A federal court in Washington will unseal documents that have stayed secret for two decades from independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigation of then-president Bill Clinton, following a request from CNN.
Some of the records from Starr’s grand jury proceedings are public already – but only reprinted in the independent counsel’s 1998 report to Congress. Until now, the federal court had listed the cases as sealed.
Monday, Chief Judge Beryl Howell said the court will release some of the documents that have stayed secret for the past 20 years. The court will also revisit whether other documents should be made public as well.
CNN has argued that the records related to Clinton’s grand jury could show how special counsel Robert Mueller may pursue testimony from President Donald Trump as well as other grand jury appearances and documents. For instance, court filings in the Starr report show how Clinton’s and Starr’s lawyers negotiated for six months before the president testified before the grand jury.
Some of the documents in the Starr report “should have been made publicly available,” Howell wrote as she directed the clerk’s office to make the documents available. “Apparently, after issuance of the Starr Report, no specific direction was provided to the Clerk’s Office as to which documents included in the Starr Report were to be disclosed, and the Clerk’s Office rightfully carefully maintains the confidentiality of sealed matters unless expressly directed to unseal records.”
Howell’s order Monday relates to eight cases where people or agencies faced subpoenas during the Starr grand jury investigation. The order also divides the documents in the cases at issue into a few different types: Documents that were never sealed yet still aren’t public; documents that should have been unsealed but weren’t; and documents that could be unsealed in the future.
The Justice Department must respond by February 23 about still-secret documents in the cases. Individuals who were subpoenaed in the Starr investigation, such as private investigator Terry Lenzner, former Deputy White House counsel Bruce Lindsey, former Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal and former special counsel to the president Lanny Breuer, will have the chance to weigh in on whether they have privacy concerns about unsealing more documents from the Starr grand jury.