The dramatic court fight over just how secret the Secret Service is supposed to be--going today to the desk of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist at the request of the DOJ--leads at USA Today and the Washington Post. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead instead with Lockheed Martin Corp.'s decision, in the face of government antitrust objections, to abandon its planned $8.3 billion acquisition of the Northrop Grumman Corp.
Rehnquist, who handles emergency matters for the Washington federal courts (and who, the papers note, is coming into town from Innsbruck, Austria, where he was teaching a summer course) is getting the case of what to do about subpoenas issued by Kenneth Starr to several members of President Clinton's Secret Service protective detail because yesterday a federal appeals court unanimously refused to quash them. Some of the language used by the appeals court judges was quite strident. "The president's agents have literally and figuratively declared war on the independent counsel," wrote one, quoted all around. The WP calls the appeals court pass a "resounding defeat" for the Clinton administration.
The papers note that top presidential bodyguard Larry Cockell--pictured on the USAT, WP and NYT top fronts--was so distracted by the events that he accepted being temporarily relieved of his presidential duties until the matter is resolved. Cockell's lawyer tells the Post that "being compelled to testify goes against everything he's been trained to do," but that on the other hand, "He's a law enforcement official....He's not about to go with a contempt route or lie."
USAT says today's involvement of Rehnquist amounts to a "high noon showdown" between the Clinton administration and Kenneth Starr, and that the issue of Secret Service confidentiality is the most contentious issue yet in Starr's investigation of Lewinsky's relationship with Clinton. The Post says some senior officials at Justice argued against filing the Supreme Court appeal because of the long odds.
The NYT says the Lockheed pullback "signals the end of major mergers in the nation's military industry." The company board voted Thursday afternoon to end the takeover, which had already been approved by both sets of stockholders and which would have created the nation's largest military contractor. The LAT says the decision was made because the company couldn't see how to avoid a court fight. The deal, says the NYT, is the largest ever undone because of government opposition. The resistance stemmed from a fear that the deal would leave Lockheed in control of so much of Northrop's electronics business that competition would be suppressed and prices driven up. The Times quotes DOJ antitrust chief Joel Klein applauding the development. (He did not, however, say he's pleased that the decision leaves the American service member free to combine missile and radar systems as he/she sees fit.)
USAT's front section cover story on the closeness of the Secret Service to the presidents they protect reports that they routinely hold him by his belt when he goes into a crowd, and have been known to disguise themselves as cap-and-gowned students at graduation speeches and as priests during papal visits. Not to mention that they go through his dresser drawers looking for bugs and often follow him in to the bathroom.
The Wall Street Journal "Washington Wire" reports that few reporters have signed up for Al Gore's upcoming trip to Russia. The budgets of many news organizations, the paper explains, have been stretched thin by travels with Clinton.
The WP's "Reliable Source" column reports that both Chelsea Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were named to a list of "non-anorexic achievers" put out by Lane Bryant, the plus-sized women's clothing company. All the women on the list are, says the company's PR sheet, "accomplished, fashionable and beautiful." The column then goes on to quite sensibly wonder what it is that Lewinsky has accomplished.