July 26, 1995 in Nation/World

Clinton Aide Searched Foster’s Office

Sara Fritz Los Angeles Times

White House aide Patsy Thomasson acknowledged publicly for the first time on Tuesday that she spent 10 minutes searching the office of then-presidential deputy counsel Vincent Foster for a suicide note on the night his body was found in a suburban Virginia park.

At the same time, Thomasson, a longtime friend of President Clinton from his home state of Arkansas, denied GOP allegations that she interfered with a law enforcement investigation or that she was part of an effort by Clinton loyalists to cover up the causes of Foster’s suicide.

Under questioning by members of the Senate Whitewater investigating committee, Thomasson admitted she did not have standard White House security clearance at the time she entered Foster’s office on the night of July 20, 1993. But she insisted her perfunctory search of the desktop and drawers did not put her in any danger of encountering confidential documents.

“I didn’t go through every individual file in his desk or anything like that,” recalled Thomasson.

Under White House procedures, she noted, aides must lock top secret documents in their safes at night. Therefore, she reasoned, there would be no confidential documents on Foster’s desk.

Republicans, nevertheless, were outraged by Thomasson’s confession.

Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C., questioned why Thomasson, whose security clearance was not approved until the following March, was permitted by her White House superiors to “rifle through” Foster’s documents, while law enforcement officials investigating the suicide were prohibited access to the papers found in the office of the suicide victim.

“If this isn’t a total contradiction,” Faircloth said, “I’ve neve seen one.”

The committee is investigating allegations that the White House tried to obstruct a Justice Department probe of Foster’s death. Although the panel has accepted the findings of law enforcement officials that it was a suicide, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said Tuesday he still wonders whether Foster might have been the victim of foul play.

“I just don’t accept it,” Gingrich said, referring to the suicide verdict. “I believe there are plausible grounds to wonder what happened and very real grounds to wonder why it was investigated so badly.”

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