FROM THE NEWSROOM
January 28, 1998
In Washington, Leon Panetta, the former White House chief of staff, testified before a grand jury for 8 hours regarding President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. In our continuing coverage of the White House crisis, Margaret Warner speaks with Dan Balz from The Washington Post on the latest developments. Check The Washington Post for additional coverage.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
January 27, 1998:
Washington Post reporter, Dan Balz, discusses the latest developments in the White House crisis.
January 26, 1998:
Dan Balz dicusses the White House crisis.
January 26, 1998:
Our presidential historians discuss the importance of President Clinton's State of the Union address.
January 26, 1998:
Experts debate the role of the independent counsel.
January 23, 1998:
Mark Shields and Paul Gigot discuss the the political issues surrounding President Clinton's alleged affair.
January 22, 1998:
Shields and Gigot discuss the legal implications of the crisis.
January 22, 1998:
The legal implications of President Clinton's alleged affair.
January 22, 1998:
Presidential historians and experts put the brewing crisis in perspective.
January 21, 1998:
President Clinton responds to charges that he may have had an affair with a former White House intern.
May 27, 1997:
A discussion on the ramifications of the Paula Jones case on the office of the Presidency.
January 13, 1997:
Paula Jones's case goes before the Supreme Court.
An exploration of presidential leadership: Character Above All
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the White House and legal issues
The Shields and Gigot index page.
The Washingtonpost.com's coverage of the crisis.
MARGARET WARNER: Once again for an update on today's developments we return to the Washington Post newsroom. Joining us is Dan Balz, the correspondent on the Post's national staff. Dan, let's start with Leon Panetta's testimony before the grand jury today. First, explain to us why Leon Panetta is important to what Ken Starr's trying to establish.
The testimony of Leon Panetta.
DAN BALZ, Washington Post: But Leon Panetta was the White House Chief of Staff at the time Monica Lewinsky was working as an intern in the White House. During her initial stint as an intern she was assigned to his office, so he would have some information, presumably about what he knew about her in that capacity. She later moved from his office to the Office of Legislative Affairs and eventually to the Pentagon. Now, he has said he never really knew her. When he was asked about this last week, he said he had no recollection of her. He did say he recognized a picture of her, but presumably he told the grand jury today that he never really knew her. In addition to that, though, he would have information about White House operations, and he was there for a long time today. Eight hours is a long time to be before a grand jury. And no doubt he was being asked a lot about how the Clinton White House operated and what the President's work habits might have been.
MARGARET WARNER: And, in fact, he said that when he came out, that he was asked a great deal about the physical setting and so on. He also made a statement after he came out specifically to the allegations.
DAN BALZ: He said that he no knowledge of any improper relationship between the President and any intern and then he added or for that matter any other woman. It was a clear effort on his part to say that he had nothing to offer the grand jury that might be relevant on the particular explosive allegations in this case.
MARGARET WARNER: Let's get back--explain just a little bit about a grand jury. What role does a grand jury play in an investigation like this?
The role of the grand jury.
DAN BALZ: Margaret, a grand jury is a powerful and wide ranging investigative body that prosecutors use. It's a group of 23 citizens who are impaneled who hear testimony and then determine whether there is essentially sufficient evidence to indict someone for a crime. Now, it does not require that they think that they definitely have the evidence to convict someone of a crime but simply enough to go ahead and indict. And it is a body that can range widely with the encouragement of a prosecutor in whatever the investigation is.
MARGARET WARNER: And what are the ground rules for a witness like Mr. Panetta or any witness?
DAN BALZ: A witness like Mr. Panetta would have been under oath in a grand jury room but not accompanied by his attorney. And he has an attorney who could be in the hallway outside. If he's asked a question that he wants to consult with his attorney on, he's free to request to leave the room, go out, talk to his attorney, come back and answer the question. But, essentially a person who is before the grand jury is on his or her own when they're in the room.
MARGARET WARNER: And can a witness refuse to answer a question?
DAN BALZ: A witness could refuse to answer on Fifth Amendment grounds against self-incrimination. Someone I talked to today said that in a case like this someone might be able to invoke executive privilege if that's relevant. We have no indication that Mr. Panetta did that.
MARGARET WARNER: And are there any limitations on what the prosecutor can ask the witness? For example, in this case, are the prosecutors limited to asking about what the witness knows about the President's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, or can he ask about anything?
DAN BALZ: A prosecutor has a wide berth for questioning and can probably go into lots and lots of different areas. There are very few limits on what a prosecutor can ask a witness in a case like this. It has to have some relevance obviously, but it is not confined to the same rules that an attorney would be under during a courtroom appearance or a trial appearance.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay. Now who else has Starr subpoenaed that you know about to this grand jury?
The list of subpoenas.
DAN BALZ: Well, we obviously know that Betty Currie has been subpoenaed. She's the President's secretary. She testified yesterday. We know that Monica Lewinsky has been subpoenaed and they're still waiting to determine the terms under which she appears. Vernon Jordan, the President's friend and attorney has been called to testify in this. He helped Monica Lewinsky get a job, and one of the allegations is that he may have encouraged her to lie about her relationship with the President. In addition to that, we think that a courier may have testified. There's been information that there were documents of messages, of things sent from Monica Lewinsky to the White House for the President. The courier might have had information about that. In addition to that, Evelyn Lieberman, who's a former deputy White House chief of staff, has been subpoenaed. She is the person who it's believed was concerned about Monica Lewinsky and concerned enough to have her moved to the Pentagon. In addition to that, two other people--Linda Tripp, who made the tapes with Monica Lewinsky, and Lucy Ann Goldberg, who is a literary agent in New York, who she says encouraged Linda Tripp to begin taping Monica Lewinsky--so there's quite a few people left to be heard from. And those are among the ones we know about.
MARGARET WARNER: And a number of these people, the White House officials, or all their offices are in close proximity, aren't they?
DAN BALZ: It's one of the things that I think people don't fully understand about the operation of the White House. The West Wing is a very small and relatively confined area. The offices are not particularly large. They are basically on top of one another in terms of the working environment. The chief of staff sits down at one corner of the West Wing. The Oval Office is down at the other. Deputy Chief of Staff--like Evelyn Lieberman--sat just across the hall from Leon Panetta and down the hall from the Oval Office, but it's very close working quarters, and so people, you know, people have access to see things as they occur during the day.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, theoretically, could Kenneth Starr subpoena the President to this grand jury?
DAN BALZ: That's in dispute, Margaret. The lawyers are--believe that it's unlikely a President can be indicted for a crime, only impeached, and, therefore, it seems unlikely that they can ask him to testify.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, what else in the last 24 hours since you and I talked has Kenneth Starr acquired in the way of either evidence or other potential witnesses?
DAN BALZ: Well, I think the most important development on that front came late yesterday when Robert Bennett, who's the President's attorney in the Paula Jones case, agreed to turn over the President's deposition in that case to the independent counsel. He volunteered it, but he probably didn't have much legal ground to resist, so at this point, we don't think that Ken Starr has that deposition but will probably get it sometime within the next few days. In addition, we believe that the independent counsel has certain logs from the White House that would record the comings and goings of Monica Lewinsky. There is a report, a recent report that she and the President had a meeting at the White House sometime after Christmas, which would have been after she was subpoenaed in the Paula Jones case. Her attorney does not dispute that fact, but he does not directly confirm it.
MARGARET WARNER: And then someone else has come forward with some other evidence, physical evidence?
A new twist in this "complicated tale."
DAN BALZ: The other twist in this always complicated tale is the arrival of a gentleman named Andy Bleiler, who's a former high school teacher of Monica Lewinsky. He came forward yesterday through an attorney and said that he had conducted a five-year affair with Monica Lewinsky. His attorney also said that they had some things that they planned to turn over to Ken Starr. He said that they had some White House souvenirs, some photos, and some documents, and Mr. Bleiler's attorney, Terry Giles, said that it was the documents that they felt were probably the most relevant, and he said he found it somewhat unusual that an intern might have access to these kinds of White House documents.
MARGARET WARNER: Because they were from White House files, he thought?
DAN BALZ: Apparently so. Now, one thing to remember about the internship program at the White House; when President Clinton ran for office in 1992, he promised that he would substantially reduce the White House staff, and once they got there, they realized it was going to be difficult to run the White House on a much smaller staff. They have filled in a lot of gaps with interns. There are interns who do things in this White House that they have not generally done. So an intern like Monica Lewinsky--we don't know this for sure--certainly would have access to some documents because he or she might be couriering them from the chief of staff's office to another office. So it's possible that an intern would have access to some documents that a lawyer who's unfamiliar with how any White House, or particularly this White House, operates would find unusual.
MARGARET WARNER: And, very briefly, because we're almost out of time, is there anything new on the Starr/Lewinsky negotiations?
DAN BALZ: At this point, no, it doesn't look like there's been a lot of progress made. There are a number of steps that they have to go through before they get there, but so far we don't think that there's a deal.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, Dan, thank you very much again.
DAN BALZ: Thank you, Margaret.
JIM LEHRER: The Washington Post coverage is available in full after 10:30 Eastern Time on the Internet at its Web site: www.washingtonpost.com or ours: www.pbs.org/newshour.