The White House, along with the FBI and the Justice Department, came under fire Wednesday when it was revealed that someone in the Clinton administration may have lied to obtain Billy Dale’s FBI background file seven months after he was fired as head of the travel office.
House Oversight Committee Chairman William Clinger, R-Pa., released documents - obtained under threat of contempt from President Clinton’s aides earlier this week - showing that an administration official sent the request to the FBI under White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum’s name Dec. 20, 1993, saying Dale was being considered for renewed access to the White House.
But at a news conference Wednesday, Dale said he never sought access to the White House after he was let go along with six other longtime travel office employees in May 1993.
Nussbaum denied ever requesting the information.
The White House said Wednesday night that during December 1993, staffers were trying to fill in incomplete background information folders. “We believe Mr. Dale’s records may have mistakenly been sought as part of this record-keeping effort,” said Jane Sherburne, special counsel to the president.
Sherburne’s statement said records showed that Dale’s file was delivered Jan. 6, 1994, placed in a security office vault and not signed out until Dec. 1. It was then sent to the archives, where it remained until May 21, 1996, when it was needed to respond to Clinger’s inquiries, she said.
Clinger said the memo offers further evidence that Clinton administration officials abused their power by ordering federal agencies to investigate the travel office workers and then covered up their actions by lying to investigators under oath.
Clinger released a one-page memo under Nussbaum’s name to the “FBI, liaison” requesting “FBI Investigations” concerning Dale. Whoever filled out the form before it was submitted to the FBI checked off “ACCESS (S)” in answering the question, “The person named above is being considered for:”.
“I have absolutely no knowledge of any request being made by anyone in the White House to the FBI for any report concerning Billy Dale,” Nussbaum said.
Sherburne said the request was a standard form under the name of the White House counsel, which was typed on the form.
The forms were regularly processed and sent to the FBI through the office of White House security chief Craig Livingstone, who also handled security for the 1992 Clinton campaign.
Clinger Wednesday spoke with FBI Director Louis Freeh, who took over shortly before the firings. That conversation was private, but a letter Clinger sent to Attorney General Janet Reno asked whether Freeh had knowledge of or approved the request for Dale’s records.
“Who requested the records? Why were they requested? And what was done with the information?” one congressional investigator said, in outlining Clinger’s concerns.