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Exclusive Interview With Author "Jim Lichtman"

Jim Lichtman is the author of “Trust and Confidence—The Inside Story of the Battle Between the Secret Service and Ken Starr,” scheduled for release by Scribbler’s Ink Press this September, the 25th anniversary of the Starr Report.

The book has garnered several awards and reviews. Former CIA Director, Defense Secretary, and Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, wrote, “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.” Kirkus wrote, “a well-researched, enthralling history of the fight between Kenneth Starr and the Secret Service. Lichtman’s story is a gripping political drama.”

After studying film and philosophy at USC, Jim worked in post-production in Hollywood for six years. When his interest turned to ethics, he graduated from the Josephson Institute of Ethics. Over the last 20 years, he has spoken to associations, corporations, and schools about the importance of ethics.

His first book, “The Lone Ranger’s Code of the West—An Action-Packed Adventure in Values and Ethics,” received media attention including NPR, The Washington Post, and USA Today. His op-eds have appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Houston Chronicle.

Jim’s second book, “What Do You Stand For? Stories About Principles that Matter,” received positive attention as well including interviews from CNN’S Newsnight with Aaron Brown, New York-1, and others.

A 3-hour interview with former Secret Service Director Lewis Merletti led him to spend 12 years investigating an incredible story of integrity, a story that no one has heard before.

Here he shares some of his journey to writing “Trust and Confidence—The Inside Story of the Battle Between the Secret Service and Ken Starr,” as well as an exclusive look into this new book.


Tell us briefly about your career leading up to this new book.

In school, I enjoyed working on term papers, special reports, book reports, all kinds of written projects. In high school, the assignment was writing a book report on Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” I decided to write it as if it were a review in TIME magazine. To my surprise, the teacher was so impressed by my choice that he read it in class. Validated, I wrote a scripts for “Get Smart,” and “Mission: Impossible.” While I received attention from agents, each died peacefully, (probably best).

How do you define "ethics" and why is it such an important factor in your work?

The best definition I’ve heard comes from my own ethics teacher, Michael Josephson -- “Ethics is having the character and the courage to do the right thing even if it costs more than you want to pay.”

Without realizing it, I’ve always been drawn to ethical stories: “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” is a good example. So is James Donavon in the film, “Bridge of Spies,” who defended a known Russian spy despite the risk to his reputation and the safety of his family.

You worked in Hollywood for several years; can you briefly tell us about that?

I studied film and philosophy at USC and worked with a professional film editor to help edit a student film. That led to me working for a post-production house. I began as a film expeditor and left as post-production supervisor, overseeing everything from the processing of dailies to color correction, to final prints and distribution to local and network TV stations.

How did you come to have the extensive interview with Secret Service Director Lewis Merletti that led you to write this book?

I interviewed Merletti for my second book, “What Do You Stand For? – Stories About Principles that Matter,” where he shared a very small but compelling part of his story.

Speaking to a corporate group in Arizona, I met then-Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno of CNN. I suggested that CNN produce a special on ethics. I sent him three stories whose central theme was integrity. I included the Merletti story in the mix. Frank liked it, which led to the Merletti interview.

Why did Merletti agree to tell his story after nine years?

It may have been that he liked his segment in my “Stand For” book and was ready to tell the rest of his story.

It's been 25 years since Clinton’s impeachment happened, why did you feel it was important to put this book out now?

Merletti’s story grabbed my attention, immediately. “The way I’m going to tell you this is exactly the way it happened,” he began.

I initially wrote a screen version. It’s a very visual story and contains a great deal of material not in the book. While I was waiting to hear a reaction from two actors, I began extensive research which enlarged the story and turned it into a book.

Why now?

It’s the most significant addition to what we know of the Starr investigation in 25 years and is not only important to learning a much fuller account of the independent counsel investigation, but Merletti’s integrity is one in which I believe readers will respond. We need stories of integrity, now more than ever.

What new information will readers get from this that they don't already know?

Starr relied on an anonymous source inside the Secret Service who alleged that Director Lewis Merletti had secretly facilitated the Clinton/Lewinsky relationship.

“Someone at that meeting said, ‘We have information that you, Mr. Merletti, were involved in putting the president in the back seat of a car, covering him with a blanket, taking him out of a White House context, getting Monica Lewinsky there, and allowing them to be alone in a room.’”

Merletti was stunned. “Who told you this?”

‘Oh, I can’t tell you that,” Starr said.

The source—self-identified as “Deep Throat,” (not a joke)—alleged that Merletti had a deal with Clinton: Keep quiet about Lewinsky and I’ll make you Secret Service director. Searching the National Archives, I discovered a letter personally addressed to Ken Starr detailing how to obtain Secret Service documents. The letter was signed, “Deep Throat.”

Late one night, former Director Eljay Bowron was confronted by Starr’s FBI agents who pressed him to confess to the deal.

“‘Merletti did this whole thing,’ an agent pushed the former director. ‘He’s the one who orchestrated your being removed.’

“‘No,’ Bowron said. ‘I know he didn’t.’

“‘You tell us that he did. You know he did!’

“‘It didn’t happen. I had to almost put him in a headlock to get him involved.’

“‘Tell us the truth. He did this!’


“‘You were forced out. You know you were!’

Finally, Bowron had enough. “Look, I gave you my answer. I answered you three times. You are not going to ask me that question again. You’re taking me home, and I’m getting out of this car.”

At a fundraising conference for fallen law enforcement officers, Tom Pickard, one of Starr’s FBI agents, approached Merletti with a scheme involving intentionally false information days before Clinton’s grand jury testimony to see if Merletti would contact the President with the information. Starr was still trying to validate Merletti’s close relationship with the President.

Pickard began by sympathizing with the director before quietly offering some alleged inside information. “I know it’s been a tough time for you and the Secret Service. I’m in charge of the lab that’s testing the dress.” He paused, letting the information sink in. “That dress . . . is clean. It was either a new dress or she had it dry-cleaned, but Lew . . . there’s no DNA on that dress.”

Special counsel Jo Ann Harris was charged with investigating the “brace” of Lewinsky at the Ritz-Carlton hotel to determine possible misconduct by Starr’s prosecutors when Lewinsky asks to speak to her attorney several times. She explained a deal with then independent counsel Robert Ray.

Before beginning her work, Harris told me that she and Ray had an

understanding of her role and the way they would deal with any

disagreement. As Ray explained, they would “put both reports out there

[Harris’s report or summary and Ray’s rebuttal] and let the public decide

decide.” Based on the evidence, Ray declined to honor that understanding

leading Harris and other to belief that her report had been sealed from the


At its core, this is a story of integrity. It’s about one man who had it and another who believed that the end justifies the means.

Did you have any personal contact with Ken Starr while you were writing the book?

I reached out to Ken Starr 4 times for an interview. All declined.

You spent 12 years researching and writing “Trust and Confidence,” at what point did you say to yourself, "OK, I'm finished, I'm ready to publish." Or do you still have moments where you think that you want to add more?

It was never finished. While I was looking for an agent and publisher, I frequently returned to old files and found information that strengthened the story. Additional contacts led to more information and more information from the National Archives. I continued polishing it up to the time when I turned it over for final formatting.

What are you working on now and what can we expect from you next?

November 7, 2007. That’s the date of my first interview with Merletti. Since then, virtually all my attention has been focused on encouraging readers to look at a compelling story of integrity during a politically toxic time in Washington; a time which seems to have only grown worse.

For more information on Jim and his books, please visit:


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