Reno's Sealed Motion Ran Counter To White House Privilege Claim
By Pierre Thomas/CNN
WASHINGTON (May 28) -- While President Bill Clinton's lawyers were arguing that governmental attorney-client privilege should protect presidential aide Bruce Lindsey from being forced to answer questions about his conversations with the president, the Justice Department suggested in a secret motion to the judge that Lindsey might not be protected.
In a sealed motion filed with the court, Attorney General Janet Reno took the position that White House claims of governmental attorney-client privilege were not absolute.
According to U.S. District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson in her order issued Tuesday, Reno concluded the court should "recognize a qualified privilege that would balance the demands of criminal law enforcement against the asserted need for confidentiality [by the White House]."
In a ruling released Wednesday, Johnson ruled Lindsey and another White House aide, Sidney Blumenthal, should be forced to testify before the grand jury in the Monica Lewinsky probe.
Johnson ruled that while the conversations might have been covered by executive privilege, the needs of Independent Counsel Ken Starr's criminal investigation outweigh the White House claims.
The Justice Department motion remains under seal.