By Susan Schmidt and Bill Miller
According to Johnson's June 26 ruling, lawyers for Clinton and others involved in Starr's investigation could participate in depositions and be present for testimony in the inquiry, sources said yesterday. Starr had sought to have Johnson conduct the inquiry herself, without the involvement of any defense lawyers.
Clinton's lawyers contended in February that the independent counsel's office illegally leaked information to the news media -- notably information about Clinton secretary Betty Currie retrieving gifts Clinton gave Monica S. Lewinsky when the gifts were subpoenaed in the now-dismissed Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit.
Clinton's lawyers cited a raft of purported leaks in a 15-page submission to Johnson and asked her to hold Starr in contempt of court. Starr said he planned to conduct his own inquiry.
The president's lawyers renewed their efforts last month after a new magazine, Brill's Content, published an article by Steven Brill that asserted Starr and his deputy, Jackie Bennett, had illegally leaked secret grand jury material. Starr has denied doing anything improper or illegal, and has said Brill's claims border on libel.
Yesterday's proceedings drew some of the central players to the federal courthouse here, among them Starr, Clinton lawyers Robert S. Bennett and David E. Kendall, and a lawyer for White House aide Sidney Blumenthal. Meanwhile, two floors below, five Secret Service officers appeared under subpoena to tell the grand jury about Lewinsky's comings and goings at the White House, though sources said only two -- John Muskett and Sandra Verna -- got a chance to testify yesterday.
With Starr's investigation of the Lewinsky matter now entering its seventh month, he has begun to step up the schedule of grand jury activity in the probe of whether Clinton urged Lewinsky to lie under oath about a purported sexual affair. The panel, which in recent months had been meeting twice a week, is planning to meet three days this week and will keep to that schedule for the next two weeks. Last Friday Starr made use of an unrelated grand jury to begin getting Secret Service testimony as quickly as possible.
The uniformed Secret Service officers, some of whom are expected to return today or tomorrow, are among those likely to be some of Starr's final witnesses before decisions are made about whether Lewinsky will be indicted or brought before the grand jury to testify.
Among the other wrap-up witnesses is Linda R. Tripp, who has not appeared so far this week after six days of testimony centering on her onetime friend Lewinsky's taped descriptions of her alleged relationship with Clinton. Today Currie is slated to appear before the grand jury for the fifth time, and her lawyer Karl Metzner said he believes it "might be her last day of testimony."
The appellate judges who heard oral arguments yesterday on Johnson's ruling on the parameters of discovering the leak matter were Patricia M. Wald, Laurence H. Silberman and Karen LeCraft Henderson, court records show. Wald was appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter, Silberman by Ronald Reagan and Henderson by George Bush.
The appellate court rarely conducts secret hearings. In yesterday's case, the courtroom was put off limits even before the proceedings began, despite protests from Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., a lawyer for a consortium of media organizations that includes The Washington Post.
Staff writer Peter Baker and staff researchers Nathan Abse and Ben White contributed to this report.
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