Group Subpoenas Reporter's Notes
By Howard Kurtz
A conservative group that is suing the Clinton administration yesterday subpoenaed a reporter for the New Yorker magazine with far-reaching demands for her notes on at least 100 administration officials, allies, lawmakers, journalists and a prostitute.
Judicial Watch, which is pursuing several lawsuits related to administration scandals, served the papers on reporter Jane Mayer in its first subpoena of a journalist.
A New Yorker spokeswoman last night called the subpoena "simply outrageous. It seeks a truckload of privileged information from a reporter in a blatant attempt to harass her and chill her reporting." She said the group was "trampling on the First Amendment" and that the magazine would move to quash the subpoena.
Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman said, "We have no interest in any way in harassing Ms. Mayer." But, he said, "when a journalist has information that is relevant, he or she is not immune from answering questions." He said the magazine's denunciation of his group "shows the partisan nature of the New Yorker."
A source familiar with the 19-page subpoena said it seeks Mayer's notes or communications since November 1992 with "any woman reported to having had a sexual relationship with the president," including Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey, Dolly Kyle Browning and Elizabeth Ward Gracen. It also seeks information on any diaries kept by Sherry Rowlands, the prostitute who had a relationship with former presidential strategist Dick Morris.
Judicial Watch asked for Mayer's notes that "relate in any way" to employees and commentators for CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Time, MSNBC, Fox, The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Salon magazine. Also included are notes involving the president and first lady, White House aides Michael McCurry, Paul Begala, Sidney Blumenthal and Ann Lewis, the president's lawyers, Paula Jones, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, journalists Al Hunt and Eleanor Clift, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Democratic National Committee and former White House aide Linda Tripp, as well as "any member or former member of Congress" and "any person in the media."
Asked about the breadth of the demands, Klayman said: "That's our standard subpoena we've been using in this case to make sure we have a wide net." He said U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth had approved such a broad search as part of the pretrial discovery process.
Mayer, who is married to Washington Post National Editor William Hamilton, declined to comment.
Klayman said the subpoena relates to a Judicial Watch suit on behalf of Reagan and Bush administration employees who charge that the FBI improperly turned over hundreds of confidential files on Republicans to the Clinton White House. Mayer recently drew attention for a profile of Tripp, a central figure in the Monica S. Lewinsky investigation, that included information from her Pentagon security clearance form.
In her piece, Mayer reported that as a teenager Tripp was arrested on a felony charge of grand larceny and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of loitering. Mayer also said that Tripp did not disclose the arrest in response to a question on her 1987 clearance form. Pentagon public affairs officer Clifford Bernath has said that he routinely released that information to Mayer.
In a deposition before Judicial Watch yesterday, Bernath indicated that he acted with the approval of Assistant Defense Secretary Kenneth Bacon, a political appointee. "Ken has made it clear it's a priority," Bernath's notes said in March.
Bacon said last night that this was "not an accurate account" but that he could not comment further because of an internal Pentagon investigation. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen has said the release of Tripp's personnel information was inappropriate.
Bernath's notes also recorded a subsequent call in which Mayer said she had been questioned about the Pentagon's handling of the matter by Tucker Carlson of the Weekly Standard. "Mayer said Carlson is a 'rabid anti-Clintonite,'‚" Bernath wrote. "Wants to know how to respond. Doesn't want to cause me any problems."
Klayman said the episode underscored the reason for his subpoena, adding: "It would appear that Ms. Mayer . . . was allied with the Clinton administration."
In a letter to The Post last month, Mayer wrote: "Was it unfair of the Pentagon to have confirmed to me that as far as it knew, Ms. Tripp had no arrest record? Clearly, such an answer was seen as harmless, even exculpatory."
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