Senator Plans To Probe Clinton's Use Of White House Lawyers
President considers suit to force insurers to pay legal bills
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 4) -- A Republican senator on Saturday called for an investigation into whether the White House is using taxpayers' dollars to pay for lawyers and legal aides to defend President Bill Clinton in his personal legal matters.
Giving the Republicans' weekly radio address, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., who chairs a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the White House budget, says there has been an explosion in the size of the White House counsel's office since 1993, when it consisted of four people.
"Today, it appears there may be as many as 100 lawyers and legal assistants working at your expense to defend the president against a mountain of charges and allegations about his personal behavior," said Campbell, who said he was planning to hold hearings to investigate the spending.
"The president, just as any other American, deserves a legal defense against personal lawsuits not related to his office," Campbell said. "But the costs of that defense should be borne by him and not the taxpayer."
White House: Campbell charge 'reckless'
In response, White House spokesman James Kennedy called Campbell's charge "reckless and false." He said staff has been added to the counsel's office because of what he termed "partisan inquiries" that have required the White House to produce documents and comply with subpoena requests.
"For the Republicans to complain about our work is like the arsonist complaining about the cost of the fire department," Kennedy said.
Kennedy also disputed Campbell's figures, saying there are 19 attorneys in the counsel's office, seven of whom are dealing with investigations of the president and the White House. He said that was comparable to the staffing level in the Bush administration and below the 65 attorneys at the Reagan White House during the Iran-Contra scandal.
Clinton's lawyers look at suing insurers
CNN has also learned that Clinton's private lawyers are considering suing two insurance companies to force them to pay some of the legal bills stemming from Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit, which was dismissed last week by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright in Little Rock, Ark.
The president's legal costs, from the Jones case and the investigation by independent counsel Ken Starr, are in excess of $3 million.
The two companies -- State Farm and Pacific Indemnity -- have paid $1.5 million in legal bills for Clinton, who had personal liability policies with them prior to becoming president. But they stopped paying for Clinton's defense last September when Wright dismissed some counts of Jones' suit, saying their obligation to pay the president's bills had ended with that decision.
A source familiar with the White House legal strategy said Clinton's attorney, Robert Bennett, has asked lawyers at the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling to explore a lawsuit against the two companies.
Such a move could put Clinton in the politically risky position of suing an industry which is regulated by the federal government.
Bennett and others working on Clinton's defense in the Jones case have been trying unsuccessfully to persuade the two companies to restore coverage, arguing that they have an obligation to continue paying the bills until the Jones case is fully resolved. They contend that will not happen until all appeals are exhausted.
CNN White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report