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Starr Seeks Criminal Charges Against His Own Spokesman

By Roberto Suro
THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr asked the Justice Department Thursday to consider criminal charges against his spokesman for allegedly leaking a report damaging to President Clinton and then lying about it to investigators, officials said.

The spokesman, Charles G. Bakaly III, abruptly resigned Thursday and his attorney said in a statement that Bakaly would cooperate with the Justice Department inquiry “in every way.”

The Justice Department announced Thursday night that it had not received the investigative materials that formed the basis for the referral from Starr and no decisions had been reached as to how to proceed.

The potential criminal investigation of a top member of Starr’s staff comes as Starr himself is battling Justice over how it will conduct a separate disciplinary inquiry into the independent counsel’s alleged misconduct in the investigation that led to Clinton’s impeachment.

The already tense dealings between Starr and the Justice Department reached a new level of rhetoric Thursday as Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. angrily dismissed as “crap” accusations by one of Starr’s former deputies that the disciplinary action against Starr was designed to disrupt Starr’s investigation of Clinton.

The investigation of Bakaly stems from a Jan. 31 New York Times article reporting that Starr had concluded that he had the constitutional authority to seek a criminal indictment against Clinton while the president was still in office. The article cited “several associates of Mr. Starr” as sources for the information.

The article was published at the height of Clinton’s impeachment trial, just two weeks before the Senate acquitted him. Although the Times did not say whether such a move was being actively contemplated by Starr’s office in expectation of Clinton’s acquittal, leading politicians of both parties chose to interpret the report as a signal of Starr’s intentions.