By Pete Yost
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal judge ruled today that evidence concerning Monica Lewinsky cannot be brought into the Paula Jones lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright in Little Rock, Ark., said she would not allow evidence of the allegations of an alleged presidential affair and coverup involving Ms. Lewinsky to be considered in Mrs. Jones' sexual harassment trial against the president.
``Monica Lewinsky is not essential to the core issues in this case. Some of the evidence would be inadmissible,'' the judge wrote in a ruling that will prevent Mrs. Jones attorneys from raising one of the most sensational allegations their work uncovered.
``Admitting any evidence of the Lewinsky matter would frustrate the timely resolution of this case and would undoubtedly cause undue expense, cost and delay,'' she wrote.
The decision came after Starr asked the judge to block lawyers in the Jones case from gathering evidence about the Lewinsky matter. Starr contended they were interfering with his criminal investigation by pursuing the same witnesses and evidence.
Both sides in the Jones suit ``are attempting to take strategic advantage of the ongoing criminal investigation to their own benefit -- with the inevitable effect of disrupting that investigation,'' Starr wrote in a motion filed in Little Rock.
Donovan Campbell, Mrs. Jones' attorney, issued a statement saying he would appeal Wright's decision. He said it was ``clearly erroneous and represents plain error and an abuse of discretion.''
In Washington, a court released details about the basis for the Lewinsky investigation.
In a document released by the judges who appointed Starr, Attorney General Janet Reno said that Ms. Lewsinky was captured on tape by Starr's investigators stating that she would lie in the Jones suit and encouraging a friend to do likewise.
``In a taped conversation with a cooperating witness, Ms. Lewinsky states that she intended to lie when deposed. In the same conversation, she urged the cooperating witness to lie in her own upcoming testimony,'' Reno wrote in seeking permission to turn the investigation over to Starr.
``I have determined that it would be a conflict of interest for the Department of Justice to investigate Ms. Lewsinky for perjury and suborning perjury as a witness in this civil suit involving the president,'' she wrote.
Starr's motion accused Mrs. Jones' lawyers of ``shadowing'' his investigation --on Wednesday, they delivered a subpoena to former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta while he was testifying before Starr's grand jury. Starr also said President Clinton's attorneys ``have even subpoenaed information directly from'' the prosecutor's office.
His dramatic request to halt the civil case that spawned Starr's investigation of an alleged presidential affair and coverup came after Ms. Lewinsky's attorney sounded a down note about his latest meeting with the prosecutor over an immunity deal.
``If you asked if we made any progress, we are making progress today on preparing Monica a defense,'' attorney William Ginsburg told The Associated Press. At midday, he and Ms. Lewinsky left her apartment at the Watergate complex together.
Ginsburg said his face-to-face meeting with Starr lasted less than an hour and declined to provide further details.
Fox News quoted Ginsburg as saying that Starr felt his client was ``holding back'' information and that when Ginsburg said he had nothing else to offer, the talks broke down. Fox also reported that Ginsburg said Ms. Lewinsky would now be a reluctant witness who would likely take the Fifth Amendment.
Ginsburg denied making those statements.
On Wednesday, Ginsburg had said that if talks designed to reach an immunity deal for Ms. Lewinsky in exchange for her testimony broke down, he would turn to preparing a defense for the former White House intern.
Ginsburg previously confirmed his client was told by prosecutors she was a target who is likely to be indicted.
Ginsburg and Starr's investigators had been in regular contact in recent days as they tried to clarify points in her formal offer earlier this week to testify.
There was no immediate comment from Starr's office.
Prosecutors also are setting their sights on Secret Service agents as possible witnesses into whether Clinton had sex with Ms. Lewinsky.
Officials say Starr's office and Treasury officials were discussing how to gain testimony from the agents -- a step that would breach their customary code of silence.
Starr is trying to determine whether there is any corroboration for the accusation that Ms. Lewinsky, a former White House intern, had a sexual relationship with Clinton and then was urged by the president and longtime Clinton confidant Vernon Jordan to lie about it.
The Associated Press reported last week that prosecutors are interested in a contact Clinton had with Ms. Lewinsky in December -- after she had been ordered to describe her relationship with the president under oath and before Jordan helped arrange a New York job and Washington lawyer for her.
The Washington Post said today that the meeting occurred Dec. 28 near the Oval Office, according to sources it did not identify. With help from Jordan, Ms. Lewinsky later received a job offer with Revlon in New York. The offer was rescinded when allegations of an affair with Clinton surfaced.
The New York Times reported today that, according to an associate of Ms. Lewinsky, Clinton told her in a private meeting at the White House in late December that she could testify that the purpose of her various visits to the White House since leaving her job as an intern there was to see his secretary, Betty Currie.
In Ms. Lewinsky's version of the meeting, Clinton also told her she might find it easier to avoid testifying if she moved to New York, said the Times, quoting an unidentified associate of Ms. Lewinsky and others familiar with her account.
A White House political aide, Paul Begala, today discounted these reports as ``probably another one of these false leaks.'' He told NBC, ``The president has been very clear that he has never asked anybody to do anything but tell the truth.''
White House spokesman Mike McCurry would not comment on the latest reports of a private meeting. He said that matter would be part of the ``facts and truth that is developed through reasonable examination, cross examination, provision of testimony.''
Asked whether the White House would oppose letting Secret Service agents testify in the investigation, he replied, ``To my knowledge we've taken no position on that.''
The Treasury Department was concerned that testimony from agents might jeopardize the effectiveness of the security detail, said officials, speaking on condition of anonymity. However, agents have testified before in the Whitewater probe -- concerning the alleged movement of documents by White House aides in the hours following the death of Clinton's former deputy counsel, Vincent Foster.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press