Supreme Court May Expedite Starr's Request On Executive Privilege
Court asks White House to respond by Monday afternoon
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 29) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has asked for responses as early as Monday afternoon from the White House following Independent Counsel Ken Starr's request for an expedited hearing on executive privilege.
CNN has learned the high court has asked for a written response from the White House by 4:30 p.m. EDT on June 1. The court's response appears to indicate the justices are willing to consider the case on an emergency basis.
Starr has asked the Supreme Court to bypass the appeals court as well as the district court. The latter has ruled that President Bill Clinton cannot use executive privilege to protect two key aides from testifying in the Monica Lewinsky probe.
Starr filed a petition Thursday with the Supreme Court for an "expedited response" in his dispute with the White House. He argued Clinton has made a "direct challenge ... to the ability of a federal grand jury to obtain relevant evidence of possible criminal activity."
White House officials say they always knew the expedited response request was an option for Starr, but concede they were caught by surprise by his preemptive move. The president's lawyers are preparing their response.
Request unusual, but not impossible
Starr suggested a swift timetable with arguments before the scheduled June 30 end of the Supreme Court session.
The request is unusual, but not impossible.
In 1974 -- 24 years ago this month -- the Supreme Court received petitions to hear President Richard Nixon's Watergate claim of executive privilege. Arguments were July 8 and the court ruled against Nixon July 24. Two weeks later, Nixon resigned.
Starr bases his case on that decision against Nixon, which ruled that "the privilege must give way to the fair administration of criminal justice. If the evidence is relevant to a criminal investigation or prosecution, it must be turned over."
The parallel to Nixon and Watergate is one the White House was hoping to avoid. But Starr has forced the president's hand with his filing, ominously labeled, "United States of America vs. William Jefferson Clinton."
Clinton has claimed that executive privilege protects his conversations with White House Deputy Counsel Bruce Lindsey and communications adviser Sidney Blumenthal. Earlier this week, Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ordered the two aides to testify before Starr's grand jury investigating the Monica Lewinsky matter.
Evidence deemed 'relevant...important'
Johnson called their discussions with the president and first lady Hillary Clinton about Lewinsky "some of the most relevant and important evidence" in the investigation.
The judge concluded that the communications were covered by executive privilege, but that Starr had successfully argued the information "cannot feasibly be obtained elsewhere." Full Text Of Ruling
Starr's grand jury is looking into charges that Clinton lied under oath about a sexual relationship with the former White House intern and asked her to do the same. The president has denied the allegations.
CNN's Charles Bierbauer and Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.