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Starr Taking Heat For Leaks

The focus of the independent counsel's investigation of President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky has shifted to the conduct of prosecutors.

CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante reports that the shift occurred this weekend after special prosecutor Kenneth Starr admitted he talked to a handful of reporters and authorized his deputies to provide even greater detail to the press. This has led, Plante reports, for calls to investigate the investigators.

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While Starr has acknowledged occasionally briefing reporters during the 5-month-old investigation and said his top deputy has done so extensively, he said neither he nor the deputy, Jackie Bennett, leaked any improper information.

Starr was quoted in a magazine article that went on to lash him for "leaking the most damaging details of the investigation to a willing, eager press corps."

"This is a bombshell that is grave," said presidential adviser Rahm Emanuel. "It is serious, it goes to the very heart of this investigation, the way that it has been conducted and the motives and the methods employed."
The White House repeatedly has accused Starr's office of leaking sensitive information to the press during the investigation into whether Mr. Clinton had an affair with Lewinsky, a former White House intern, and then tried to cover it up. The president has denied any sexual relationship.

"This cloud exists over that office and until that's cleared up, that cloud will literally stay over the office and also over Ken Starr," Emanuel said.

In a statement, Starr says there was nothing improper about the contacts and the magazine's claims are false and misleading.

Meanwhile, editor Steven Brill appeared on several Sunday morning news shows to publicize and defend his article criticizing Starr. The article was published in the inaugural issue of Brill's Content magazine, a journal of media criticism.
Background briefings for reporters such as Starr gave "clearly violate the law as interpreted by various courts," Brill said in a TV interview. "There really isn't any other lawyer on the planet who interprets the law the way he does."

On CBS' Face The Nation, Brill said evidence is "absolutely crystal clear" that Starr's office timed leaks to put pressure on potential witnesses and thus strengthen prosecutors' hand.

Grand jury proceedings are secret, and federal law prohibits prosecutors from revealing what witnesses say in the grand jury room. At issue for Starr is whether it is also illegal to disclose what witnsses say outside the room - such as in interviews with the FBI or prosecutors.

"It's definitely not grand jury information, if you are talking about what witnesses tell FBI agents or us before they testify before the grand jury or about related matters," Starr was quoted in the magazine article.

Others came to Starr's defense Sunday.

Prosecutors have an obligation to explain complicated cases as they unfold, said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I would believe Ken Starr over almost everybody else," Hatch said. "If he said he didn't violate, or anybody on his staff didn't violate [rules governing grand jury disclosures], I think you can take that to the bank."

Brill released portions of a 90-minute on-the-record interview with Starr on Saturday to promote his magazine.

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