Clinton's Team Will Attempt To Counter Starr Report
By Bob Franken/CNN
WASHINGTON (Sept. 1) -- For the first time since the investigation began, Independent Counsel Ken Starr's grand jury is not meeting this week. Starr's staff is immersed in the impeachment report he hopes to send to Congress later this month.
Sources tell CNN the president's legal and political team is beginning to coordinate a detailed strategy to counter the report.
The battle over the report in the House, say sources, is considered political more than legal. But President Bill Clinton's supporters still plan to focus on whether the president obstructed justice.
They plan to emphasize the so-called "talking points" that ex-White House intern Monica Lewinsky gave to Linda Tripp, trying to reshape Tripp's testimony about presidential accuser Kathleen Willey and her alleged encounter with the president as part of the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.
Contrary to speculation those talking points were created by a presidential adviser, Lewinsky testified she wrote them, with the help of Tripp.
There are the gifts: Lewinsky testified presidential secretary Betty Currie contacted her about picking up gifts the president had given her. Was that on the president's orders?
The president's team points out Currie testified it was Lewinsky who initiated the contact.
"Curry says that she went to retrieve those gifts at Ms. Lewinsky's suggestion," said Lanny Davis, former special White House counsel. "Apparently Ms. Lewinsky has a different recollection. At best that that is in dispute."
A fundamental part of the investigation from day one has been the question about an alleged cover-up. Did Vernon Jordan and others try to find Lewinsky a job to keep her from testifying truthfully about her relationship with the president?
Clinton supporters say the job-hunting efforts may have actually begun before Lewinsky was subpoenaed to testify in the Jones case.
Another area is an alleged "abuse of power." Starr is considering a section in which he charges the president inappropriately used his office and attorneys to delay the investigation.
Though not a criminal charge, Starr's supporters say it is appropriate.
"Starr may well include things in an impeachment report that he would not include in an indictment," said attorney Brad Berenson.
A top-ranking Democratic official with the House Judiciary Committee points out that the Starr report will go through what he called "an adversarial process."
"A lot of the report," he said, "will appear a lot different after we look at this."
Judge Susan Webber Wright
Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright
rejected motions by Clinton's attorney and has ordered the public release of the remaining records in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against the president.
In the same order, the judge left open the possibility she might find the Clinton "in contempt" for his denial of a sexual relationship when he gave a sworn statement in January in the Jones case.
The documents to be made public include the remainder of the president's deposition not already made public. Judge Wright cited the president's recent "misleading" statement denying a relationship with Lewinsky in issuing her decision.
Writing in a footnote, the judge said, "Although the Court has concerns about the nature of the President's January 17th, 1998 deposition testimony given his recent public statements, the Court makes no findings at this time regarding whether the President may be in contempt."
The judge said the records would be unsealed on Sept. 28 unless
there are more appeals. The president's attorney, Robert Bennett, was not immediately available for comment.
Sen. Tom Daschle
With the Senate back in session after its summer recess, there was more Capitol Hill reaction to Clinton's troubles. Republican Sen. Connie Mack of Florida said there has been a "change in the mood" of the Republican party since Clinton's Aug. 17 speech on the Lewinsky scandal.
Mack said Clinton has damaged his credibility and ability to lead the nation, noting "the world is in turmoil and the president is in a weakened position."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said Senate Democrats feel they need to "wait till the facts are in" about the president's situation before saying more. Daschle said "it doesn't make sense to comment on hypothetical situations." Daschle also said it's "too early to come to the conclusion" that Clinton's troubles are affecting the fall elections.
CNN's Ann Curley contributed to this report.