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Starr Denies Misconduct in New Letter

Starr Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. (Reuters)

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  • By Susan Schmidt
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 13, 1998; Page A25

    In a written exchange with Judiciary Committee Democrats, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr denied several specific allegations of misconduct by his prosecutors in their first approach to Monica S. Lewinsky last Jan. 16.

    Starr's letter to the committee, written Friday and released yesterday, said Lewinsky had not been kept from contacting her lawyer the day his lawyers and agents accosted her at the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton Hotel. He denied that his lawyers had tried to force her cooperation in their investigation of President Clinton by threatening to send her to jail "for 27 years" and prosecute her mother.

    Starr answered more than two dozen questions arising from his Nov. 19 testimony about his investigation and impeachment referral. The answers added a few new footnotes to the factual record even as the Judiciary Committee was casting its historic votes to recommend articles of impeachment based on Starr's Lewinsky probe.

    Several Democrats had suggested that Starr colluded with lawyers for Paula Jones to entrap the president, but the independent counsel offered no information to support that. For example, Starr said it was Linda R. Tripp's lawyer at the time, James A. Moody, who faxed his office the false affidavit Lewinsky submitted in the Jones case on Jan. 15. Clinton allies have suggested that Starr's lawyers secretly obtained the affidavit that week from the Jones team.

    By then Tripp had been in direct contact with the Jones lawyers for more than two months, and Starr said she told his office on Jan. 14 that Lewinsky's affidavit had been "signed, sealed and delivered" the day before.

    Starr also said no one in his office knew that Tripp, Lewinsky's friend and Pentagon colleague who lured her to a Pentagon City shopping mall on Jan. 16, was going to meet with a Jones lawyer when she left the hotel that night. When the Jones team deposed Clinton the following day, they were armed with information about his relationship with Lewinsky and asked detailed questions that elicited his allegedly perjurious answers. Starr acknowledged to ABC's "20/20" last month that his office should have kept better track that night of Tripp, who was then a central witness of Starr's unfolding investigation.

    Democrats have also questioned Starr's dealings with an ad hoc group of lawyers who informally aided the Jones camp, among them Richard W. Porter, a partner of Starr's at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis. Starr said he has never talked to Porter about the Jones case.

    During his testimony, Starr was repeatedly pressed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) about when he had first learned of a tape recording on which a woman claimed to have sexual contact with Clinton. The tone of her questions suggested Lofgren had information that Starr knew about Lewinsky before January, and Starr did not deny it explicitly, saying at the time that he would have to search his memory. But in his written responses Starr said definitively that he first learned of the Lewinsky tapes on Jan. 12.

    Additionally, he said in apparent reference to a woman who was an unnamed witness in the Jones case that last spring "the office learned of, and I had conversations concerning, the possible existence of a tape recording in which a woman other than Monica Lewinsky stated that she was sexually assaulted by then Arkansas Attorney General Clinton." That woman a "Jane Doe" in the Jones case has not made any public charges against Clinton.

    Much of Starr's 29-page letter to the Judiciary Committee centered on the events of Jan. 16, particularly as they were later related by Lewinsky in grand jury testimony.

    "Many of these questions appear to rely on Ms. Lewinsky's perception of events as they unfolded that day," Starr wrote. "Ms. Lewinsky was understandably upset and distraught when approached by this office not due to her treatment by this office but due to the gravity of the situation in which she found herself." Starr cited Chief U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson's recently unsealed ruling that found Starr's lawyers had not violated Lewinsky's right to counsel that day. Starr did not mention that Johnson's ruling faulted his office for discussing immunity with her outside the presence of her lawyer, a deviation from Justice Department policy.

    On other questions about his office's handling of her that night, Starr said:

    Lewinsky was not threatened with 27 years in jail. "She was advised of the nature of the possible charges against her and what the maximum penalty would be for each offense. At no time was Ms. Lewinsky told what her actual sentence would be." However, Starr acknowledged that one of his lawyers told Lewinsky "she was 24, she was smart and she did not need to talk to her mommy."

  • His team told Lewinsky they knew of involvement by her mother, Marcia Lewis, in the suspected crimes, but he denied that they threatened to prosecute her.

  • Lewinsky was mistaken in inferring that Starr's prosecutors wanted her to tape-record Clinton and his friend Vernon E. Jordan Jr., who was then suspected of trying to help keep the Jones lawyers from finding out about Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky. Starr said his office told Lewinsky they hoped to get her to record conversations with presidential secretary Betty Currie, not Clinton or Jordan.

    On other matters put to him by Congress, Starr:

  • Called the claim that he is investigating the legality of an international child adoption by witness Julie Hiatt Steele "absolutely false." He said he could not elaborate because of the ongoing investigation of claims about Clinton made by former Steele friend Kathleen E. Willey.

  • Listed about 40 private clients he has represented in appellate matters since he was named independent counsel four years ago, many of them Fortune 500 companies. In addition to his work for two tobacco companies much criticized by the White House Starr has represented telecommunications companies, automobile manufacturers, insurance companies and weapons manufacturers, including Raytheon Missile Systems Co. and Hughes Space & Communications International Inc.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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