Leaks and Lawyers: A War of Words

Kenneth Starr returned to Washington on Saturday as the war of words heated between himself and the president's lawyer, David Kendall. Kendall has accused Starr of deliberately leaking secret information to the press in the investigation of the President Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal.

"We try to carry on this investigation in the most professional way," Starr insisted. "The charges have been made. We'll look into those charges, but let's find out the facts."

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Lawyers for both sides blame each other for leaking secret grand jury testimony illegally to the press. But accusations have done nothing to stop the leaks.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Monica Lewinsky told White House staffer Ashley Raines of an alleged relationship with Clinton. And Newsweek is reporting that Lewinsky played for Raines taped messages that the president left on Lewinsky's answering machine.

On Friday, Kendall characterized the recent leaks as "intolerably unfair." He is promising to go to court as early as Monday to seek contempt sanctions against Starr.

But in letter late Friday Starr fired back, accusing Kendall of "media grandstanding" and of "smearing through reckless accusations."

Meanwhile, Monica Lewinsky, who's waiting in California for a final decision on immunity, has been virtually lost in the middle of all the legal wrangling. Her lawyer, William Ginsburg, is also attacking Starr's conduct.

"Mr. Starr is making reckless accusations against others as the source of the leaks and the campaign of disinformation, and is clearly attempting to evade and avoid the responsibility of his office's unethical, unlawful, and abusive acts," Ginsburg said Saturday.

"Ultimately, the White House is benefited by this kind of war [of words]," says Tom Morgan, a professor of legal ethics at George Washington University. "[The Clinton administration is] clearly trying to use the defense used in the O.J. Simpson case and has been used in a lot of other criminal cases, and that is to distract attention from the underlying charges or potential charges."

Whatever the strategy, ethics experts CBS News talked with Saturday agreed that the credibility of both the White House and the independent counsel are dangerously at risk.

Written by Phil Jones, CBS News Correspondent
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