the United States. He's doing everything possible to do it."
On the same show, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) came to Starr's defense, contending the prosecutor has "done a very good job."
"There's no question that he has to sit there like a punching bag and take really unfair punches thrown at him," Hatch said.
But, he added, Starr's subpoena of Blumenthal to ask whether he tried to sabotage Starr's investigation, while legal, may have gone too far.
"In the federal criminal code it says if people are trying to impede the investigation ... it's illegal," Hatch said. "It's a criminal act. He was perfectly within the codes of legal sanctions to do what he did. ... I think it was politically inadvisable. But I don't think it was illegal."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that while issuing a subpoena to Blumenthal may have been a "mistake public relations-wise," Starr should not step aside.
Critics: Rhetoric shifts focus from real issues
Critics of the president say the White House rhetoric shifts the focus of the Lewinsky investigation from whether Clinton had an improper with Lewinsky and then pressured her to lie about it to whether Starr's investigation is reasonable.
"What the White House had done is to mount a series of attacks on Ken Starr's flanks, a series of side shows that have detracted from the message the public ought to be pondering, and that is the president's failure to follow through on his commitment to give a full and complete explanation," former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh said on "Late Edition."
CNN's Eileen O'Connor contributed to this report.