Trying to temper a growing political storm, the White House placed the supervisor of the office that collected FBI files of more than 400 people on administrative leave Monday night.
Craig Livingstone, a Democratic political functionary, will be paid during his absence and while his personnel security operation is reviewed internally, White House counsel Jack Quinn said on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
Quinn, the White House’s top lawyer, insisted the move was not a disciplinary action; other aides to President Clinton said Quinn was seeking a new “senior manager” to run Livingstone’s office.
Quinn said Livingstone called him and requested the leave Monday night, apparently after he was questioned by investigators from the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. The panel begins hearings on the FBI files controversy Wednesday.
The action against Livingstone reflected concern over growing pressure from Republicans, who plan to mount an investigation of the 1993 collecting of more than 400 FBI files, which involved the agency’s materials on some Republican officials.
It also sent a clear signal that Clinton’s aides are concerned about the operation and the decision to name Livingstone to run it. Republicans were certain to question why the White House took 3-1/2 years to examine Livingstone’s credentials.
“We are looking at bringing in new blood into the operation,” said a senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The White House would want someone with “a lot more experience in security-related matters” than Livingstone, the official said.
Presidential aides said Livingstone was not fired because there is no evidence that the file collecting was anything other than an error. Firing him might be perceived as an admission that Livingstone was involved in something nefarious, they said.
On the other hand, looking for a senior manager with a security background shows the White House’s seriousness in addressing the matter, aides said.