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Starr Would Give Evidence To House


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CBS News has learned that special prosecutor Kenneth Starr has all but made a final decision to submit evidence in the Monica Lewinsky case to the House of Representatives if there is sufficient evidence to proceed against President Clinton.

CBS News consultant Carl Bernstein said Starr and all his principal attorneys have reached a consensus to follow the procedure set in the case of Richard Nixon if there is sufficient evidence against Mr. Clinton. Thus, Starr would not to seek a grand jury indictment, but instead go straight to the House.

Bernstein, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, cited sources who served on Starr's staff as saying the threshhold for sending potentially incriminating evidence to the House is lower than would be used by a grand jury to bring a criminal indictment.

"If you set too high a threshold you are depriving the House of its duty to pass judgment on a president's conduct," a source associated with Starr told CBS News.

As a result, Congress rather than Starr would be faced with the legal and political dilemma of whether to proceed against the president. [See editor's note below.]

In a related development, Starr's prosecutors are negotiating with White House lawyers over the scope of grand jury questioning planned for administration officials, including the president's closest adviser, Bruce Lindsey.

Lindsey is under subpoena to testify before the Whitewater grand jury, but an adviser to the Mr. Clinton said his appearance has been delayed while administration officials try to determine how to protect the confidentiality of conversations between the White House lawyer and President Clinton.

Lindsey, an Arkansas native, could be a critical figure in the probe that threatens the presidency.

Meanwhile, Whitewater prosecutors received copies Monday of the sworn statements that Mr. Clinton and Lewinsky gave in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit - statements at odds with Lewinsky's tape-recorded talk of a sexual relationship with the president.

In the documents given to Starr, both the president and the former White House intern denied they had sexual relations, according to sources familiar with the papers. However, Lewinsky spoke of sexual relations with Mr. Clinton in tape recordings made by her one-time friend, Linda Tripp. Those recordings, also in Starr's possession, sparked the current controversy.

Starr said Monday that "we've been focused hard on some of the questions and issues," but he declined to elaborate.

On one issue, the Secret Service already is raising concerns about the kinds of uestions that Starr might want to ask agents. A senior presidential adviser says that, although no final decision has been made, administration lawyers are prepared to fight any effort by Starr to subpoena Secret Service agents.

A federal judge agreed with the Secret Service last week that complying with subpoenas in the Jones lawsuit might expose critical information on how the agency functions.

The Secret Service's position is less likely to prevail in the face of a Whitewater grand jury subpoena. But contesting the matter in the courts could seriously delay the investigation, said John Barrett, a former prosecutor in the six-year Iran-Contra investigation.

Editor's Note From CBS News Anchorman Dan Rather: Two different, individual sources confirmed our information on Starr's decision. While we would prefer to use their names, neither would talk without first having an agreement that CBS News would protect their identity.

The key to our report is understanding that the standard, the bar for bringing incriminating evidence to the House of Representatives for impeachment proceedings, is much lower than that for formally charging, seeking indictment, and going to trial in the criminal justice system.

None of what is being reported and being discussed now suggests that impeachment proceedings are likely against the president. The news, however, is that Starr will pursue the course through the House rather than the courts.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report