Trust and Confidence

Inside The Battle Between the Secret Service and Ken Starr

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September marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Ken Starr's Independent Counsel Report to Congress.

Five minutes into my interview with Lewis Merletti, the former director of the United States Secret Service looked me in the eye and said unequivocally, “The way I’m going to tell you this is exactly the way it happened.”

In 1998, for the first time in our nation’s history, the director of the United States Secret Service was asked to testify against a sitting president. Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr wanted to question Director Merletti, as well as agents on the president’s protective detail, about President William Jefferson Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Based on alleged inside information, Starr issued a motion to compel agents on the president’s detail to testify as to what they may have seen or heard regarding Clinton’s intimate liaisons with Lewinsky.

In a declaration made in opposition to the motion, Merletti argued that if agents were permitted to testify about anything other than criminal acts, it would compromise the trust and confidence tenet critical to the mission of the Secret Service and thus jeopardize the safety of the presidency and the country.

“BEING WORTHY OF TRUST AND CONFIDENCE,” the declaration states, “is the absolute heart and soul of the United States Secret Service. This trust and confidence cannot be situational. It cannot have an expiration date. And it must never be compromised.”

With the support of all living former directors, the upper echelon of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the US solicitor general, and former president George H. W. Bush, Merletti battled the independent counsel for six months, taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Even after the legal fireworks ended and Merletti had retired, one inexplicable twist remained to test the former director’s fortitude.

At the end of our first interview, which would become a series, little did I know that this would be the beginning of extensive research that would cover twelve years. That initial meeting led me to review documents from Merletti’s personal files as director; to speak to the special counsel charged with investigating claims of misconduct by the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC); to search for her report, which she was led to believe had been sealed by the court; to speak to several former Starr prosecutors; and to spend nine years searching DOJ and the Starr/Ray/Thomas independent counsel files in the National Archives.

During that time, I would not only be the first to uncover special counsel Jo Ann Harris’s investigation into the “brace” (confront for questioning) of Monica S. Lewinsky but would also locate a letter from Starr’s source inside the Secret Service signed “Deep Throat,” the pornographic metaphor that became synonymous with the secret source of information in Nixon’s Watergate scandal. Starr’s Deep Throat, however, was wholly false, part of one individual’s plan to discredit Merletti by alleging a deal between the director and President Clinton: in exchange for his silence on Lewinsky, Clinton would appoint Merletti Secret Service director.

As I left Merletti’s office, I realized I had possibly come across a story of integrity unlike anything I had ever heard before—one that would pit two factions of the Justice Department against one another: Starr’s OIC and the upper echelon of DOJ that supported Merletti’s argument.

This is about a fight between reason and rationalization, between moral integrity and moralistic righteousness. It’s a battle between one man standing on principle and another who believed the end justified the means.

For twelve years, I’ve been researching two little-known aspects of Starr’s investigation: a special counsel report investigating possible misconduct by Starr’s prosecutors in their treatment of White House intern Monica Lewinsky at the Ritz-Carlton hotel; and the Secret Service matter in which Starr compelled agents on President Bill Clinton’s detail to testify about what they may have seen or heard regarding his relationship with Lewinsky.

However, there was something more to the Secret Service story. An anonymous source inside the agency alleged that Director Lewis Merletti had a deal with Clinton. In exchange for his silence on Lewinsky, the president would appoint him director.

Drawn from interviews and previously unreleased documents from the National Archives including Ken Starr’s handwritten notes, this is the only inside account of the battle between the Secret Service and the independent counsel.

Trust and Confidence is the best available evidence of the battle between the Secret Service and Independent Counsel Ken Starr.

“Lew was a trusted member of the Secret Service who believed in the values of duty, honor, courage and commitment. 'Trust and Confidence' is the story of how Lew defended those values from those who sought to undermine what Lew would never surrender - his integrity." —Leon E. Panetta, Former Chief of Staff; Secretary of Defense; Director CIA

“Lichtman’s story is a gripping political drama.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Jim Lichtman hits a home run in this comprehensive real-life political drama. A highly informative and captivating read." —American Writing Awards, Winner

“Trust and Confidence helps us see the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal from a new, important viewpoint: the battle between the Secret Service’s desire to uphold the trust and confidence that allows them to do their job; and the tactics used against them for political agendas. A worthwhile, eye-opening read. Fans of politics, history, and current events, will not be able to put this book down.” —Maincrest Media

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“My powerful gratitude to you for that superb book! It covers a subject which has always fascinated me… Stand tall; Never quit; Drive on!” – Gen. Hal Moore, co-author, “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young”

What Do You Stand For? is the Profiles in Courage of our time, providing a thought-provoking moral compass for our generation.”
Nick Maffeo, Sr. VP Investments, Wachovia Securities, LLC


“…a witty 250-plus pages in which a bicycle-riding, Snapple-tea-drinking Lichtman has a series of campfire chats with the Lone Ranger and Tonto illustrating… qualities of character they consider most important.”
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