Starr Urged To Indict Lewinsky
Clinton would become unindicted co-conspirator
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 3) -- The office of Independent
Counsel Ken Starr is considering seeking an indictment against Monica Lewinsky for perjury, and naming President Bill Clinton as an unindicted co-conspirator, according to two sources familiar with Starr's investigation.
The option has been considered, and researched, since the early days of the Clinton-Lewinsky probe, but the sources say this week's dismissal of the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit has intensified debate over it.
Starr's office is investigating whether Clinton and Lewinsky had an affair, and, if so, whether Clinton asked the former White House intern to lie about it under oath to Jones' attorneys.
When asked at a news conference Friday morning about the reports of a possible indictment, Clinton said, "On the other matter, you know ... I'm not going to comment on that."
"I'm going on with my business. Others can comment on that," said the president.
Some of the more aggressive prosecutors in Starr's office are encouraging Starr to indict Lewinsky and name Clinton as an unindicted co-conspirator, the sources said.
Under this scenario, Starr would seek an indictment of Lewinsky for perjury and subornation of perjury for her alleged efforts to get co-worker Linda Tripp to lie under oath to Jones' attorneys. The indictment would also name others "known to the grand jury" who allegedly participated in the scheme, the sources said.
This unindicted co-conspirator option has been considered and researched since early in the Whitewater investigation and is labeled "the Nixon approach" by one of its advocates.
But one source stressed this is just one of many options. and said Starr
could air his case publicly by indicting Lewinsky without naming the president in the charges.
This source said Justice Department rules for naming unindicted co-conspirators were tightened because of criticism Watergate prosecutors received for using the tactic against President Richard Nixon. Said this source: "The evidence against him would have to be cold, without cracks. Otherwise, it is risky both politically and legally."
This source said prosecutors in Starr's office were "surprisingly unconcerned" about the dismissal of the Paula Jones case although they acknowledge "a tougher public relations climate now for at least the short term."
And the source forcefully defended the office's decision to subpoena records of Lewinsky's book purchases. Said the source: "Judge Starr is well aware of what Monica Lewinsky reads - her apartment was thoroughly searched. The records are necessary to corroborate dates of purchases and alleged gifts - not to get her reading list."
Lawyers await ruling on immunity agreement
One potential barrier is the debate over whether Lewinsky has a binding immunity agreement with the Office of the Independent Counsel, as her attorney contends. One of the sources said no prosecutorial decisions can be made until the judge rules on that dispute.
Another source, an attorney consulted for research on the issue, said indicting Lewinsky would give Starr an opportunity to publicly air his evidence against Clinton and others. The risk, this source acknowledged, would be a potential public backlash against Starr for indicting the former White House intern on allegations that stem from Jones' now-dismissed civil case.
But Starr indicated Thursday he would not allow the Jones case ruling to affect his decisions. He explained that the scope of his office's Lewinsky probe is "very different."
In any event, the sources said no decision on such major strategic approaches was imminent, citing the looming Lewinsky-immunity ruling and continued failure to reach an agreement for the president to give his version of events.
In a decision related to the immunity ruling, handed down this week, Chief U.S. District Judge Norma Halloway Johnson ruled that Lewinsky's first attorney must testify before Starr's grand jury about conversations he had with Lewinsky, the Washington Post reported Friday.
Sources told the Post that Johnson concluded that attorney-client privilege did not apply to attorney Francis D. Carter, because evidence suggests Lewinsky intended to commit a crime when she hired him.
Lewinsky retained Carter to help her draft her January 7 affidavit for Jones' lawyers, in which she denied having a sexual relationship with Clinton, the Post said.
Correspondents John King and Bob Franken contributed to this