The White House has gotten a break. In court papers released Friday night, a federal appeals court said there is evidence Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr may have violated grand jury secrecy laws in the Monica Lewinsky case and gave Judge Norma Holloway Johnson the green light to press on with an investigation, CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer reports.
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In a written opinion, the three-judge panel said Starr and his office appear to be the source for numerous broadcast and newspaper stories and said:
"The burden of rebutting the case will lie with the Independent Counsel, who must now come forward with evidence in whatever form the District Court requires."
In other words it will be up to Starr, who often chats informally with reporters to show he has not been the source of illegal leaks about the grand jury investigation.
Starr has always denied leaking information to the press and Friday night his spokesman said the office welcomed an investigation.
White House aides were pleased with all this of course, hoping it would cast new doubt on Starr's motives.
CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller reports that the White House was trumpeting the ruling as a black eye for the Independent Counsel.
White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said it was "the first time in the 20-year history of the Independent Counsel Act a federal court has found prima facie evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing by an independent counsel."
Judge Johnson must now decide how to investigate the Starr investigators.
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