December 12, 1995 in Nation/World

D’Amato Claims Letter Points To Sensitive Whitewater Files White House Says It’s ‘Squirt Gun,’ Not ‘Smoking Gun’

Susan Schmidt Washington Post
 

The chairman of the Senate Whitewater committee said Monday that the committee had discovered a possible “smoking gun” indicating that White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster had documents potentially embarrassing to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in his possession, and that the White House may have sought to conceal them immediately following Foster’s suicide in July 1993.

Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato, R-N.Y., quoted from a November 1993 letter from the Clintons’ personal attorney, David Kendall, in which Kendall described three files of documents “among Foster’s files” that pertained to controversial savings and loan work Hillary Clinton did for her Whitewater business partners.

The committee has been trying to determine whether White House aides concealed or removed embarrassing documents from Foster’s office after his death, and why aides blocked a search of the office by Justice Department officials.

Kendall’s letter, addressed to the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Ark., where both Hillary Clinton and Foster worked, refers to the files on Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan. D’Amato said the reference would explain why White House aides appeared to have been so anxious to block the Justice search.

But it is not known whether the files were among those in Foster’s office when he committed suicide, or were located elsewhere. The White House Monday dismissed the reference in Kendall’s letter as “another titillating revelation” that would lead nowhere. “This isn’t a smoking gun, this is a squirt gun,” said spokesman Mark Fabiani.

Kendall’s partner, former Clinton personal attorney Robert Barnett, told the committee Monday the Madison files were not among the box of Clinton personal files he reviewed and had taken back to his office a week after Foster’s death.

Barnett and Margaret Williams, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, have given sharply differing accounts of the afternoon of July 27, 1993, when the Clintons’ personal papers from Foster’s office were turned over to Barnett’s law firm.

Williams was testifying before the committee for the third time, and some Republicans, particularly Sen. Lauch Faircloth (N.C.), were harshly skeptical of her truthfulness. Faircloth accused Williams of lying and called for her resignation, which Williams said he would not get.

Democrats called for greater civility toward witnesses, and said there was no proof Williams had not done her best to recall events accurately.

But committee Republicans clearly felt the revelations about the Madison files were significant.

If the files were in Foster’s office at the time of his death, high-ranking Justice Department lawyers who arrived and tried to conduct a search two days later would have recognized the S&L; as one with ties to the Clintons that they knew was under investigation. They would have questioned whether the Madison investigation was on Foster’s mind when he killed himself, and wondered whether the White House was attempting to tamper with the investigation, Republicans said.

One of the administration lawyers who arrived that day, associate deputy attorney general David Margolis, knew by then the Justice department had been asked to investigate Madison. “He would have said ‘My God, six weeks ago I saw a criminal referral on Madison Guaranty in which the president is mentioned as a witness,”’ said Republican counsel Michael Chertoff. “That might have rung a few bells.”

Former associate attorney general Webster Hubbell previously has testified that he maintained a large number of 1992 campaign files. Among them were materials on Madison and the Whitewater Development Corp., about which President Clinton had been questioned during the campaign.

Kendall, who was called from the audience Monday to answer questions during Barnett’s testimony, said that Hubbell had turned a number of documents - including the S&L; files under discussion - over to him in November 1993. Hubbell, Kendall said, “had campaign files and (other) files from different places,” and “didn’t enumerate” when and how they came to include Foster’s Madison files.

“To my knowledge they never went to the White House in any way, shape or form,” Kendall said.


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