February 8, 1999

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department has advised Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr that it intends to investigate his handling of the Lewinsky affair, but the probe has not begun, officials said Monday.

The department's internal watchdog agency, the Office of Professional Responsibility, recently wrote Starr of its plan to begin an investigation of several matters, but the office is awaiting Starr's response before starting the inquiry, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One topic for the impending investigation is the Jan. 16, 1998 offer by Starr's deputies to former White House intern Monica Lewinsky of an immunity deal conditioned on her not discussing it with her lawyer, Frank Carter.

Justice Department rules prohibit government prosecutors from discussing immunity deals with defendants outside the presence of their lawyers. Starr's office is required to follow these rules unless doing so would undermine the purpose of his investigation.

Starr has denied any impropriety in his office's dealings with Ms. Lewinsky.

The other topics of investigation could not be learned immediately. The letter to Starr was first reported in Monday's edition of Newsweek.

Last November, the department inched to the brink of investigating Starr over the handling of the immunity deal and other matters, but he protested in a visit with top Justice officials.

Afterward, Justice officials said they had dismissed some of the allegations raised against Starr but had written him a letter seeking his response to others. They insisted at that time that an investigation had not been opened yet.

Attorney General Janet Reno has authority to fire Starr if she finds ``good cause.''

The allegations against Starr have come from legal observers, some Democratic members of Congress and President Clinton's lawyer David Kendall.

Reno has let U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson handle the investigation of alleged grand jury leaks from Starr's staff, because Johnson, as chief judge here, oversees the grand jury. The judge named a special master to look into those allegations.

Starr has picked a team of ex-Justice officials to oversee a probe of whether one of his key Whitewater witnesses, David Hale, received cash from people working for the conservative American Spectator magazine.

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