By Ben White and Susan Schmidt
Prosecutors questioned White House deputy chief of staff John D. Podesta yesterday for the third and apparently final time about his involvement in helping Monica S. Lewinsky find a United Nations job in New York last fall.
Podesta went over much of the same material he has in his previous two appearances before independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's grand jury, according to a source familiar with his testimony. At the request of President Clinton's personal secretary, Betty Currie, Podesta asked U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson to consider Lewinsky for a position last October.
Podesta also was called to discuss White House strategy deliberations in the days immediately following the start of the Lewinsky investigation in January. Clinton had tried to block such testimony on the grounds of executive privilege but withdrew the claim after a federal judge ruled that his interest in confidential communication with his advisers was outweighed by Starr's need for evidence.
Podesta declined to comment yesterday, but his lawyer expressed irritation with how his client has been treated. "Mr. Podesta completed five hours of testimony over three days on events which, prior to January, took up 15 minutes of his life," said attorney Peter Kadzik.
Kadzik said Podesta's testimony "fully supports the president's forceful denials of any improper conduct" involving Lewinsky. In a jab at Starr's recent remarks in a magazine interview, Kadzik said his client would not comment specifically, "so that the Office of Independent Counsel can't rely on its new theory that it needs to leak information in order to defend its investigation."
In a rare personal appearance at the federal courthouse, Starr spent about a half hour with the grand jury before Podesta's arrival, but there was no indication what was discussed.
Separately, Starr has leased new office space in Alexandria, a sign that he may expand his Lewinsky investigation there. Starr will move some of his D.C.-based operations into 5,880 square feet of office space on Eisenhower Avenue near the Alexandria federal courthouse on July 1, as first reported in Legal Times.
In recent weeks, Starr has brought several witnesses to testify before an Alexandria grand jury regarding the Pentagon's release of confidential information about onetime Lewinsky friend Linda R. Tripp. Starr conceivably could seek to bring an indictment against Lewinsky in Alexandria rather than the District, which some lawyers believe might offer him a faster trial and more sympathetic jury.
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