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web posted August 21, 2000

Tripp lawsuit switched from Reagan judge to Clinton judge

A lawsuit brought by Linda Tripp against the government has been taken away from a Reagan-appointed judge who is a thorn in the side of the administration and is now in the hands of a judge appointed by President Clinton.

The move, a victory for the Clinton administration, drew strong objections from lawyers for Tripp, whose secret tape recordings of Monica Lewinsky triggered the impeachment crisis.

"There is overwhelming evidence demonstrating that the Clinton administration illegally leaked information from Mrs. Tripp's security file and subjected her to an unprecedented smear campaign because she blew the whistle on illegal conduct committed by President Clinton and others," Tripp's lawyers said in a statement.

Three federal judges appointed by Clinton took the lawsuit filed by Tripp away from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, a Reagan appointee, and randomly assigned the case by computer. The computer assigned it to Judge Emmet Sullivan, one of the three judges on the calendar committee who had taken the case away from Lamberth.

The odds were high that a random selection would yield a Democratic-appointed judge because nine of the 13 federal court judges were appointed by Clinton, three are Republican appointees and one was appointed by President Jimmy Carter.

Tripp's lawsuit alleges the government illegally released to The New Yorker information showing Tripp stated on a security clearance form that she had never been arrested, when in fact she had. She was arrested for grand larceny when she was a teenager and pleaded innocent. A judge disposed of the case by reducing the charge to loitering.

Tripp, a Pentagon employee, is suing Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon and the administration as a result of the release of the information.

Lamberth has been critical of the Clinton administration. He ruled in March that the president had committed a criminal violation of the Privacy Act by releasing his private correspondence with Kathleen Willey to cast doubt on her allegation that Clinton had made an unwelcome sexual advance.

Last September when Tripp's lawyers filed the lawsuit, they asked that the case be given to Lamberth on the grounds that it was related to a suit already before Lamberth involving hundreds of former appointees from Republican administrations whose FBI background files were collected by the Clinton White House.

Related cases ordinarily are assigned to the same judge in the interest of efficient use of judicial resources.

But the three Clinton judges said the two cases "are quite different," with the FBI files matter being a class action alleging a broad pattern of White House and FBI abuse and the Tripp case involving a single plaintiff and one incident.

The decision to remove the case from Lamberth's control comes amid a judicial investigation into why the chief federal judge in the District of Columbia, Norma Holloway Johnson, bypassed the computer system and directed half a dozen criminal prosecutions of campaign fund-raisers and friends of Clinton and Vice President Al Gore to Clinton-appointed judges.

The Judicial Council, which oversees judges' conduct, took the rare step of hiring a former U.S. attorney to investigate the matter. That investigation is in its fourth month.

Gore cites prosperity, outlines agenda for working families

Vice President Al Gore accepted the Democratic Party's 2000 presidential nomination the night of August 17 by avoiding outright attacks against his Republican rival in favor of declarations of intent on issues varying from health care to campaign finance reform.

In his 51-minute acceptance address -- interrupted numerous times by thunderous cheers and the raucous sound of feet stomping on the floor of the Staples Center sports complex -- the vice president sought to step out of President Clinton's long shadow by declaring himself an independent thinker.

"I'm here to talk seriously about the issues," Gore said. "I believe people deserve to know specifically what a candidate proposes to do. I intend to tell you tonight. You ought to be able to know, and then judge for yourself."

Gore wielded a heavy rhetorical sword and struck out to slay some of the dragons that have harassed him in the election year: his ability to lead; his connections to the president; and his willingness to stand on principled ground.

"We're entering a new time, we're electing a new president, and I stand here tonight as my own man. I want you to know me for who I truly am."

Building upon introductory efforts mounted throughout the four-day Democratic National Convention by numerous friends and family members, Gore spun a tapestry of family lore coupled with an agenda intended to "better the lives of working families" -- an agenda he said would actively avoid skating though bountiful economic times.

In the first minutes of his speech, Gore credited Clinton's two terms in office for planting the seeds of the nation's record economic prosperity and the creation of 22 million new jobs, saying "millions of Americans will live better lives for a long time to come because of the job that's been done by President Bill Clinton."

That was the first and last time the charismatic president's name would be invoked on the stage by Gore.

Rather, he insisted that Clinton leaves office with much work left to be done, and he and running mate Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman are determined to get all of that work done in the course of the next few years.

"For all of our good times, I am not satisfied," Gore declared.

"How and what we do for all of you -- the people who pay the taxes, bear the burdens, and live the American dream -- that is the standard by which we should be judged," he said.

The better part of Gore and Lieberman's fight as a new administration, Gore insisted, would be predicated on what he framed as a classic battle between the "people and the powerful." Special interests, Gore said, stand in the way of universal health care, fair wages and a return of the Democratic process to the people of the United States.

"Big tobacco, big oil, the big polluters, the pharmaceutical companies, the (health maintenance organizations). Sometimes you have to be willing to stand up and say no -- so families can have a better life," he said.

The Democrats' new nominee called repeatedly for the addition of a prescription drug benefit to the federal Medicare health insurance program; the implementation of a fair universal health care system; more police on the streets and a reduction in crime rates; the creation of a "crime victims' bill of rights; and getting cigarettes away from minors.

He dwelled for a handful minutes on the passage of a medical patients' bill of rights, which would allow individuals to sue their health maintenance organizations in instances when needed medical treatment is denied. Such a bill has fallen into a quagmire in Congress this year, as vast differences between competing House and Senate versions have likely spelled its doom.

"...Bean-counters at HMOs don't have a license to practice medicine and don't have a right to play God," he said.

He also sought to turn aside criticism leveled two weeks ago by Bush and his running mate, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, who savaged the Clinton administration's defense record, saying military build-downs have brought American levels of readiness to perilously low levels and destroyed the morale of the nation's service members.

National security will be enhanced, he added, by strengthening America's military alliances, bolstering nuclear non-proliferation efforts, and broadening free trade arrangements.

"I will keep America's defenses strong. I will make sure our armed forces continue to be the best-equipped, best-trained, and best-led in the entire world," he pledged.

White House travel tab exceeds $290 million

The 159 international trips made by President Clinton -- the most widely traveled American president -- and other administration officials since 1997 have cost taxpayers at least $292 million, according to a report published August 18.

A General Accounting Office review of the administration's travel expenses said that most of the costs were paid by the Pentagon, which provides the two jetliners that serve as Air Force One and other aircraft.

The GAO study, which was obtained by The Washington Post, was requested by six Republican senators, most of whom declined to comment until the study is made public.

However, one of the lawmakers, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, called the costs "exorbitant."

A Clinton spokesman accused the Republicans of requesting the report for political purposes. The White House said the type of expenses were similar to the expenditures of other administrations.

The GAO said that Clinton's 27 trips during the last three years account for 85 percent, or $247 million, of the total aircraft cost, the Post said. This week he plans to fly to Africa.

The Post said the Republican lawmakers did not request comparable data on other administrations.

The report is scheduled for release next month.

Federal judge says he is source of leak about Clinton grand jury

Federal Judge Richard Cudahy said August 18 that he was the "inadvertent" source of the leak that a new grand jury had been seated in the investigation of the case involving President Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Cudahy, a member of the "Special Division" three-judge panel that oversees the Offices of the Independent Counsel, issued a statement saying he "had been the inadvertent source of the information ... with apologies to all concerned." The statement said the judge was prompted to speak because he was concerned about the nature of the controversy generated by his disclosure.

News of the grand jury came out the day before, the same day that Vice President Al Gore accepted the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention.

Legal sources said the grand jury was actually seated in July.

"The timing seems very odd that it comes out today, given the fact that it (the formation of the grand jury) occurred more than a month ago," Gore campaign spokesman Chris Lehane said on August 17.

Cudahy, appointed by President Carter in 1979, said he revealed the information in response to a reporter's question about the work of the Special Division -- referring to the existence of the new grand jury as a reason Independent Counsel Robert Ray offered as a reason to extend his mandate for another year.

And last year, Cudahy said the "endless investigation" should be shut down with the departure of Kenneth Starr, the former independent counsel who investigated the Clinton-Lewinsky case. The two other judges, Peter Fay and presiding judge David Sentelle, ruled the office should continue.

Ray has made no secret he intends to weigh whether Clinton should be indicted. However, he has said repeatedly that regardless of where the investigation leads, there will be no indictment returned against Clinton before he leaves office in January.

At issue in Ray's investigation is whether Clinton committed perjury or obstructed justice when he denied an affair with Lewinsky in sworn testimony in the Paula Jones case.

The judge in the Jones case has already ruled the president gave false testimony and fined him for civil contempt of court. The disciplinary committee of the Arkansas Supreme Court has also moved to revoke Clinton's law license.

Canada's Axworthy rumoured to be resigning

ESR perennial thorn and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy fueled further speculation that he's on the way out of politics on August 18, despite his insistence he hasn't made up his mind.

"I'm looking at some options," he told reporters. "I suppose before every election I weigh, sort of, whether I want to put my hat in the ring again."


Axworthy meeting with Castro in 1997

The 60-year-old Axworthy admitted, however, that this time he's thinking more seriously about the subject.

"I'm older," he said with a laugh. "Climbing those stairs, my constituency has 55-storey apartment blocks. They keep looking taller and taller."

The minister confirmed he has discussed his future with his riding association in Winnipeg, as well as with his staff in Ottawa and Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

"We've discussed the options. I've consulted with people . . . sort of said here's some of the things that I'm thinking about, what do you think?"

Officials at the University of British Columbia have confirmed they are courting Axworthy to head the Liu Centre, a new think tank on international affairs.

They say they have set no deadlines for a decision but would love to have Axworthy if he wants out of the political grind.

Although he maintained that "I haven't made any final decision," most Liberal strategists consider it just a matter of time before Axworthy departs.

He is scheduled to host an international conference on war-affected children in Winnipeg in mid-September. Insiders say he is unlikely to step down before then, but could leave any time thereafter.

Doctors 'optimistic' after Sen. McCain cancer surgery

Doctors said they were "very optimistic" after Sen. John McCain underwent more than five hours of surgery on August 19 to remove two cancerous skin lesions, adding that they believed the cancer had not spread to his lymph nodes.

John McCainDr. John Eckstein, the senator's internist at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, said McCain was in "excellent spirits" following the procedure on his temple and upper arm. A preliminary report showed that the cancer had not spread to the senator's lymph nodes, but it would take several days to evaluate the removed surgical tissue, he said.

More information would be provided when it became available, Eckstein said.

Eckstein said McCain's first words to him after surgery were 'Call (Senate Majority Leader) Trent Lott. I know he'll be on pins and needles.'"

Asked why the surgery took longer than anticipated, Eckstein said the first part of the surgery was "a very detailed surgery," with doctors making sure that the nerve that controlled the muscle functions of the face was preserved and that all branches of that nerve were preserved.

The second part of the surgery was devoted to repairing the wound.

"We are very, very optimistic that all of the tumor was removed," Eckstein added.

Doctors for McCain issued a statement the day before the surgery explaining that his two new melanomas and another spot the senator had removed seven years ago are unrelated, which means the cancer has probably not spread from one part of the body to another.

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