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By July, Starr couldn't afford to wait any longer. With Monica confessor Linda Tripp on the stand and only a few witnesses left, he needed to break the silence of the only remaining players, the most important ones: the Secret Service agents; Clinton's loyal second, Bruce Lindsey; Lewinsky; and the President himself. For four years, Starr had tested the power of the presidency, and his record was mixed. Now he was convinced that it was time for the gravest, and most constitutionally risky, test of all: serving a subpoena on a sitting President.
By the conventional wisdom of some in the Washington legal community, the move bordered on bullying, overly aggressive and right on the edge of prosecutorial ethics. Clinton over the years has shown a great capacity for self-pity, but in this sense it is partly deserved: no ordinary citizen would face Clinton's present excruciating legal bind. No ordinary errant male would face a special prosecutor with four years of relatively slim results and an ever expanding mandate to search for potential illegality. No regular prosecutor could spend unlimited resources prosecuting perjury in a civil deposition about a sexual matter in a case that has been dismissed. And any private citizen finding himself in the cross hairs of a grand jury would get very clear advice from his lawyer: Don't help the prosecutor set you up. Say nothing. Take the Fifth if you have to, but don't hurt yourself.
But legal rights are for ordinary folks, not the man elevated to the office that transmutes a lifetime of ambition, dealmaking and supercharged hormones into a symbol of dignity, power and promise to serve the greater good. Starr felt he had an obligation to seek the President's testimony before sending his report to Congress, and he was convinced that Clinton would not be able to hide behind the Presidential Seal. As a former White House official says, "the worst thing he could do is start using the constitutional powers of the presidency to protect himself."
And so on Friday, July 17, around 7 p.m., Starr sent over his subpoena to Clinton's lawyer, David Kendall, at Williams & Connolly. And what happened? Nothing. No answer. Nothing Saturday. Nothing Sunday. Kendall hadn't even discussed it with Clinton yet: the President was out of town, and his lawyer didn't want to go over the bad news by phone. There was still time: the date on the subpoena for Clinton to appear at the federal courthouse was July 28, nine days away. But if the White House lawyers were going to fight it, they certainly were taking their sweet time about it.
Starr used the time to press hard on other fronts. The week of July 20 saw more action at the federal courthouse than at a beach on a hot day. He held sessions on Wednesday, not just Tuesday and Thursday, as Oval Office secretary Betty Currie wrapped up her testimony. The next day Clinton confidant Harold Ickes reappeared, along with the head of the President's Secret Service detail and two uniformed officers. Starr was pushing ahead so fast that he used two grand juries simultaneously to collect testimony.