Mayor Marion Barry said yesterday he plans no immediate legal action to stop what he said was an abuse of subpoena powers and alleged news leaks by federal law enforcement officials investigating District government contracting.
"It's a matter of strategy and tactics. This is war," Barry said in explaining why he had not acted on his threat last week to complain to either the U.S. District Court here or Justice Department officials about the investigation being conducted by U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova.
Barry also said that the news media would soon be embarrassed by its extensive coverage of prosecutors' moves, and suggested that the probe would amount to little. Alluding to an apparent strategy by federal officials to win the cooperation of those linked to the investigation, Barry said "no one's talking" and that there was nothing to talk about.
Barry, who left open the possibility of taking legal action later, made his remarks after attending a private reception and luncheon for Independence Federal Savings Bank and its president, William B. Fitzgerald, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown.
Herbert O. Reid Sr., Barry's legal counsel, said last week at a news conference with the mayor that the issuance of subpoenas to as many as 15 city officials, including Barry, and FBI searches of private homes and businesses was "abusing the subpoena process in a way that I have not witnessed in 40 years . . . . "
DiGenova has declined to comment on the complaints from the Barry administration.
Reid's proposed legal actions -- which have not been publicly revealed -- were prepared as early as Saturday morning, but Barry declined to take action. Over the past several days, the mayor has consulted with several other persons, including other lawyers, about the actions, according to informed sources.
One source said Barry's action would only entangle the mayor in legal actions with prosecutors, distract Barry and fuel news media reports about the contracts probe. "He doesn't need that," the source said.
The possible legal options open to Barry include motions to quash the subpoenas on the grounds that they were too broad, burdensome or improperly drawn. The mayor also could ask for an investigation by the Justice Department, which Barry unsuccessfully has done twice in other cases.
The mayor also could seek a criminal contempt citation claiming that the secrecy of the grand jury process had been violated.
Two weeks after diGenova disclosed the 17-month undercover investigation of D.C. contracting, Barry is maintaining an aggressive public schedule of attending high school graduations and other routine city events. Barry has kept a high profile, in an apparent effort to demonstrate that the District government has not been paralyzed by the investigation.
Barry has said the investigation does not personally involve him, but has acknowledged receiving a subpoena for two pairs of shoes allegedly obtained from one of the private contractors, Warren E. Barge Jr. Barry, who previously said he has never "received" shoes from Barge, has said he would ask the U.S. attorney's office for more information on the shoes before complying with the subpoena.
Barge said Wednesday that he did not directly provide any shoes to Barry, and added that he is not cooperating with federal authorities conducting the probe.
John B. Clyburn, a private contractor who is a central figure in the investigation and whose offices were searched by FBI agents on May 22, was among the crowd of about 150 persons who attended yesterday's luncheon. Clyburn, leaving the luncheon, walked briskly past a reporter and declined to offer any comment.