Charles Bakaly, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's top spokesman in the Monica Lewinsky drama, abruptly resigned Thursday night, CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Scott Pelley reports. The resignation appears to be in connection with an investigation into whether Starr's office leaked grand jury information to the media.
In a prepared statement, Starr's office said an internal review of a recent press leak had prompted the Independent Counsel to request a full Justice Department investigation of the matter. The statement adds that Starr accepted Bakaly's resignation with "regret." It does not say that Bakaly was the source of the leak.
CBS News contacted Bakaly Thursday night, and he says he's been cooperating with the investigation.
At issue is a story in The New York Times last January that said Starr had decided his grand jury had the authority to indict President Clinton while he was still in office. Bakaly went on national television the next day and said the "information did not come from our office. ... We did not leak this information. ... We do not leak grand jury information."
Bakaly's lawyer, Howard Shapiro, released a statement Thursday saying he was "confident" his client "will be found not to have violated any statute, regulation or court order."
"Given that it was Mr. Bakaly's job as OIC spokesman to respond to media inquiries concerning the OIC's work," Shapiro said, "it is no surprise that he has been interviewed in connection with the inquiry being conducted by the Department of Justice." Bakaly's resignation is to take effect June 1, but Starr placed him on paid administrative leave in the interim.
Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin confirmed that Starr has referred the Bakaly matter. "We have not yet received the investigative materials in connection with the matter from the FBI agents assigned to the Office of Independent Counsel," Marlin said. "When we receive it, we will determine how best to proceed."
The Times story came at a sensitive time for Starr because a federal judge was already investigating his office regarding allegations of leaks of grand jury material in the Lewinsky case.
At the time of the January news story, Starr said he was "deeply troubled" by the latest leak and ordered a review. Mr. Clinton's lawyer, meanwhile, complained to the judge overseeing the case that the report amounted to another illegal leak.
Shapiro's statement went on to say that Bakaly joined Starr's staff "during a high-profile phase of the OIC's investigation to communicate the OIC's work to the media and public. With that high-profile phase of the investigation of the OIC's work now largely completed, this is a logical time for Mr. Bakaly to make the transition back to the private sector."