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Bush Letter on Secret Service Testimony

Washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, May 20, 1998

The following is the text of an April 15 letter from former president George Bush to U.S. Secret Service Director Lewis Merletti. It was submitted by Merletti as part of the Justice Department's opposition to a motion by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr to compel testimony from Secret Service agents. It was released on May 19.

Dear Lew,

I have intended to write you this letter for some time, but today's newspaper coverage regarding the Secret Service's being asked to testify now prompts me to move ahead.

The bottom line is I hope that USSS agents will be exempted from testifying before the Grand Jury. What's at stake here is the protection of the life of the President and his family, and the confidence and trust that a President must have in the USSS.

If a President feels that Secret Service agents can be called to testify about what they might have seen or heard then it is likely that the President will be uncomfortable having the agents near by.

I allowed the agents to have proximity first because they had my full confidence and secondly because I knew them to be totally discreet and honorable. Never once did I hear an agent on any detail of mine, Vice Presidential or Presidential, repeat any gossip about anyone they had ever covered.

I hope that my family and I conducted ourselves so as to earn their confidence, too, but I can assure you that had I felt they would be compelled to testify as to what they had seen or heard, no matter what the subject, I would not have felt comfortable having them close in.

I can tell you, sir, that I am deeply troubled by the allegations swirling around there in Washington – distressed at what all this might do to the office I was so proud to hold; but regardless of all that I feel very strongly that the USSS agents should not be made to appear in court to discuss what which they might or might not have seen or heard.

What's at stake here is the confidence of the President in the discretion of the USSS. If that confidence evaporates the agents denied proximity cannot properly protect the President.

Feel free to use this letter with proper authorities in the special prosecutors office, or should the matter go to court, with the proper officers of the court.

Respectfully submitted,

George Bush

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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