right-wing lawyers, judges in anti-Clinton
By Martin McLaughlin
13 October, 1998
Press reports over the past week have revealed that a network of
right-wing lawyers played an important role in the campaign to destabilize
the Clinton administration, first through the Paula Jones lawsuit, and then
through the investigation by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, which
has now culminated in the formal launching of an impeachment inquiry by
the Republican Congress.
These ultra-conservative lawyers have political connections throughout the
federal judiciary, reaching into its highest levels, among the Appeals Court
judges and Supreme Court justices who have made key decisions on the
Jones lawsuit and the Starr investigation. This political milieu includes Chief
Justice William Rehnquist, who will serve as presiding judge if Clinton is
impeached and brought before the US Senate for trial.
The first report on the right-wing legal network appeared in the Long
Island newspaper Newsday October 4, based on some of the 5,000 pages
of documents released by the House Judiciary Committee two days earlier.
Follow-up articles have since appeared in the New York Times, the Los
Angeles Times and the Washington Post, among others.
Those involved include:
* Richard Porter, a former White House aide to George Bush and Dan
Quayle, who did opposition research for the Republican campaign in
1992, and now works at Kirkland & Ellis, the huge Chicago law firm
where Kenneth Starr was until recently a partner. Concerned over the
appearances if a Starr law partner were openly supporting Paula Jones,
Porter served as a behind-the-scenes intermediary, getting other lawyers to
help in the Jones suit while he preserved a degree of separation from the
* Jerome Marcus, a Philadelphia lawyer and former law school classmate
of Porter's, whom Porter contacted to assist the lawyers for Paula Jones.
Marcus helped write the briefs which were filed with the US Supreme
Court before its May 1997 decision that Clinton would have to face the
civil lawsuit while still in office.
* George T. Conway III of New York, another friend of Porter's who
worked with Marcus on the Supreme Court briefs.
* Ann Coulter, a Washington lawyer, right-wing activist and frequent guest
on television talk shows, who assisted in the Jones lawsuit and wrote a
recently published book arguing for the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
All four lawyers were members of the Federalist Society, an association of
right-wing lawyers, numbering about 5,000, which also includes among its
members Kenneth Starr. All four had been active in providing legal
assistance for Paula Jones--as was Kenneth Starr, who was approached in
the spring of 1994 to write a friend of the court brief on behalf of the Jones
lawsuit. Starr cut short his involvement when he was named independent
According to the attorneys who took the Jones case to the Supreme
Court, Gilbert Davis and Joseph Cammarata, two other prominent
members of the Federalist Society were also contacted to provide
assistance. These were Robert Bork, the former Appeals Court judge
whose nomination to the US Supreme Court was defeated in the Senate in
1987, and Theodore Olson, a former Reagan Justice Department lawyer,
close friend of Starr and counsel to American Spectator, the magazine
which sparked the Paula Jones lawsuit with its "Troopergate" article on
Clinton's sexual affairs in Arkansas.
The role of Lucianne Goldberg
While this network of lawyers came together in support of the Jones
lawsuit, it was later instrumental in combining the Jones suit and the Starr
investigation. Here the key role was played by Lucianne Goldberg, the
friend and literary agent for Linda Tripp. Goldberg is a longtime right-wing
Republican activist who worked as a dirty trickster for Richard Nixon in
the 1972 presidential campaign, infiltrating the entourage of Democrat
George McGovern and serving as a political spy.
Goldberg first put Tripp in contact with the attorneys for Paula
Jones--some two months earlier than has previously been reported, in
mid-November 1997. She gave Tripp's unlisted number to David Pyke,
one of Jones's lawyers, and Tripp provided information about Clinton's
affair with Monica Lewinsky and revealed that she had tape recordings of
her telephone conversations with Lewinsky.
Pyke and Tripp had several discussions, and Pyke agreed not to subpoena
the tapes--which he knew were obtained illegally--provided that Tripp
gave a detailed account of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair which could be
used in the lawsuit. During this period Jones's lawyers sought and were
granted by a federal judge the right to question Clinton under oath about
past affairs, a key step in setting him up for perjury or obstruction of justice
charges. They also issued a subpoena for Monica Lewinsky's testimony
and for any gifts which Clinton might have given her, providing a list of such
gifts, which indicated they already had considerable knowledge of the
In early January Goldberg intervened to steer Tripp in the direction of
Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. She told Tripp that her attorney,
Kirby Behre, was a "Clintonite," friendly with Clinton's attorney Robert
Bennett, and offered to find her a new lawyer. She first contacted Richard
Porter. The request was passed on via Marcus and Conway to Ann
Coulter, who supplied the name of Washington attorney James Moody,
also a member of the right-wing Federalist Society. Tripp later testified that
Moody turned her tapes of Monica Lewinsky over to Coulter for copying.
From Jones to Starr
On January 7, 1998, Goldberg called Porter again, seeking the name of
some official at Starr's office whom Tripp could contact. The request was
passed through the network again to Marcus, who called Paul
Rosenzweig, a law school classmate and former Republican congressional
staffer now working as an attorney at the Office of Independent Counsel.
Starr's office was thus tipped off at least four days before the January 12
phone call which Tripp has claimed was her first contact with the special
In another significant report, the Los Angeles Times revealed October 11
that Starr's prosecutors treated Tripp differently from any other witness in
his inquiry, not requiring her to remain silent about the evidence which she
was providing. After luring Lewinsky to a meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel
January 16, where the former intern was detained by FBI agents and
prosecutors, Tripp contacted the attorneys for Paula Jones and gave them
further details of the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship.
Wesley Holmes, an attorney for Jones, and Tripp's attorney James Moody
went to Tripp's home in Columbia, Maryland the evening Lewinsky was
detained, and the night before Clinton was to give his deposition testimony
in the Jones lawsuit. The next day Clinton was asked 95 detailed questions
about his relations with Lewinsky, based entirely on information supplied
This detail provides further confirmation that the Jones lawsuit and the
Starr investigation were deliberately coordinated to set a legal trap for
Clinton which could then be used as the grounds for impeachment. The
Times article declared, "Those actions raise a central question: Did Starr
help pave the way for Clinton to commit the alleged perjury that his
prosecutors then proceeded to investigate."
The Rehnquist-Nixon connection
The press reports on the right-wing legal network which worked behind
the scenes against the Clinton White House stop short, however, on one of
the most critical aspects of this affair. That is the role of the federal
judiciary, staffed with similar right-wing lawyers appointed by Reagan and
Bush, who have given the legal cover to this political provocation.
Any attempt to uncover the full dimensions of the dirty tricks operation
against the Clinton White House involves an examination of key actions by
The July 1994 decision of a three-judge federal panel to remove
Robert Fiske as independent counsel and replace him with Kenneth
Starr. The three-judge panel was headed by David Sentelle, a
former aide to the extreme right North Carolina Senator Jesse
Helms. Sentelle was seen lunching with Helms and the other
Republican senator from North Carolina, Lauch Faircloth, the day
he made the decision to fire Fiske.
The US Supreme Court decision in May 1997 authorizing the Paula
Jones suit to go forward while Clinton was in office. Disregarding
previous precedents, a unanimous court declared that replying to a
civil suit could not conceivably be "disruptive" of the White House.
This was followed by the lower court ruling requiring Clinton to give
testimony under oath to Jones's attorneys about his past sexual
The series of Appeals Court and Supreme Court rulings last May
and June rejecting, for the most part, assertions of privilege made by
the White House, the executive branch, or Clinton personally, and
compelling virtually every White House employee to testify against
the president. In one particularly scathing opinion, Appeals Court
Judge Laurence Silberman--a former Nixon and Reagan
administration official and member of the Federalist
Society--declared that Clinton was "at war with the United States."
Especially significant is the role of William Rehnquist, the Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court. It was Rehnquist who selected Sentelle, over 11 more
senior judges, to head the three-judge panel which appoints special
prosecutors. It was Rehnquist who rejected several of Clinton's appeals on
legal privileges this summer. And it is Rehnquist who will serve as the
presiding judge if Clinton is impeached by the House of Representatives
and put on trial before the US Senate.
Rehnquist is a right-wing Republican--first active in the Arizona campaigns
of Barry Goldwater--who served as assistant attorney general in the Nixon
administration at the height of Nixon's war against domestic political
opposition. Rehnquist was the Justice Department official who approved
the notorious "Huston plan," drafted by White House aide Tom Huston,
under which concentration camps were to be set up to incarcerate
hundreds of thousands of opponents of the Vietnam War.
In 1971 he testified before a Senate committee in support of domestic
spying against antiwar protesters by US Army Intelligence, arguing that it
was legal under the president's authority to use the army to enforce laws
and suppress rebellions. In 1972, when a lawsuit challenging this spying
reached the Supreme Court, Rehnquist, by then an associate justice,
refused to recuse himself and supplied the decisive vote in a 5-4 decision
upholding the army.
After Rehnquist was nominated to the Supreme Court in October 1971 he
refused to discuss his views on whether the civil rights of antiwar
demonstrators should be respected. He told a Senate confirmation hearing
that he could not reveal what advice he had given Nixon on this subject, on
the grounds of "attorney-client privilege"--a statement of considerable irony
today, given his rulings this summer against Clinton.
Many of those involved in the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky cases
share Rehnquist's background in the Nixon Justice Department, a highly
politicized and extremely right-wing operation under John Mitchell, Nixon's
campaign manager who was convicted and imprisoned in the Watergate
Robert Bork was solicitor-general, the number three man in the
department, and fired Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox in the
infamous 1973 "Saturday night massacre," after Attorney General Eliot
Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus refused to carry out
Nixon's orders. Laurence Silberman was Nixon's choice to replace
Ruckelshaus. Both Bork and Silberman were placed on the US Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia by Ronald Reagan, where a colleague
and fellow Reagan appointee was Kenneth Starr.
Judges like Rehnquist, Silberman or Sentelle are bound by a thousand
threads to this very right-wing milieu. It is worth noting, in passing, that
Sentelle's wife is employed in Republican Senator Lauch Faircloth's office,
and that Silberman's wife, in her capacity as head of a right-wing women's
group, approached Kenneth Starr in 1994, asking him to prepare a brief in
support of Paula Jones!
These men did not put aside their political convictions when they assumed
judicial office. On the contrary, they sought judicial appointments in order
to carry out a right-wing agenda, reversing what they believed to be the
"excesses" of the 1960s--civil rights, abortion rights, antiwar protest, due
process rights for criminal defendants. Any serious investigation of the
political crisis in Washington must include the activities of these
reactionaries in black robes.
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-- Gregory P. Nowell Associate Professor Department of Political Science, Milne 100 State University of New York 135 Western Ave. Albany, New York 12222