Susan Schmidt and Peter Baker
Monica S. Lewinsky's attorney emerged from the first meeting he has had in more than a week with lawyers working for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, but it was unclear yesterday whether immunity talks were going forward or backward, or were in a stall.
"With regard to our meeting this morning, we have no comment," attorney William H. Ginsburg told reporters after a 45-minute session with Starr's staff. "We are preparing our defense," he added, in what sounded like an ominous suggestion that the negotiations were faltering. Other sources, however, said talks are continuing and another meeting is scheduled between the two sides.
Ginsburg has insisted Lewinsky be granted complete immunity from prosecution in return for her testimony before a grand jury about whether she had a sexual relationship with President Clinton and whether he and his friend, Washington lawyer Vernon E. Jordan Jr., urged her to lie about it under oath.
Starr's office has insisted on a fully detailed description of what she is prepared to say before agreeing to any deal.
As the suspenseful discussions dragged on, the three-judge panel that oversees independent counsels yesterday made public its Jan. 16 order expanding the legal authority of Starr's office to investigate the Lewinsky matter. The order gave Starr broad authority to investigate a range of allegations and related violations including conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The two-page order, requested by Attorney General Janet Reno after she received a briefing from Starr's staff, authorized Starr to investigate "whether Monica Lewinsky or others suborned perjury, obstructed justice, intimidated witnesses, or otherwise violated federal law other than a Class B or C misdemeanor or infraction in dealing with witnesses, potential witnesses, attorneys or others concerning the civil case Jones v. Clinton."
Two local grand juries are collecting evidence in the Lewinsky matter. A federal grand jury in Washington met behind closed doors for the third day yesterday and took testimony from an unidentified woman in her twenties. Earlier in the week, Clinton's former chief of staff Leon E. Panetta and the president's personal secretary, Betty Currie, appeared before the panel.
In Alexandria, another federal grand jury has subpoenaed the records of Francis D. Carter, a lawyer Jordan lined up to represent Lewinsky after she was issued a subpoena on Dec. 17 by attorneys for Paula Jones. Carter helped Lewinsky prepare an affidavit in the Jones suit in which she denied having had a sexual relationship with the president. Carter has not testified before the grand jury.
Starr's office is using the Alexandria body to explore some of the events that occurred in Virginia, specifically Lewinsky's meetings with colleague Linda R. Tripp at the Pentagon and at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City, sources said. Tripp secretly tape-recorded Lewinsky talking about an alleged 1 1/2-year intimate relationship with Clinton and his desire that she cover it up, then turned the tapes over to Starr.
Carter was supposed to appear before the grand jury with certain records Tuesday but managed to get that delayed while his attorney challenges the subpoena. Although a lawyer's documents relating to a case generally are protected by attorney-client privilege, Starr may be looking for some records that arguably are not, such as message slips, letters or other paper related to Jordan and his role in referring her to Carter.
Charles Ogletree, a Harvard Law School professor representing Carter, said his client is not a target or even a witness in the case and maintained that the papers Starr is seeking are covered by attorney-client privilege. Ogletree said Carter "absolutely" had nothing to do with the memo Lewinsky reportedly gave Tripp suggesting she change her story under oath in the Jones case. The "talking points" recommended that Tripp recant her account of coming upon another White House aide, Kathleen Willey, in a disheveled state in 1993 shortly after Willey had left the Oval Office after what she told Tripp at the time was a physical encounter with the president.
Ogletree declined to discuss specifics about Carter's work for Lewinsky. "He represented a client and from what I can tell did a terrific job in following the client's wishes," he said.
Carter also has been subpoenaed separately in the Jones case and Ogletree said he plans to file his objection to that today. The judge in the Jones case yesterday stopped any discovery related to Lewinsky.
Meanwhile, investigators for Starr traveled to Portland, Ore., to pick up evidence from Andy J. Bleiler, Lewinsky's former high school drama teacher and lover who claimed she told him of having sex with a "high-ranking White House official." Bleiler, who said he had his own five-year affair with Lewinsky, which her lawyer confirmed, has questioned Lewinsky's credibility, saying she sometimes twisted the truth.
Bleiler's attorney, Terry Giles, has told reporters that his client had in a safe-deposit box documents and photographs, a few of which might shed light on how Lewinsky got "access to certain files in the White House, and why an intern would have access to those files."
Staff writers Toni Locy and Brooke Masters contributed to this report.
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