Blumenthal Testifies Before The Grand Jury; Tripp Expected Tuesday
Is Starr shifting operation from Washington, D.C. to Virginia?
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 25) -- Top White House communications aide Sidney Blumenthal put in a repeat appearance Thursday before Independent Counsel Ken Starr's grand jury looking into the Monica Lewinsky matter.
And Starr will most likely get to the core of his case next week as he calls to testify star witness Linda Tripp, whose clandestine recordings of Lewinsky triggered this investigation.
An attorney for Tripp, Joe Murtha confirmed that Tripp has been subpoenaed to appear Tuesday.
Following his day of testimony, Blumenthal told reporters, "If Ken Starr is interested in the truth, he heard it today."
"The president shared his account of the Lewinsky matter with me," Blumenthal said. "He did so unguardedly and freely under the assumption that we were speaking in complete privacy. What I told the grand jury under oath supports completely what the president has told the American people and is contrary to any charge that the president has done anything wrong."
The grand jury is investigating charges President Bill Clinton had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and asked her to lie about it. The president has publicly denied both charges.
Blumenthal, a confidant of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, also said that Mrs. Clinton had told him that she believed the charges were false and would "collapse eventually of their own insubstantiality. And in these conversations with me, the First Lady has always been supportive of the president."
The presidential aide had also testified earlier this month, after the White House gave up its court fight for executive privilege. A judge overseeing the investigation ruled against a claim by White House lawyers that Blumenthal could not be compelled to testify.
Following that earlier session before the grand jury, Blumenthal's attorney had complained that Starr's prosecutors focused their questioning on what the White House was saying about their investigation, rather than the facts surrounding the allegations.
Blumenthal said that he believed he should have "been required to reveal my confidential conversations" with the president. He does not expect to be recalled again.
Blumenthal is another in a line of increasingly high-profile witnesses to come before the Starr's grand jury recently. Deputy White House Counsel John Podesta testified again earlier in the week, and presidential secretary Betty Currie is also expected soon.
Tripp's attorney, Joe Murphy, confirmed that his client has been called to testify Tuesday.
It was Tripp who secretly recorded the former White House intern discussing her alleged sexual relationship with the president. She has been cooperating with investigators but has not yet told her story to the grand jury.
Tripp's testimony comes at a critical time for Starr's investigation, as sources tell CNN that the independent counsel is winding down the grand jury portion of his investigation.
Starr's office is also in ongoing negotiations with Lewinsky's lawyer over immunity for the former White House intern.
Starr increases operations in Virginia
Why would Independent Counsel Ken Starr be expanding his Washington, D.C. operation to Virginia, opening an office next month just across the Potomac River in Alexandria?
Location, location, location.
Former U.S. Attorney Henry Hudson said, "It's only about 500 yards from the federal courthouse down there, which makes it very close if he wishes to use the grand jury or should an indictment be returned in Alexandria."
Could it mean Starr is planning to press his case there?
He's already brought some witnesses before the Alexandria grand jury, including former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Harold Ickes.
And because some developments in the Lewinsky matter took place in Northern Virginia -- like at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Pentagon City, site of the FBI sting when the former White House intern was first confronted by Starr's investigators -- Starr could choose to try the entire case there.
Many feel he has good reason to do so. Hudson, who used to be a U.S. attorney in Alexandria, said, "The U.S. district court in Alexandria probably has the fastest moving docket in America. It's been dubbed the 'rocket docket.'"
A "rocket docket" might look real appealing to Starr, who has repeatedly complained about delay.
Then there's the potential jury pool. Suburban Northern Virginia is considered more conservative and its residents much more sympathetic to prosecutors than those in the District of Columbia.
And Hudson says Starr is hiring about half a dozen of his former prosecutors who know their way around the Alexandria courthouse.
While refusing to comment on whether there's a shift in strategy, Starr's spokesman says there is a more mundane explanation: The overall investigation, which has already cost $40 million, could save money with additional office space in Virginia.
The approximately 6,000 square feet of space Starr needs costs $85,000 a month less in Alexandria than in Washington.
While the federal courthouse in Washington is still considered action central, Starr is clearly keeping the Virginia option open.
CNN's Bob Franken contributed to this report.