Clinton attempts to invoke executive, attorney privileges Motion would prevent aides from being called to testify

March 21, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton yesterday took the extraordinary step of formally invoking both executive privilege and attorney-client privilege to block grand jury testimony of senior White House aides in the Monica Lewinsky inquiry, lawyers involved in the case said.

Clinton's lawyers invoked the privileges in a closed hearing before a federal judge supervising the grand jury to block questioning of Bruce Lindsey, the deputy White House counsel and one of the president's closest advisers. The privilege was also invoked to shield Sidney Blumenthal, another presidential adviser, from testifying on some issues.

The independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr, opposed the move and asked Judge Norma Holloway Johnson to compel the aides to testify, the lawyers said.

Johnson did not issue a ruling yesterday. White House officials said that they had been trying to reach a compromise to avoid yesterday's courtroom confrontation, and that they may still attempt to negotiate their way around a formal impasse. A constitutional confrontation could last months and would ultimately require the intervention of the Supreme Court.

According to lawyers involved in the case, White House lawyers argued before Johnson yesterday that Clinton had invoked executive privilege and lawyer-client privilege to block the testimony of Lindsey, lawyers involved in the inquiry said.

Lindsey has been of keen interest to investigators because he had been a top adviser to the president in the Paula Corbin Jones sexual misconduct lawsuit.

Lindsey has already testified over two days before the Lewinsky grand jury, although one of his appearances was marked by closed-door arguments over subjects that he and his lawyers believed should be protected from disclosure because of his relationship to the president. Lawyers involved in the case had said that the White House particularly wanted to keep secret conversations that Lindsey had with Clinton after he gave his deposition in the Jones case on Jan. 17.

Clinton's lawyers and White House officials would not discuss the arguments made yesterday.

Starr appeared at the hearing yesterday but declined to comment afterward about it.

Pub Date: 3/21/98

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