Deal Reached on Testimony by Ex-Secret Service Agent
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 14, 1998; Page A20
The Justice and Treasury departments reached an agreement with independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr yesterday evening to allow limited grand jury testimony by a retired Secret Service officer who has said he saw Monica S. Lewinsky visit President Clinton in the Oval Office.
Under the agreement, Starr "will ensure that protective techniques and procedures of the Secret Service are not disclosed," according to a joint announcement by the Treasury Department, which oversees the Secret Service, and the Justice Department, which in effect serves as Treasury's lawyer.
The deal applies only to Lewis C. Fox, the retired officer who has already discussed what he saw at the White House in an interview with The Washington Post, but it marks the first break in a three-week stalemate between the Whitewater prosecutor and the Treasury Department, which has protested any effort to make Secret Service personnel disclose information about a president.
In a related matter, a longtime friend of Lewinsky has testified to a grand jury investigating Lewinsky's relationship with Clinton. Neysa Erbland, who went to Beverly Hills High School with Lewinsky, told investigators that Lewinsky confided that she had sex with the president, according to reports in today's editions of the Los Angeles Times and New York Times.
Attorney Ralph J. Caccia confirmed last night that he represents Erbland but would not discuss what she told the grand jury on Thursday. "She regrets she's in a position she had to testify in this matter, but she respects the integrity of the process," he said. "Accordingly, she has no comment on the substance of her testimony."
Regarding the grand jury testimony of Fox, the joint statement said: "The Justice and Treasury departments are commited to ensuring that the protective functions of the Secret Service and the safety of the president are not jeopardized by questioning of current and former Secret Service personnel."
Justice Department officials said negotiations will continue between Starr's office and the two Cabinet departments over whether any other Secret Service personnel or records will be made available to a grand jury investigating allegations that Clinton had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and encouraged her to cover it up.
Rather than fighting a long court battle with Starr, Attorney General Janet Reno has advocated a compromise that recognizes both the Secret Service's unique prerogatives and the law enforcement interest of taking testimony from Secret Service personnel if they have knowledge of a crime. The complex details of such an arrangement are still being worked out, Justice Department officials said.
In an interview Tuesday, Fox told The Post he was stationed in the hallway outside the Oval Office one weekend day in late 1995 when Lewinsky appeared with papers she said were for Clinton. Fox said he knocked on the door, and Clinton, who was working inside, motioned for him to admit her. When he went off duty some 40 minutes later, Fox said, she had not emerged.
Fox's recollection was significant because it was the first time anyone had publicly placed Clinton alone with Lewinsky. In a deposition in the Paula Jones case last month, the president testified he did not recall ever being alone with Lewinsky, according to sources familiar with Clinton's testimony.
White House officials questioned whether a uniformed agent would have been stationed outside the Oval Office. And they noted that two additional internal doors lead from the Oval Office to adjacent rooms, and a set of French doors opens to the outside, so the agent would have no way of knowing if Lewinsky had left or others were with her.
In a number of reported comments since then, Mike Leibig, Fox's attorney, has left open the possibility that someone else may have been in the room, while noting that Fox did not see anyone else. In an interview with The Post late yesterday, Leibig said Fox's story had remained the same, despite "quibbling" over details. "He did say he didn't see anybody else in the room," Leibig said of his client. "Now and at the time, he believed they were alone."
"If [Fox] were asked, 'Can you testify they were alone for 40 minutes?' " Leibig said, "No, he can testify they were together."
Lewinsky's attorney yesterday said Fox's account would not be a "smoking gun."
"We don't know anything about Fox or what he witnessed," said William H. Ginsburg. "There were times in 1995 when she was with the president in the Oval Office. Now alone or not alone, I'm not sure that's relevant. . . . These guys see people go into the Oval Office, including Monica. But what does that prove? That may prove that they had some sort of encounter -- and it may have been verbal. Who knows?"
Staff writer Peter Baker contributed to this report.
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