Currie Faces Grand Jury Once Again
Starr fights judge's sanction to allow probe of his investigation on leaks
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, July 22) -- Betty Currie, President Bill Clinton's personal secretary, faced a fifth and likely final round of questions Wednesday before the grand jury investigating the sex-and-perjury allegations surrounding the president and Monica Lewinsky.
Currie and her attorney, Lawrence Wechsler, emerged from the courthouse after more than eight hours. Speaking for his client, Wexler said, "We believe that Mrs. Currie has completed her grand jury testimony. We have not been formally notified to that effect, but we have not been given a date to return.
"Mrs. Currie is happy to have this experience behind her and she looks forward to returning to work," Wechsler said.
Linda Tripp was also at the federal courthouse for several hours in the late afternoon, but she did not testify because Currie's appearance went long. Thursday, Independent Counsel Ken Starr plans to continue questioning members of the president's Secret Service detail, including lead agent Larry Cockell.
Currie arrived at the federal courthouse in Washington shortly after 9 a.m. EDT Wednesday for her fifth day of testimony.
The president's secretary has become a central figure in the probe of whether Clinton had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern, and then sought to cover it up.
She is described by the president and by Clinton friend Vernon Jordan as the real friend of Lewinsky, responsible for their involvement with her.
One of the Oval Office "gatekeepers," Currie would have knowledge of any visits Lewinsky made to the Oval Office plus details of gift-giving and job search help extended to Lewinsky.
In his deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit, Clinton testified that Lewinsky's purpose for visiting the White House last December was to see Currie and that Currie was the one who signed for gifts Lewinsky sent to the president.
The White House has managed to turn the tables on Starr as the independent counsel now finds himself under investigations. At stake is Starr's personal reputation and possibly the fate of his investigation of the president.
Aside from diverting the attention of Starr on outside issues, the immediate threat is the prospect that Starr's top deputy, Jackie Bennett, might be questioned under oath by Clinton's private attorney, David Kendall, about possible grand jury leaks to the news media.
Starr told the magazine "Brill's Content" that Bennett had been his main conduit to reporters.
But it's even possible Starr himself might be questioned.
It's now been confirmed that late last month, Starr was secretly ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court for grand jury leaks alleged by the president's lawyers. Johnson instructed Starr to cooperate with them.
Starr has gone to the court of appeals to try to reverse that order and fight the judge's order that Clinton's lawyers be allowed to question his prosecutors and obtain documents about possible illegal grand jury leaks to the news media.
Lawyers for Starr, Clinton and Lewinsky all argued the case at a closed-door hearing Tuesday morning before the U.S. Court of Appeals.
If Starr is found in contempt, his grand jury could be disbanded and the Justice Department might open its own investigation into whether he should be removed.
The president's supporters are relishing Starr's troubles.
"It's bad for all the thugs that he has working over there," Clinton supporter James Carville said. "I'll guarantee you that and I think these judges and people, decent people, are getting sick of this nickle-dime, two-bit sex investigation they're conducting over there and what they ought to do is follow the law; follow the law."
The White House has complained for months about Starr's alleged leaks of secret grand jury information to the news media.
The Lewinsky investigation reared its head on Capitol Hill Wednesday during the Senate confirmation hearings for Energy Secretary nominee Bill Richardson.
Richardson, the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has been a peripheral player in the scandal since it was revealed he interviewed the former White House intern for a job.
Deputy White House Chief of Staff John Podesta asked Richardson to consider Lewinsky for a low-level post because she was a friend of Currie.
"I get a lot of these requests from the adminstration, from members of Congress, from friends and if someone asks me to interview somebody, I do it," Richardson said. Richardson said Podesta asked him to give the interview as "a favor to Betty."
During the 15- to 30-minute interview last October, conducted primarily by his chief of staff, Richardson recalls that both of them were "impressed with Ms. Lewinsky's gregariousness, her ability to express herself very well. She was very well prepared. She was impressive."
Lewinsky was ultimately offered the job, but turned it down in favor of something in the private sector.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.