November 3, 1995 in Nation/World

First Lady Asked To Explain Calls After Foster Suicide Whitewater Committee Chairman Says Testifying Is Clinton’s Decision

Angie Cannon Knight-Ridder
 

Producing new telephone records, the Senate Whitewater Committee Thursday raised questions about whether first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was behind a decision to deny federal investigators access to files in Vincent Foster’s office.

Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C., Thursday asked for Clinton to testify before the panel investigating the events following the suicide of the deputy White House counsel two years ago.

Chairman Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., initially said he would consider that request, then later told reporters that was “a decision the first lady has to make.”

Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., dismissed Thursday’s session as “a rerun to manufacture interest.” But the Republicans seized on the newly produced phone records as indicating a White House coverup.

The committee recalled two of Clinton’s closest advisers - her chief of staff, Margaret Williams, and New York lawyer Susan Thomases - and grilled them about phone calls between them and Clinton on July 22, 1993, two days after Foster’s death. Both said Thursday that they received or gave no instructions regarding Foster’s files.

The phone records show that at 7:44 a.m., Williams made a seven-minute call to Clinton’s mother’s house in Little Rock, Ark., where the first lady was staying. Six minutes later, a three-minute call was placed from Clinton’s mother’s house to Thomases.

One minute later, at 8:01 a.m., Thomases paged then-White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, who top-ranking Justice Department officials have complained broke an agreement later that morning to allow them to review documents in Foster’s office.

A deputy White House counsel, Stephen Neuwirth, previously testified that Nussbaum told him that morning that Thomases and the first lady had concerns about “unfettered access” to Foster’s office.

At the end of the day, Thomases called Williams at 5:13 p.m. and spoke for nine minutes. Thomases later placed a one-minute call to the Rodham residence at 7:12 p.m.

“What I see is a day that began and ended with Maggie Williams, Susan Thomases and Hillary Clinton conversing,” said Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla. “Ms. Williams started the day at 6:44 a.m. Arkansas time with discussions that something needed to be done to keep law enforcement out of Foster’s office. She ended the day with a conversation with Ms. Thomases and a conversation with Hillary Clinton to let them know mission accomplished.”

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