Jones Tried To Quiz Secret Service

Paula Jones' lawyers accused the Secret Service of stonewalling when it objected to turning over evidence that might be helpful to her sexual harassment lawsuit, documents unsealed Monday show.

Those documents showed that the Secret Service objected in early January to four subpoenas from Jones lawyers, made before the Monica Lewinsky case erupted, by using the same arguments the agency would later rely on unsuccessfully with independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

The Secret Service urged U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright to create a new "protective privilege function" that would shield agents and officers from having to testify or provide documents in the harassment case.

Answering the subpoenas "would impair the ability of the Secret Service to perform its critical function of protecting the President's physical safety or the security of any other Secret Service protectees," the government contended in early January.

Just weeks later, the Secret Service would make a similar argument before a federal judge in Washington, D.C., in its efforts to fight subpoenas from Starr seeking to compel agents and uniformed officers to testify before a grand jury investigating the Lewinsky matter. The agency lost that court battle, and its agents and officers, including chief presidential bodyguard Larry Cockell, were forced to testify.

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In a court document filed just days after the Lewinsky case became public in late January, Jones' lawyers alleged that the Secret Service had "stonewalled" in responding to subpoenas that demanded any information about possible presidential affairs.

Subpoenaing the Secret Service is "simple and entirely legitimate: to obtain evidence of illicit sexual relations between Defendant Clinton and women to whom federal jobs were offered," they argued.

Jones' lawyers asked Judge Wright to order the Secret Service to provide lists of its agents who protect the president and any documents "referring to or discussing a sexual relationship between Defendant Clinton and a woman other than his wife."

The judge ruled against Jones lawyers on Jan. 30, telling the Secret Service it could ignore the subpoenas.

In a Feb. 10 filing, Jones' lawyers call the judges' exclusion of the Lewinsky evidence "clearly erroneous and an abuse of discretion" and argue that Linda Tripp's declaration about her tape-recorded conversations with Lewinsky "was more than sufficient to justify plaintiff's discovery of the Lewinsky evidence."

Jones' lawyers say they had scheduled depositions of other witnesses such as Tripp, the resident's secretary Betty Currie, and White House aide Leon Panett, but due to the judge's order was not allowed to take them. They say these depositions should have been allowed and then the court could have weighted the probative value.

Another document made public Monday shows Starr successfully asked Wright to modify her gag order in the case in order to allow witnesses who had been subpoenaed by the prosecutor's office to comply with subpoenas and turn over documents. Prosecutors "must determine the veracity of depositions, affidavits and other sworn filings before this court," Starr wrote on Jan. 27, less than a week into the Lewinsky matter.

Jones sued Mr. Clinton on May 6, 1994, two days before the statute of limitations expired on her claim that the president sexually harassed her in a Little Rock hotel room in 1991. A federal judge dismissed the claim on April 1 and a federal appeals court panel meeting at St. Paul, Minnesota, heard her plea last week to reinstate the case.

After initial objections from the president, Wright has decided to unseal most of the case's previously secret court files.

The court has said Mr. Clinton's deposition is not among those items to be released because a full copy of it was never placed in the court file. Portions of it were filed in Jones' written pleadings before the court and already have been made public.