July 28, 1998
Attorneys representing Monica Lewinsky announced today that the independent counsel's office has granted their client immunity from prosecution. Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot and Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant discuss the immunity deal and its political implications.
JIM LEHRER: And more on this story now and to Margaret Warner.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
A RealAudio version of Jim Lehrer's interview with Paul Campos is also available.
July 27, 1998:
Ken Starr subpoenas the president to testify in front of his grand jury
July 21, 1998:
A roundtable discussion on Chief Justice Rehnquist's decision not to interfere with the subpoenas of secret service agents.
July 16, 1998:
The Clinton administration appeals to Chief Justice Rehnquist to keep secret service agents from testifying before the Starr grand jury.
July 15, 1998:
Can the Justice Dept. force secret service agents to testify?
July 4, 1998:
The Supreme Court refuses to hear from Kenneth Starr.
July 1, 1998:
A report on the question of executive privilege and the Starr investigation.
June 29, 1998:
The Supreme Court upholds attorney-client privilege in the Vincent Foster case.
June 8, 1998:
The Supreme Court hears arguments in the Vincent Foster attorney-client privilege case.
June 4, 1998:
The Supreme Court refuses to expedite matters in the Ken Starr investigation.
May 1, 1998:
Dan Balz discusses the new charges against former Justice Department official Webster Hubbell.
April 16, 1998:
Ken Starr discusses his investigation with the press.
April 13, 1998:
A report on Ken Starr's subpoena of two Washington bookstores.
April 1, 1998:
A judge dismisses Paula Jones' case against the president.
March 3, 1998:
President Clinton's friend and confidant, Vernon Jordan, testified before the grand jury.
February 27, 1998:
Shields and Gigot discuss criticism of Starr's investigation .
February 26, 1998:
First Amendment implications of the Starr investigation.
February 24, 1998:
Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal is called before the grand jury.
February 18, 1998:
Washington Post reporter Dan Balz discusses presidential adviser Bruce Lindsey's testimony before the grand jury.
February 6, 1998:
Perspectives on the Starr investigation from beyond the beltway.
January 26, 1998:
Experts debate the role of the independent counsel.
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.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Starr investigation
The Washingtonpost.com's library of legal documents in the Starr investigation.
MARGARET WARNER: For what's behind today's developments and their likely impact we turn to NewsHour regular Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot and to Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant. Paul, what led to this immunity deal finally, when there have been so many months of stalemate between Starr and Lewinsky?
Breaking the stalemate.
PAUL GIGOT: Margaret, I think a couple of things came to a head. One is that Ken Starr finally made it clear to Monica Lewinsky's lawyers he was prepared to indict, which obviously runs some risk for their client. Second, we have the Secret Service opinion come down, where Starr was allowed now and he's called this week several already Secret Service agents to testify, which my reporting suggests made Monica Lewinsky's lawyers a little more nervous about her vulnerability, and then finally those lawyers did something that Ken Starr has wanted all along. They allowed Ken Starr's attorneys to interview Monica face to face. Starr had felt burned by his deal he had cut earlier several years ago with Webster Hubbell, who cut a deal, didn't interview Hubbell extensively in advance, I'm told, and they regretted it because he didn't remember very much after that, and they felt that they had cut a bad deal. But yesterday when he met face to face with Monica Lewinsky, herself, they were able to size her up, see what she-she was telling the truth, what's she going to tell them-and I think that closed the deal.
MARGARET WARNER: Both sides dropped preconditions, didn't they?
TOM OLIPHANT: Absolutely. I think that Paul is right on target so far, but I think there's more to this story and Starr's office probably will have to explain more of it than it has up to this hour. For example, when we were reporting impasse just two or three weeks ago, there were such things on the table as a request for a polygraph of Ms. Lewinsky, much more importantly, it was a desire on Starr's part to have her plead guilty to some kind of crime, and thirdly, the status of her mother was being held over her in part as leverage, and all of these things went away. And there is no indication from the Lewinsky side that they gave anything. So right now the point could almost be made politically that Starr has given away a great deal today to get this woman's testimony.
MARGARET WARNER: Any idea why?
PAUL GIGOT: One would think-given the fact that they've waited this long-and were prepared to indict and go to a trial that would not have been easy for Ken Starr-but he feels very comfortable with the information he's got, that it helps him make his case, and there was some pressure on Starr-let's not forget this-to wrap this up. I mean, delay was the President's ally, and Ken Starr's under increasing pressure from-frankly from Congress-if he's going to do anything before the election-do it earlier, rather than later, and second from the public, which has wanted this thing to move ahead and let's get it over with, let's get it on the table. So Starr's felt some pressure too, but I would think at a minimum Ken Starr believes that Monica Lewinsky-whatever she's telling-is telling him the truth, and it's significant enough that it helps him make the rest of his case.
TOM OLIPHANT: Though the problem is that as you proceed down the road, a prosecutor vouching for a witness is not an adequate buttressing of that witness's statement, and Starr still has to explain, I think, why the country has gone through a political kabuki dance, at least for the last six months, so that he could get to the point where he makes an agreement with his so-called Starr witness that really doesn't appear to be much different than what was on the table way back in January before we went through all of this.
MARGARET WARNER: So what does having the deal in hand now do for Starr's calculations, his timetable, who he wants to have testify first?
Speeding up Mr. Starr's timetable.
PAUL GIGOT: It speeds everything up, Margaret. I mean, I think now the president, for example, is less important to him, whether or not he-I mean, he subpoenaed the president, which is the other big event, and that's an important event, but legally Starr can put together with Monica Lewinsky's testimony and Monica's mother, Marsha Lewis's testimony, and the rest of the things he has, I think he can put together a report that he can present to Congress, even if the president declines-fights his subpoena for the next six months.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's switch to the White House discussion. I know it's early. I know I'm asking a lot of both of you to tell me about this, but how did this deal announced today-how is it changing the calculations affecting the strategy that the White House has already been engaged in all week, given the subpoena of the president?
TOM OLIPHANT: You know, interestingly, Margaret, before this afternoon-remember how at many times in the last six months people have talked about in disagreement between the president's political advisers and his lawyers about how many cards to show, how vigorous to be in public, how closed-mouth to be. I thought until today that what was different was that they were pretty much together, assuming that the president's testimony was going to be taken under oath. In the way-
MARGARET WARNER: And they think we're negotiating this conditions.
TOM OLIPHANT: Exactly. But in the wake of this announcement I think there's going to be at least a pause for this reason to get clarification on one rather important question both legally and politically, and that is what is Starr's investigation about. I mean, if Monica Lewinsky and her mother and as far as we know Vernon Jordan and everybody else off the table in terms of being a target for potential prosecution, what is this grand jury doing? If it is now solely an investigation of the president and Starr is in the possession of evidence that might be an impeachable offense, well, his real obligation, it seems to me, is to go to the Congress and have the impeachment process either begin or not begin. But I think before there's an agreement, the president's people are going to want a clarification on just what investigation he's being asked to testify about.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree that this deal may be making the White House rethink whether they want to have the president testify or when?
PAUL GIGOT: Yes. It's making them more reluctant, but I'm not so sure that you could make the president more reluctant or his advisers more reluctant. The problem the subpoena presents them is political. It raises the price of resisting, because it's an event in which the Democrats are inclined not to support the president on, and they've been loyal right down the line. But if you watched their comments on the weekend, they all said, we're certain that the president is going to testify and we're certain he has nothing to worry about. They were separating themselves. But I think it does increase their reluctance, but the prices is high if he doesn't.
TOM OLIPHANT: Might I strengthen Paul's statement. I think it has been made quite clear to the White House that no significant Democrat will publicly support a decision to defy a subpoena or an order to testify, and for that reason it is still extremely unlikely that that will happen. These are difficult negotiations, however, over format and timing, especially timing that they're about to go through, and I don't mean to suggest it's going to be that much easier, but the political point about there being no viable course of defiance is important.
PAUL GIGOT: Remember what the grand jury is-to get back to Tom's earlier point-the grand jury in this case is not really looking at the Monica Lewinsky matter. This started as a Whitewater investigation, as we all know, and as the White House likes to tell us. But what Starr has developed is a theory of the case, and his theory of the case is a pattern of obstruction, starting with Madison Guaranty, moving on to Whitewater and Filegate and the rest on through the Lewinsky matter. That is what triggered, after all, the request to Janet Reno to start this. That is the area where Starr is looking at, and it includes everybody from Bruce Lindsey to the president, himself, to Vernon Jordan. So that's what the grand jury is still investigating, and they're going to continue until presumably Starr says there's nobody to indict or it's more important that I present this to the Congress.
Getting close to the end?
TOM OLIPHANT: I think, however, though, that the political point about how you get rid of a president in our system is going to trump this, and that is that a prosecutor cannot occupy a federal grand jury for the pursuit of a theory about possible activity by a president. His duty is to present evidence of impeachable offenses, and I think what's happened in the last couple of weeks is that the grand jury phase of this mess has sped up tremendously, and it's getting much closer to the end, and you're not going to see Kenneth Starr sitting at that grand jury much longer talking about theories.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, and I know we have no reason to sort of believe these news reports--they say Monica Lewinsky is not prepared to testify that she was asked by the president to lie about any relationship. That would suggest the obstruction issue is somehow off the table, but you're saying impossible because that's the whole theory.
PAUL GIGOT: I don't think that's off the table at all. I think that just because Monica Lewinsky says-and again we don't know if this is true-just because she said the president never said to me lie, that doesn't mean that whatever Monica Lewinsky can tell to Ken Starr doesn't fit into other arguments that Starr can make to other episodes and events. She's going to be providing testimony across a whole time line. You met the president when he talked to Vernon Jordan here. You spoke with Betty Currie there. And Starr can put all that together because Starr and his attorneys are the only ones who had the whole case in front of them and know where it fits in. And I would say one other point, which is that one of the people Starr had interviewing Monica Lewinsky yesterday was Sam Dash. Sam Dash is a Democrat who was his ethics adviser and was a Watergate counsel. It's very significant that Starr said I want you to sit in there and see how much we can believe this one.
MARGARET WARNER: I'm sorry. We have to stop there. Thank you both very much.
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