INVESTIGATING THE PRESIDENT
FEBRUARY 5, 1998
Following excerpts from a Kenneth Starr press conference, Jim Lehrer discusses the latest developments in the Starr investigation with Dan Balz of The Washington Post.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
February 5, 1998:
Kenneth Starr holds a press conference.
February 2, 1998:
Washington Post reporter, Dan Balz, discusses the Starr investigation .
January 29, 1998:
Dan Balz discusses the White House crisis.
January 28, 1998:
An update on the White House crisis with Dan Balz.
January 27, 1998:
Dan Balz, discusses the latest developments in 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.
JIM LEHRER: More on the story now from Dan Balz of the Washington Post. He joins us from the Post newsroom. Dan, good evening.
DAN BALZ, Washington Post: Good evening, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: The statements by the President and Mr. Starr speak for themselves. But let's go through some of these issues that were raised. First of all, where do matters stand on the executive privilege thing right now?
DAN BALZ: Well, at this point neither side has moved too strongly to force one's hand. Both of these sides in this investigation, the White House on the one hand, and Ken Starr's investigation, the other, are delicately stepping up to this issue. It is a very tricky issue for both sides. There is a fair amount of mutual suspicion on these two sides that Mr. Starr was asked whether they're at war with one another. I'm not sure I would use that word, but you could certainly say these are opposing camps who have long been that--you know, going back and forth at one another. They know the others' approaches to these matters. The White House counsel--
JIM LEHRER: You mean--excuse me--
DAN BALZ: --in earlier discussions this week to prevent or to convince Mr. Starr not to venture into certain areas in questioning. On Wednesday night Mr. Starr rejected that request. Now the question is at what point in the grand jury proceedings does--do any of Mr. Starr's investigators move into areas that the White House feels that its high officials do not want to answer? So far, that has not happened.
JIM LEHRER: Well, specifically, we're talking about the testimony of former White House official John Podesta and Bruce Lindsey, is that correct? Can you hear me, Dan? No. No. Dan, do you hear me now?
DAN BALZ: Now I can, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Two things. I started to interrupt you--I tried to interrupt you a moment ago to explain the long range problem between the White House and Kenneth Starr is not really just to this issue. He's been investigating various elements, various allegations against President and Mrs. Clinton for three and a half years. I wanted to make that point in terms of the lawn thing. Now, my follow-up was this: The officials on the executive privilege that--where this issue may come up are John Podesta, right, a former--
DAN BALZ: Correct. He's the current Deputy White House Chief of Staff.
JIM LEHRER: Current Deputy White House Chief of Staff--and Bruce Lindsey, who is one of Mr. Clinton's closest friends and counselors, correct?
DAN BALZ: That's correct. He is a long-time personal friend of the President, who also is a counselor to the President and is in many ways his closest personal adviser within the White House.
JIM LEHRER: Now, John Podesta testified today--came out and said he answered all the questions that were asked. So what does that mean?
DAN BALZ: Well, it means that they at this point have not ventured into areas that might provoke a clash over the issue of executive privilege. I believe he's going to be called back again and maybe that in the questioning today they did not get into the areas that are the most sensitive But we also think that this is more likely to come in the testimony provided by Bruce Lindsey.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Now, the other pending issue, of course, is the negotiations for immunity between Kenneth Starr's people and attorneys for Monica Lewinsky. What do you know about that tonight?
DAN BALZ: Well, at this point the independent counsel has set a deadline of tomorrow for Monica Lewinsky either to agree to come in for questioning in his office, or to face prosecution, or to be compelled to testify. This week for the first time her attorneys submitted a written proffer. In the past, as you know, they have been verbal descriptions of what she would testify to. They now have a written proffer from her. And some of the material in it the independent counsel's office feels is either inconsistent or contradictory. She does, apparently, is prepared to say that she had a sexual relationship with the President. On the issue of whether she was asked to lie about that relationship or urged others to lie about it, her proffer is somewhat unclear. And so the independent counsel has said we have a deadline of Friday to make a decision on this. We think this is a firmer deadline in a long series of negotiations that have been going on for a couple of weeks now.
JIM LEHRER: So it may not--it may be very significant, or it may not mean a thing. It may just be another step in the negotiations.
DAN BALZ: It may be, but we think at this point there's a little bit higher stakes in terms of where they are in terms of a standoff on this.
JIM LEHRER: Dan, explain about a proffer. A proffer cannot be used later on unless it is really part of an ultimate deal, is that correct?
DAN BALZ: That's correct. The proffer is in some ways what you could call a free shot. A person can say what they're prepared to testify to, and if the negotiations break down, the proffer doesn't exist, and what's in there doesn't exist in terms of a legal sense.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Now, the grand jury, while all of this is--we mentioned John Podesta testified today. Who else has been testifying, and where does it--just based on those witnesses, what does it look like has been going on this week?
DAN BALZ: Between this week and last week I think a pattern is emerging in which they are taking testimony from people who either have detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the west wing of the White House and how the Oval Office and the immediate rooms around it operate, or people who have proximity or access to those offices. Now, that's everybody from former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta to former White House interns, to Betty Currie, the President's personal secretary, to one or more White House stewards who are posted in the Executive Office, or in the Oval Office suite.
JIM LEHRER: And the aim is to do--what do you folks--how do your folks read the aim of all of that, where that's headed?
DAN BALZ: Based on what we've been able to determine at this point, Mr. Starr's investigators are very interested in trying to find any evidence that may put the President and Monica Lewinsky together in the President's study, which is a very small room just off the Oval Office, possibly alone together in that study. And so they are asking people who might have either a line of sight into that study or access to the immediate vicinity what they know. They're trying to find out generally the operations around there, but, more particularly, what might have happened in the study.
JIM LEHRER: Dan, you've mentioned this before in your conversations with Margaret, Margaret Warner, who's talked to you before, and, of course, of our de-briefings about the pace this thing was following. There were stories on the wires today quoting Mr. Ginsburg, Monica Lewinsky's lawyer, that he felt things--he said things are suddenly moving very fast. Is that--do you have that feeling as well?
DAN BALZ: You know, I don't know whether we can say that at this point. I think there are days when things look like they're moving very rapidly, and then there are days when things seem to be at a standstill. Any legal proceeding has a kind of a rhythm like that, and I think we're in the middle of what could be a somewhat longer investigation unless there is some major breakthrough that they've either already gotten or are about to get.
JIM LEHRER: Is there still any question that Monica Lewinsky is--and her testimony, what she says or does not say, what she confirms or does not confirm, that goes to the heart of whether or not there really will be a serious criminal prosecution?
DAN BALZ: I think Monica Lewinsky's testimony is still crucial to all of this, but as Starr said today, we're--as he said, they are moving along very rapidly, and they have made significant progress--that is in the absence of a full detailed accounting from Monica Lewinsky.
JIM LEHRER: When he used the term "significant progress," does that jibe with what you're reporting says as well?
DAN BALZ: It's not entirely clear. There's more that's going on in the grand jury that we and everybody else would like to know about. And only Mr. Starr and his attorneys are really privy to exactly what they know.
JIM LEHRER: Have there, in fact, been leaks from this grand jury?
DAN BALZ: Well, we don't want to go into where we get our information, but, I mean, there's information coming from a variety of sources on this, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. All right. Dan, thanks again for being with us.
DAN BALZ: Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: A reminder that the Washington Post full coverage is available after 10:30 Eastern Time on their Web site and on ours.
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