Lewinsky Meets With Independent Counsel's Office
Appeals court rules no attorney-client privilege for Lindsey
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, July 27) -- Monica Lewinsky told prosecutors from Independent Counsel Ken Starr's office Monday that she had a sexual relationship with President Bill Clinton but refused to say that Clinton told her to lie about it, according to sources close to the investigation.
Also on Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that attorney-client privilege does not protect presidential confidant Bruce Lindsey from answering all questions put to him before the Lewinsky grand jury. This bad news for the president comes as Clinton's private lawyer, David Kendall, is negotiating with Starr over possible testimony by Clinton before that same grand jury.
Lewinsky met with prosecutors Monday at an undisclosed location in New York to discuss what she is willing to tell Starr's team in exchange for immunity, sources told CNN. It was the first meeting between Lewinsky and Starr's staff since January. Starr was not present at the meeting.
Lewinsky reportedly stood by her previous discussion with prosecutors, saying she would admit a sexual relationship with the president but she would not say that the president told her to lie about it, sources told CNN.
She made that disclosure to prosecutors months ago through her previous attorney, William Ginsburg, during negotiations concerning immunity in exchange for her testimony, sources said.
Lewinsky's current lawyers, Plato Cacheris and Jacob Stein, had previously resisted meeting with Starr's staff to discuss what testimony she might be able to offer in exchange for an immunity agreement.
However, sources told CNN that Lewinsky's attorneys are confident of reaching an immunity agreement or else they would not have agreed to Monday's meeting.
Starr has yet to agree to give Lewinsky full immunity in exchange for her testimony, but Monday's meeting appeared to move him closer to such an agreement, sources said.
The meeting spanned several hours and included a morning and afternoon session.
Lindsey can't invoke privilege
While Starr's office was busy working on efforts to get both Lewinsky and Clinton before the grand jury, they received a piece of good news about a third witness, Lindsey.
The Lindsey decision was Starr's second victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals. Earlier this month the court refused to grant Secret Service agents protection from testifying before the Lewinsky grand jury.
"A government attorney may not invoke the attorney-client privilege in response to grand jury questions seeking information relating to the possible commission of a federal crime," the court ruled Monday.
Charles Ruff, counsel to the president, said a decision on whether the Lindsey ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court will be made later.
"We are disappointed that the Court of Appeals has decided that, unlike every other client and attorney in this country, government attorneys and their clients do not enjoy the right to have confidential communications," Ruff said in a statement read by a White House spokesman.
"The practical result of the court's decision is that the president and all other government officials will be less likely to receive full and frank advice about their official obligations and duties from government attorneys," Ruff said.
Minutes after the ruling was issued, there was confusion when the court withdrew it. It was soon reissued, apparently after a typographical error was fixed.
Judges Judith Rogers and David Tatel, both Clinton appointees, and Raymond Randolph, a Bush appointee, made up the three-judge panel.
Kendall, Starr meet over testimony
Although sources reported Friday that Kendall and Starr had been in negotiations about a way for the president to testify before the grand jury investigating the Lewinsky case, Kendall finally issued a formal statement Monday acknowledging his meetings with Starr.
"We are working with the Office of Independent Counsel as we have in the past to devise a way for the president to provide information for the OIC's investigation consistently with his Constitutional role and responsibilities. And it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time," Kendall's statement read.
The statement was issued at the request of the White House, which is referring all media inquiries about the controversy to the president's private lawyer.
Kendall declined to be interviewed and his statement did not confirm that he has, as several sources have told CNN, accepted a subpoena calling the president to testify before the Lewinsky grand jury.
White House officials insist Kendall is negotiating in good faith.
"I think they'll work it out," one senior White House official told CNN.
But several lawyers close to the investigation say that is by no means certain.
"The devil's in the details," one of those lawyers said, "and there are lots of details."
The lawyers say Starr's grand jury issued a subpoena to the president about 10 days ago. It called on him to appear at the courthouse Tuesday. Since then, Starr has been in discussions with Kendall to see if they could work out mutually acceptable terms.
Sources have also made no secret of the bitter relations between Kendall and Starr after four years of sparring in the Whitewater investigation.
Starr is investigating allegations that Clinton had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern, and then encouraged her to lie about it under oath in the now-dismissed Paula Jones sexual harassment case. Clinton has denied all wrongdoing.
Sources close to both sides of the negotiations say the following are among the issues that have to be resolved:
- Format The president's lawyers would like Starr to submit written questions that the president could then answer in writing. This is what former President Ronald Reagan did during the Iran-contra investigation. But written questions and answers are said to be totally unacceptable to Starr, who wants a face-to-face exchange with the president.
- Scope of questions The president's lawyers want to limit Starr's line of questioning. But Starr is said to be insisting on an open-ended, unrestricted line of questioning, which is normal for grand jury proceedings.
- Location If the president's lawyers agree to a face-to-face session, they want it to take place at the White House or at David Kendall's office, sparing the president the indignity of having to appear at the courthouse.
Clinton's depositions in the Whitewater and Paula Jones cases were taken at the White House or at his attorney's office. Under no circumstances, say the president's supporters, will he agree to actually show up at the courthouse. Starr is said to be flexible on this matter, in deference, his supporters say, to the dignity of the office of the president.
- Participation The president's lawyers insist on being present during any questioning. Starr's position on that remains unclear. If grand jury members are bused to the White House or another location to hear the president's testimony, he may not agree to have Clinton's lawyers in the room.
Witnesses are not allowed to have an attorney present during normal grand jury testimony. The witnesses can leave the grand jury room at any time to consult with their lawyers, but the lawyers have to stay outside the room.
The president's lawyers are also concerned that Clinton could wind up being the next-to-last witness to answer Starr's questions. Still to be heard from is Lewinsky. The president's lawyers want him to be the last witness.
The president's supporters say they are especially concerned that Starr might be setting up the president for what is described as a "perjury trap." In other words, Starr would get the president under oath before the grand jury in some form, only to have Lewinsky contradict him later.
After the president testifies, Starr could offer some form of immunity to Lewinsky to tell her story, and it may differ from what the president has to say.
If no deal is worked out, the White House strategy will be to claim the president was willing to go the extra mile in trying to cooperate, but Starr was simply unreasonable.
White House advisers continue to maintain that if an acceptable deal cannot be struck they are confident the courts would not allow a prosecutor to compel testimony from a sitting president.
On Starr's side, prosecutors are confident they could win a fight to secure the president's testimony. But such a fight could take months, delaying the investigation just as Starr tries to wrap up the grand jury phase.
The argument for attorney-client privilege
At issue with the Lindsey decision was whether as a government lawyer, Lindsey could claim that attorney-client privilege protects his conversations with Clinton, as it would a private lawyer.
On May 1, Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ordered Lindsey to testify, after applying a balancing test between attorney-client confidentiality and the grand jury's need for information in a criminal investigation.
Anticipating the appeal, Starr then asked the Supreme Court to intervene and compel Lindsey to testify. The high court denied Starr's request on June 4, stating that the appellate court would proceed expeditiously.
Starr and White House lawyers argued the case before the three-judge appeals panel on June 29. The first part of the arguments was open to the public, but the lawyers later went behind closed doors to discuss secret grand jury matters.
Starr argued the Clinton-Lindsey discussions were not privileged and that Lindsey should be forced to testify in the investigation. The grand jury, he said, must have all "relevant" information obtained by Lindsey in his discussions with Clinton and other White House aides.
But White House lawyer Neil Eggleston disputed Starr's claim, saying the special prosecutor's definition of "relevant extends to the boundaries of imagination."
Eggleston argued that Lindsey's advice should be shielded by attorney-client privilege. For example, he said the deputy White House counsel's advice about impeachment was protected because "impeachment is an official action."
Starr countered that government lawyers have an overriding obligation first to the people.
The Justice Department disagreed with the White House argument that a presidential attorney-client relationship is always confidential.
In his arguments, Starr made much of Attorney General Janet Reno's position arguing that she and other "political appointees of the president have taken the extraordinary step of filing an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief contrary to the White House legal position."
The appeals panel that decided the Lindsey question included Clinton appointees Judith Rogers and David Tatel and Bush appointee Raymond Randolph. The same panel's decision allowing Starr access to notes taken by the lawyer of the late Vince Foster, despite the claim of attorney-client privilege, was overturned by the Supreme Court.
Republicans warn of impeachment
Some leading Republicans warn that Clinton could face impeachment proceedings if he refuses to comply with Starr's order.
In a word of warning, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday a refusal by Clinton to cooperate with Starr's subpoena might be reason enough for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.
"The fact that he would ignore and violate a subpoena would certainly be grounds to file articles of impeachment," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told CBS's "Face the Nation."
House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) said on CNN's "Late Edition" he agreed with Hatch's analysis.
But Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a member of Hatch's committee, took issue with that view. "I rechecked the Constitution. I do not believe that ignoring a subpoena would be grounds for impeachment," Specter said on "Late Edition."
CNN's Wolf Blitzer, John King and Bob Franken contributed to this report.