A step closer to gaining testimony from Secret Service employees in the investigation of President Clinton, prosecutor Kenneth Starr faces additional problems with the protective agency even if a court finally rules he may question the agents, a lawyer says.
On a day when three appellate judges said Starr could question Secret Service personnel before a grand jury, prime witness Linda Tripp learned that she was the focus of a new inquiry into whether her secret tape recordings of Monica Lewinsky violated Maryland state law."I am not intimidated in any way," said Tripp, who will testify again Thursday in the probe of an alleged presidential affair and cover-up involving Clinton and Lewinsky, a former White House intern.
Tripp's lawyers, Anthony Zaccagnini and Joe Murtha, said the state prosecutor's investigation of their client was politically motivated and selective in nature.
In the aftermath of Tuesday's favorable federal appeals court ruling regarding the Secret Service, Starr said "we trust" that the law enforcement agency "will now join us in helping the grand jury gather information."
However, the Justice Department said it was considering going to the full appeals court or seeking a Supreme Court review. "Any action that could distance the Secret Service from the president increases the danger to his life and that of future presidents," the department said.
Regardless of the outcome of the court battle, "the argument about Secret Service testimony" between Starr's office and the Secret Service "is not now limited to whether there's a protective function privilege," said Mike Leibig, who represents an association of uniformed Secret Service of-fi-cers.
"If the courts go against the Service and Starr takes the position that uniformed officers can testify about anything, that would seriously undermine the interest behind the privilege" and additional disputes would emerge, said Leibig. The Secret Service argues that presidents will "push away" their protectors if agents and officers can be compelled to testify later about what they saw or heard.
Leibig questioned what use Starr would make of Secret Service testimony.