Lindsey gives testimony to grand jury for 3 hours Clinton legal adviser complies after losing confidentiality appeal

August 29, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Deputy White House Counsel Bruce R. Lindsey, one of President Clinton's most trusted advisers, testified yesterday for more than three hours before a federal grand jury in his first appearance since an appellate court rejected his claim of a confidential attorney-client relationship with the president.

Prosecutors planned to question Lindsey about his private discussions with Clinton on the Monica S. Lewinsky matter and about any efforts to contain the damage from that relationship.

In three earlier appearances before the panel, Clinton's longtime friend and former campaign strategist had refused to answer such questions.

Lindsey, whose latest appearance was delayed nearly a month because of back surgery, was the highest-ranking White House lawyer to be called as independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr tries to wrap up his inquiry.

Starr is investigating whether Clinton perjured himself or obstructed justice in initially denying a sexual liaison with Lewinsky, a former White House intern, and trying to keep the relationship secret.

The efforts of Lindsey and other aides who tried to contain the scandal are also under scrutiny.

Last week, the president acknowledged an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky, but denied telling her or anyone else to lie about it.

Lindsey, accompanied by his attorney, William Murphy, and White House deputy counsel Cheryl Mills, left the U.S. Courthouse in early afternoon with no indication from either side whether he had answered all the questions put to him. He told reporters he was finished for the day but refused to comment further.

Asked if he would return, Lindsay said, "I don't know. It's up to them."

Although he could be recalled, Lindsey was expected to be one of the final witnesses in the Lewinsky investigation.

According to legal sources, he was in a key position to know about the president's actions during the first weeks of the investigation starting in mid-January.

Before Lindsey's latest appearance, two other members of the White House counsel's office -- Mills and Lanny A. Breuer -- were compelled to testify.

The testimony came after a ruling Aug. 3 by the U.S. Court of Appeals that the traditional attorney-client privilege cited by the White House does not shield lawyers on the public payroll from answering questions during a criminal investigation by another federal official.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, whom the White House asked to stay this ruling, rejected any further delay in the lawyers' testimony.

The White House has appealed the attorney-client ruling to the full court, which will not meet until October.

In Starr's attempt to build an obstruction-of-justice case, his prosecutors also have sought to probe Lindsey's contacts with other grand jury witnesses and any discussion about his efforts with the president, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and others at the White House.

Lindsey previously has refused to answer questions about conversations he had with Vernon E. Jordan Jr., a prominent Washington lawyer and the president's close friend, who tried to line up a job for Lewinsky in the private sector and out of town.

Pub Date: 8/29/98

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