INVESTIGATING THE PRESIDENT
FEBRUARY 10, 1998
Following grand jury testimony by Marcia Lewis, Monica Lewinsky's mother, Margaret Warner discusses the latest developments in the Starr investigation with Dan Balz of The Washington Post.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
MARGARET WARNER: Once again, we return to the Washington Post newsroom. And joining us is Dan Balz, a correspondent on the Post's national staff.
Dan, Monica Lewinsky's mother, Marsha Lewis, was subpoenaed today. What happened?
DAN BALZ, Washington Post: Well, Margaret, she testified for several hours today. And as we understand it, she'll be going back again tomorrow. She's obviously a very important witness. Few people are closer to Monica Lewinsky than her mother. And there are some things to remember here: that while Monica Lewinsky was working at the White House and later at the Pentagon, she lived at the Watergate apartment that her mother has. On January 16th, when Monica Lewinsky was detained by FBI agents at a suburban Washington hotel, the person she called for help basically was her mother. And we also know that from the tapes that Linda Tripp secretly made there are a number of references that Monica Lewinsky makes to her mother and in one case takes a call in the middle of a conversation with Linda Tripp and has a conversation with her mother. And so there's interplay back and forth.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, Mrs. Lewis, I understand, did not want to come testify and tried to fight it.
DAN BALZ: Right.
MARGARET WARNER: On what grounds? What happened there?
DAN BALZ: The truth is we don't know on what grounds. In most states a spouse cannot be compelled to testify against a spouse. But there's no such privilege for a parent against--testifying against a child. So the precise grounds in which she tried to avoid this testimony we don't know. Her attorney afterwards made it very clear that she'd prefer not to be there, that she feels a lot of pain for what her daughter's going through. But they spent some time in the courthouse with the chief judge who's overseeing this grand jury, who turned down the request. Very interesting is that Ken Starr, the independent counsel, was there at the time. He has basically not come around the grand jury. So this was obviously a very difficult moment for them.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, now, Monica Lewinsky has also been subpoenaed. Tell us where that stands.
DAN BALZ: She has been subpoenaed and is due to appear in court before the grand jury on Thursday. Now, her attorney, Mr. Ginsburg, has said that he will try to quash that attempt. We believe that he's going to file a motion today to try to quash that. We don't know whether that's happened yet. If it doesn't, it'll likely happen tomorrow. His concern, as he's described it in the past few days, is that he says he had an agreement with Ken Starr's office to provide Monica Lewinsky with full immunity. Starr's office denies this and says they never had an agreement.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. And explain for us again what--why is it more advantageous for her to testify with a deal than say without a deal.
DAN BALZ: Well, let's say they don't reach a deal by Thursday--and at this point nothing precludes that--but let's say they don't have a deal by Thursday or at the point that she's--she appears for testimony at the grand jury. At that point, as Ginsburg has made clear, Monica Lewinsky is likely to invoke her Fifth Amendment right to protect herself against self-incrimination. At that point Ken Starr has the right, or his attorneys have the right to compel her testimony by giving her limited or what the lawyers call use immunity and then requiring her to answer the questions that they ask. The limited immunity simply means that nothing she says during that grand jury testimony could be used against her in a later prosecution. But it does not preclude her later prosecution based on evidence developed outside of her testimony.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, has Mr. Ginsburg given any indication about what course she is going to take if his move to quash the whole subpoena doesn't work?
DAN BALZ: Well, he said today: "She will not go to jail like Susan McDougal. She has no intention of falling on her sword." He also said she will exercise fully her constitutional rights. So it seems clear that if there is no agreement for full immunity from prosecution, that when she goes in, she will invoke the Fifth Amendment and then under limited immunity will testify.
MARGARET WARNER: And the reference to Susan McDougal was--
DAN BALZ: Susan McDougal is someone who is in the Whitewater case who under similar circumstances has refused to testify, was cited for contempt, and is still in jail.
MARGARET WARNER: And then you can be jailed almost indefinitely, as long as the grand jury sits?
DAN BALZ: That's correct, as Susan McDougal's case shows.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, why did--do you take this--this subpoena--as a signal that the negotiations between Starr and Ginsburg have broken down, and what happened to cause them to break down? Why couldn't they make a deal?
DAN BALZ: Well, you know, it's one of the great unanswered questions. Describing these negotiations is unusual, I think, at this point, is something of an understatement. So we don't know quite why they haven't been able to do it. The proffer that William Ginsburg submitted on Monica Lewinsky's behalf in which he outlined what she would agree to testify to was not satisfactory from the standpoint of Ken Starr and his team. They felt that there were parts in it that were inconsistent and contradictory; they wanted another opportunity or an opportunity, I should say, to question her and interview her before they signed an agreement. They've not been able to do that. I think at this point you have to say that the relationship between Mr. Ginsburg and Starr's office is not particularly good. If you go back to the early days of their negotiations, a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Ginsburg was describing Ken Starr and his team as very professional, that they had a very cordial relationship, the utmost of cordiality back and forth. In the last several days he has, more or less, accused Ken Starr's office of trying to strong arm his client into saying things that she's not prepared to say. So I think it's fair to say that this relationship has broken down. Whether this is the last step in this process we won't know for a couple of more days.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, could this subpoena be another bluff, or the ultimate squeeze play on Starr's--on Starr's part?
DAN BALZ: Well, I think it's certainly an effort on Starr's part to try to bring these negotiations to a conclusion and to get her before a grand jury one way or the other.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, finally, there was also--there were also some developments on the front--on the Paula Jones lawsuit front in Little Rock. Tell us about that.
DAN BALZ: That's right. Judge Wright in Little Rock today rejected a request by President Clinton's lawyer, Robert Bennett, to move the trial up from May 27th to March 23rd. As you recall, he had said that the whole matter had become a distraction to the President in his official duties, and he wanted this thing brought to an earlier conclusion. She rejected that request today. At the same time, we now know that the Paula Jones lawyers are appealing her earlier decision ruling out any mention of the Lewinsky case in the Paula Jones matter. That will continue to be adjudicated.
MARGARET WARNER: And do you know what her reasoning was for not moving up the case?
DAN BALZ: No. The early report we got did not have any specific reason why.
MARGARET WARNER: And then finally on yet another front this week, David Kendall, the President's lawyer, has also filed a complaint with I guess the presiding Judge at the district court over the leaks. Where does that stand?
DAN BALZ: Well, yesterday he submitted a filing with the court asking that Ken Starr's office be investigated for leaks. As you recall, on Friday, he made a very public denunciation of Ken Starr's office. Mr. Kendall, who is not used to doing business very much in public, went back into form yesterday and submitted this under seal. And so we do not know the reasoning, but we certainly know based on everything he and the President's men have said over the weekend that what he is seeking is for an investigation to determine if Ken Starr's office has been leaking material to the news media and, if so, to impose sanctions on those people who have done the leaking.
MARGARET WARNER: And who would do such an investigation?
DAN BALZ: It's not entirely clear. It could be handled in a number of different ways, and we don't know at this point how it will be handled.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, Dan. Thanks again very much.
DAN BALZ: Thank you, Margaret.