By Susan Schmidt and Toni Locy
In a day that laid bare the depths of animosity between the White House and the independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr summoned a parade of witnesses to the federal courthouse here, including a senior White House aide who has attacked the Starr probe and a private investigator who has been been working on the case for Clinton's legal team.
At the same time, Starr sought testimony from former Lewinsky co-workers who might be able to shed light on how she moved from an unpaid internship to a paid White House job in late 1995 and what led to her abrupt and involuntary transfer to the Pentagon five months later. Prosecutors are examining that career path for clues to whether she had a sexual relationship with Clinton despite his denial.
But prosecutors were moving in so many directions and had so many witnesses on hand yesterday that they sent several of them home without actually bringing them before the grand jury to testify.
On yet another front, there were indications that Starr and the White House are about to escalate their confrontation over whether executive privilege prevents prosecutors from questioning some senior aides about their conversations with the president. Clinton is preparing to invoke the privilege following a clash last week over testimony by his closest aide, deputy counsel Bruce R. Lindsey, sources close to the situation said last night. The White House has objected to inquiries about meetings involving the president that were held to decide how to handle the legal and political crisis that erupted with the Lewinsky investigation.
Starr tried to compel Lindsey to answer anyway during testimony last week. Rather than order him to do so, a judge sent Lindsey back to the grand jury for more questioning that would determine the parameters of what he would say and what he would not, so that both sides could litigate the issue.
Reports on National Public Radio yesterday and in the early editions of today's New York Times said Clinton has decided to invoke the privilege formally. White House lawyers have tried to head off such a move, fearing it would evoke unwelcome comparisons to President Richard M. Nixon, who tried to assert executive privilege to prevent the disclosure of tape-recorded conversations that ultimately led to his resignation in August 1974.
The dispute could come to a head today if prosecutors bring White House special counsel Lanny A. Breuer before the grand jury as planned. Breuer, one of the lawyers who has been handling damage control efforts for Clinton, would be covered by the same privilege issues, according to the White House.
The Clinton camp believes Starr wants to ask Breuer about efforts to coordinate and share information with defense lawyers for grand jury witnesses, in an apparent attempt to see if any collusion has been occurring, said one source familiar with the thinking at the White House.
The swirl of activity came against a backdrop of bitter and harsh denunciations from the White House and its allies of Starr's decision to investigate who has been spreading negative information about some members of his staff. The prosecutor defended his tactics yesterday, saying he wants to figure out whether Clinton allies were trying to bully his office.
"This office has received repeated press inquiries indicating that misinformation is being spread about personnel involved in this investigation," Starr said. "We are using traditional and appropriate techniques to find out who is responsible and whether their actions are intended to intimidate prosecutors and investigators, impede the work of the grand jury, or otherwise obstruct justice."
The White House shot back that Starr should be spending his time looking into alleged grand jury leaks from his office. "He promised the American people he'd be investigating the leaks from his organization," said White House press secretary Michael McCurry. "He's now apparently more interested in how we conduct press relations here at the White House."
Called to the courthouse to explain whether they had any involvement in disseminating damaging information about Starr's staff were Sidney Blumenthal, a senior White House aide, and Terry F. Lenzner, a private investigator working for Clinton's legal team. The president's lawyers confirmed yesterday that they have employed Lenzner and his firm, Investigative Group Inc. (IGI), since April 1994 to assist in defending Clinton on a variety of fronts, including the Whitewater probe and the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit.
In a joint statement, attorneys David E. Kendall and Robert S. Bennett said it is common for lawyers to hire investigators "to perform legal and appropriate tasks" to assist their work. They said they endorsed a weekend White House statement denying televised charges by Republican former prosecutor Joseph E. diGenova that Clinton investigators were looking into him and his wife, former prosecutor Victoria Toensing.
"There is public information available, which, of course, it is our duty as counsel to research and gather," the Kendall-Bennett statement said. "But we have not investigated, and are not investigating, the personal lives of Ms. Toensing, Mr. diGenova, prosecutors, investigators, or members of the press."
Yet McCurry acknowledged that the White House has disseminated negative news reports about the public records of Starr's deputies and defended that as proper scrutiny of public officials.
"Someone found the Atlanta Constitution article, and the [New York] Daily News stuff has presumably been faxed to everyone in this room," he told reporters at his daily briefing, referring to critical articles about the professional pasts of Starr deputies Michael Emmick and Bruce Udolf. "If not, I know who you can call if you want to get it."
Lenzner testified briefly before the grand jury yesterday, but Blumenthal spent most of his day waiting around and ultimately was sent home and told to return Thursday.
During a closed-door hearing before a judge, Blumenthal's attorney successfully sought to limit the scope of the subpoena to cover only his White House service starting last summer, not his years as a journalist before then. Starr's prosecutors said during the hearing that they believe they can subpoena people believed to be spreading misinformation and possibly charge them with obstruction of justice, according to a source familiar with the session.
"Our conclusion after today is that Ken Starr is out of control," Blumenthal's attorney, Jo Marsh, said outside the courtroom. "He has total disregard for the rights of private citizens or for anyone else other than his staff."
Across town, another Clinton ally vowed not to be silenced by Starr. "This man is out of control," James Carville said of Starr at a breakfast for reporters. "And he's not going to shut me up -- period."
Carville went on to ridicule Starr, who has talked publicly about his worship habits. "He goes down by the Potomac and listens to hymns, as the cleansing water of the Potomac goes by, and we're going to wash all Sodomites and fornicators out of town," Carville said mockingly.
Starr's aides separately brought two Lewinsky colleagues before the grand jury to talk about her career path -- Jennifer Palmieri, who worked with her when Lewinsky was an intern in the White House chief of staff's office, and Jocelyn Jolley, who was her direct supervisor when she later worked in the legislative affairs office.
The question of how Lewinsky came to be hired and fired has been among the most intriguing during the investigation into whether Clinton urged her to lie under oath about having a sexual relationship with him. Lewinsky told onetime friend Linda R. Tripp that the purported affair began Nov. 15, 1995, while she was a 22-year-old intern, according to an affidavit from Tripp; Lewinsky got a paid job as a legislative correspondence clerk 11 days later. Then she was ousted from the White House and sent to the Pentagon in April 1996 amid reported concerns among senior officials that she was hanging out too much near the president.
Palmieri's lawyer, Richard Sauber, said she "didn't have any information about any improprieties -- sexual, legal or otherwise. . . . I don't think there is anything to separate her from dozens of people who were [at the White House] at the time."
Of the six who were called to testify yesterday, only three -- Jolley, Palmieri and Lenzner -- actually made it inside Trustee Hearing Room No. 4, where the grand jury meets. Three others who cooled their heels in the hallway during various parts of the day were Blumenthal; Timothy J. Keating, a former White House staff director who transferred Lewinsky and Jolley out of the White House on the same day; and Marsha Scott, chief of staff of the White House personnel office and a longtime friend of Clinton's.
The delays were caused in part by two closed-door hearings before Chief U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, beginning just after 11 a.m. with Blumenthal's motion to quash his subpoena.
Just before 2 p.m., Johnson held another closed-door hearing in her second-floor office, this one including Kendall, Lenzner and prosecutors. After half an hour, Kendall left, while Lenzner went to the third floor. "You can't understand law anyway," Lenzner told waiting reporters at one point. "It's better to be an investigator."
By 3:40 p.m., Palmieri had testified and left, and Scott and Blumenthal had arrived.
Meanwhile, Keating, who also had been waiting but was never called to testify, was sent home with his attorney, James Hamilton. "We will be back one of these days," Hamilton said.
At 4:20, Blumenthal left, never having testified. "He's compelled Sid to pay me to sit around here all day, and then Mr. Blumenthal didn't make it to the grand jury," attorney Marsh fumed. Lenzner and Scott soon followed. Lenzner said he did not know whether he would have to return for more testimony.
The investigator has strong and long-standing ties to the Clinton White House. Former IGI employees include: Brooke Shearer, senior adviser at the Interior Department; Anne Luzzatto, spokeswoman for the National Security Council; Ricki Seidman, a longtime aide now at the Justice Department; and Treasury Undersecretary Raymond W. Kelly.
Former IGI employees said Larry Potts, a former FBI deputy director who resigned after criticism over his role in the deadly shootout at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, is now working at the company. Lenzner's attorney is former FBI general counsel Howard Shapiro, who resigned last May after an internal investigation found he showed poor judgment in the White House-FBI files controversy.
During last summer's Senate campaign finance hearings, Lenzner and Cody Shearer, Brooke Shearer's brother, were criticized for a proposal to dig up negative information on Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) for one of the Democratic National Committee's big donors -- the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian tribes of Oklahoma. The Indians were trying to get federal officials to return tribal homelands, which Nickles opposed.
Staff writers Peter Baker, Amy Goldstein and John F. Harris contributed to this report.
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