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Willey Claims She Was Threatened

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr sais he will investigate Kathleen Willey's accusations that someone tried to scare her before she testified against President Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit.

The former White House volunteer reportedly told special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's office that someone punctured her car tires and that her cat disappeared.

According to Willey, a jogger who was a total stranger subsequently asked her whether the cat had turned up, whether the car tires had been repaired and then said "Don't you get the message?" before jogging off. Shortly after that, Willey testified in the Jones lawsuit that Clinton made a sexual advance.

Meanwhile, bolstered by affidavits from three Secret Service directors and former President Bush, the Clinton administration is arguing that a president's life may hang in the balance if bodyguards can be forced to testify about what they heard - and are kept at bay as a result.

Echoing a "life or death" warning that didn't work in a lower court, the Justice Department told the U.S. Court of Appeals that Whitewater prosecutors were making an unprecedented assault on "the relationship of trust and confidence" between a president and the Secret Service.

The brief was filed Friday under a court secrecy order, and made public Wednesday by the appellate judges.

The administration is challenging Starr, who wants three Secret Service employees to testify. Two are uniformed officers who probably would be questioned about what they saw and heard in connection with President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

The administration, insisting a mistrusting president would keep his security people away to protect his privacy, wants to create a new legal privilege to prevent prosecutors from compelling testimony by Secret Service bodyguards.

"The result of compelling Secret Service testimony may not be a president who consciously chooses to risk his safety but a president who denies his protectors the last few feet of proximity that may be the difference between life and death," the administration said. It is seeking to overturn a judge's ruling that Secret Service employees should not be prohibited from testifying because of their duties.

The Justice Department brief reminded the court that since President John F. Kennedy's assassination, attempts have been made on the lives of Presidents Ford, Reagan and Clinton.

Clinton was endangered twice - when a gunman raked the White House with more than two dozen bullets on Oct. 29, 1994; and when a small plane crashed into the White House lawn a month earlier, while the Clintons were living across the street as renovations were under way.

The ruling under appeal was handed down by chief U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson on May 22. Refusing to create the precedent-setting legal shield, she said she was unconvinced that a president would jeopardize hisafety because bodyguards may someday testify.

To bolster the Secret Service arguments, the brief quoted from a letter that Bush wrote Secret Service Director Lewis Merletti. The former president said that if his bodyguards had been compelled to testify about what they saw or heard, "I would not have felt comfortable having them close in."

Merletti and two of his predecessors also submitted affidavits agreeing with the administration position.

Starr is seeking grand jury testimony from uniformed officers Gary Byrne and Brian Henderson and Secret Service legal counsel John Kelleher. The prosecutor will reply to the appeal in writing Friday, with oral arguments scheduled June 26.

Written By LARRY MARGASAK

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