Will Lewinsky Have To Plead Guilty To Get Immunity?
Podesta, Blumenthal and Currie expected before the grand jury
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 22) -- The legal team for Monica Lewinsky and Independent Counsel Ken Starr's office are continuing to try to reach an agreement in which Lewinsky would receive immunity from prosecution in exchange for her full cooperation in the investigation.
In preliminary contacts over the past two weeks, Starr's prosecutors have made clear they certainly want Lewinsky to plead guilty to some offense as part of an agreement to become a cooperative witness against President Bill Clinton. But CNN has learned they're not making that a bottom-line demand.
Three lawyers familiar with the negotiations say Starr might be willing to drop that condition and to offer the former intern full immunity if he concludes she's fully cooperating and not holding anything back.
Starr's team is still far from convinced that's the case.
As the process continues, all sides are jockeying for position, using selective leaks to the news media.
To test Lewinsky's truthfulness, Starr's prosecutors want to interview her at length in advance of any deal and an eventual grand jury appearance. Lewinsky's lawyers oppose that.
Her new legal team, led by Plato Cacheris and Jacob Stein, in turn want Starr to give them access to the more than 20 hours of secretly-recorded audio tapes of her conversations with Linda Tripp.
Several lawyers familiar with the talks say Lewinsky, if granted immunity, remains ready to testify she did have sexual relations with the president. This despite her earlier sworn denial in an affidavit she gave in connection with the Paula Jones lawsuit against Clinton.
But the lawyers say the major sticking point for now -- as it was when Bill Ginsburg was Lewinsky's attorney -- remains her continuing refusal to say the president or his friend Vernon Jordan directly urged her to lie under oath. That would constitute obstruction of justice.
Still, both sides share a strong common interest in getting a deal: Lewinsky's lawyers want her protected from prosecution and Starr's lawyers see her as a damaged but still potentially critical witness in any case they make against the president.
Deputy White House chief of staff John Podesta has been subpoenaed to appear before Starr's grand jury on Tuesday, sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN. Podesta's return is expected to kick off a likely stretch of appearances this week by high-profile figures in the case.
CNN is told that Linda Tripp is among those on notice to be called as early as this week. Also on tap: White House aide Sidney Blumenthal and presidential secretary Betty Currie.
The sources suggest the grand jury phase of the Lewinsky investigation is winding down, except for outstanding questions over the testimony of presidential confidante Bruce Lindsey and Secret Service officers. Those issues are being argued before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and could go to the Supreme Court after that.
Podesta, who is being recalled after testifying briefly early in the investigation, runs the day-to-day damage control operation at the White House, among other things.
Blumenthal and Currie also have testified previously, several times in Currie's case. It was Tripp who secretly recorded Lewinsky discussing her alleged relationship with the president; she has been cooperating with investigators but has not yet appeared before the grand jury.
The grand jury is investigating allegations that President Bill Clinton had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, and asked the former White House intern to lie about it. Clinton has denied both charges.
The Justice Department formally responded Monday to Starr's legal arguments that Secret Service agents may be compelled to testify before a grand jury.
In its reply brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals, the Justice Department, on behalf of the Secret Service, argues that judgments involving the president's safety "are for the agency, not an Independent Counsel to make."
The brief, signed by Attorney General Janet Reno, claims Judge Norma Holloway Johnson had failed to accord "considerable deference" to the expertise of the Secret Service when she rejected similar arguments in her ruling last month.
Johnson had pointedly dismissed the government's contention that a president might place himself at risk by keeping his protective Secret Service agents at a distance because they could testify about what they had witnessed during protective duty.
In replying to the brief by Starr's prosecutors, the Justice lawyers say that if the independent counsel's arguments were accepted Secret Service agents
could be forced to testify even in civil cases in which the president is not a party.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia now has the last of
the written arguments in hand, and will hear oral argument in the case this Friday, June 26. It is expected to take at least a few months for the Appeals
Court to issue its ruling.
An appeal to the Supreme Court is widely expected.
Starr failed to win an emergency hearing of the issue by the Supreme Court, hoping to bypass the appeals court in an effort to speed the process.
CNN has learned that a compromise has been struck in which the records of Lewinsky book purchases from Kramer Books in Washington will be turned over to Starr.
The records will not come from Kramer Books but from the attorneys for Lewinsky. The bookstore meanwhile, will drop its appeal of a lower court order to provide the records to the Office of the Independent Counsel.
By negotiating a deal where Lewinsky lawyers submit the records to the OIC instead of Kramer Books, sources say, the bookstore retains "...the ability to claim it ... stuck up for the First Amendment."
An announcement of this deal is expected late today or tomorrow.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Bob Franken, Terry Frieden and John King contributed to this report.