WASHINGTON — They are the forgotten men and women of the Starr investigation.
The grand jurors in independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr's investigation of President Clinton have been witness to every twitch, mumble, and exhortation. But when it comes time to decide Mr. Clinton's future, they'll probably have little say in the matter.
That's because the independent counsel statute designates the special prosecutor - and not the grand jury - as the determiner of whether there is enough evidence to recommend impeachment in a report to Congress.
Most likely, the grand jury "won't have a role in his report," says Mark Tushnet, constitutional law professor at Georgetown University Law Center here. As far as the investigation of the president goes, the grand jury's job is to ask questions and provide a transcript that can be used in Mr. Starr's report.
Starr is not obligated to seek the grand jury's opinion. Indeed, he may be ill-advised to do so, says Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. "A lawyer should never ask a question for which he does not already have an answer. It's hazardous for Starr to seek an independent [opinion] from the grand jury" because it may not match his conclusion, says Mr. Turley.
Some legal experts say that technically speaking, the role of the grand jury is over. They argue that as soon as Monica Lewinsky agreed to testify in exchange for immunity, the focus of the investigation moved decisively to the president. According to many legal scholars, this grand jury can't indict president. So the investigation should move to Congress, which has the power to impeach Clinton.
But Turley says there are still people other than the president that Starr's grand jury could indict. It remains to be seen whether the president was involved in obstruction of justice. If he was, says Turley, that would not bode well for senior aides and those close to the president who may have sworn before the grand jury that there was no such obstruction.
One of those aides could be deputy White House counsel Bruce Lindsey, who has appeared before the grand jury but declined to answer most questions on the grounds of attorney-client privilege. He also reportedly told the grand jury that he did not know of any crime or obstruction of justice.