Lawyers' Scandal Work Conceded
Bedard, Paul, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The White House has acknowledged using taxpayer-funded government lawyers to defend President Clinton against charges he had sex with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and then told her to lie about it.
In documents provided to Congress and obtained by The Washington Times, the White House counsel's office said the unusual legal work is permitted under federal rules because the case involves the president and a White House worker.
"The allegations in the Lewinsky matter focus on the alleged conduct of the president during his tenure in office with respect to a White House employee," said the counsel's office.
And even though the charges do not relate to the president's official duties, the office said government lawyers can be tapped because there is an "official nexus" between the president's duties and the probe.
House and Senate lawmakers probing the use of publicly funded lawyers to handle personal legal affairs for the president said they plan to expand their investigation to determine if the use of White House lawyers in the Lewinsky affair violates Justice Department rules.
The counsel's office statement came in answers to dozens of questions posed by the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee that oversees the White House budget.
The Justice Department bars government officials from using federal lawyers to defend against personal charges.
"Investigations like this consume an extraordinary amount of public, press and political attention and, therefore, place a significant burden on the president's ability to perform his constitutional and statutory duties. To allow him to strike the appropriate balance in these circumstances, the president is entitled to the most knowledgeable, candid and expert advice attainable," said the counsel's office.
In addition, the office said that despite the personal nature of the charges involving Miss Lewinsky, the use of public lawyers to help defend the president is needed because Republicans have charged that the affair has derailed Mr. Clinton's agenda.
"In the legislative area, there have been any number of comments by leaders of both houses complaining about the adverse effect that the investigation is allegedly having on the business of Congress - comments that highlight the interplay between the Lewinsky matter and the president's official duties.
"The senior staff of the White House must advise the president on how best to manage the legislative process in these, and other, circumstances," said the office.
The documents, also provided to a Senate panel probing reports that the White House is misusing government lawyers for the president's personal legal work, revealed:
* Nearly half of the $2 million in salaries paid to some 33 White House lawyers goes to attorneys handling legal affairs related to scandals affecting the president. …