Attorney General Janet Reno announced Friday that she would allow independent counsel Kenneth Starr to question a former Secret Service officer in connection with the White House sex scandal.
Reno said she will not object to the questioning with some limits of Lewis Fox, a retired officer who has been subpoenaed by Starr to testify before a grand jury investigating the sex-and-perjury allegations involving President Clinton.The agreement with Starr "will ensure that protective techniques and procedures of the Secret Service are not disclosed," the Justice Department said in a three-paragraph statement.
The statement did not spell out exactly what restrictions were to be put on the questioning of Fox in connection with the investigation into an alleged presidential affair and cover-up with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Justice spokesman Bert Brandenburg said the agreement applies only to the questioning of Fox and that negotiations would continue as needed on any other Secret Service uniformed officers or plainclothes agents that Starr seeks to question. An active-duty uniformed officer also has been subpoenaed by a grand jury investigating whether Clinton and Lewinsky had an affair and broke the law by trying to cover it up. Clinton has denied both allegations.
"The Justice and Treasury Departments and the Office of Independent Counsel will continue to discuss these issues as they may arise," the statement said.
Starr's spokeswoman, Deborah Gershman, declined comment. The grand jury prosecutors have used in the Lewinsky investigation is scheduled to resume meeting Tuesday.
Meanwhile, The Associated Press learned that one of Lewinsky's high school friends, Neysa A. Erbland, 24, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., was questioned for 2 1/2 hours by the grand jury on Thursday.
Prosecutors are trying to identify friends and relatives in whom Lewinsky may have confided her relationship with the president. A friend of Erbland confirmed her appearance.
Erbland was photographed entering the U.S. Courthouse in Washington with her father, record producer Freddy DeMann. DeMann is the president of Maverick Records, a label he started with pop singer Madonna.
Washington attorney Charles Roistacher confirmed his law firm represents Erbland but declined further comment.
The joint Treasury-Justice statement said the two departments agreed not to object to limited questioning of Fox, who is retired, after Starr agreed to ensure that techniques for protecting the president and his family are not disclosed.
Fox's lawyer said his client saw Lewinsky visit Clinton in the Oval Office in 1995 but the retired officer is not sure whether the two were alone. It is not known what investigators hope to learn from the other officer.
The notion of tight-lipped Secret Service agents and officers being compelled to testify about Clinton's private actions drew resistance from government officials concerned that the level of trust between presidents and their protectors would be jeopardized.
Treasury and Justice officials sought to limit the scope of questioning to what Secret Service members might know about those outside the first family, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity before the agreement was announced.
Under such an arrangement, agents theoretically could be questioned about what they observed or heard from Lewinsky or others who came in contact with the first family.
But it was unclear whether Starr pressed for or obtained the right to seek more specific testimony involving Clinton's actions or words, an area that administration officials had promised to resist.
There was no sign of an agreement to bring Lewinsky before the grand jury, although the former White House intern was back in Washington after a 10-day visit to California.
A scheduled grand jury appearance by Lewinsky this week and an earlier appointment for her to give a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit both came and went without producing any testimony.
For now, Lewinsky's only statement to investigators is an affidavit in the Jones case in which she denied having a sexual relationship with the president. That statement is at odds with tape-recorded conversations in which she spoke of sexual relations with Clinton and of him encouraging her to cover it up.
The president has strongly denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky or asking her to lie about it.