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Starr Questions First Lady On Fbi Background Files

Thu., Jan. 15, 1998

Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr interviewed Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday about the White House’s improper collection of confidential FBI background files on former employees of Republican administrations.

Starr and two lawyers from his office questioned the first lady under oath in an interview that lasted about 15 minutes Wednesday morning. Neither Starr’s office nor the White House would discuss what she was asked about.

The independent counsel has been looking into the acquisition of the files in 1993 and 1994 by the former director of personnel security, Craig Livingstone, and his aide, Anthony B. Marceca.

One of the questions being looked into is who hired Livingstone, a former campaign advance worker, and whether Hillary Clinton had any role in recommending him for the job. Clinton has maintained she had nothing to do with Livingstone’s employment or with the acquisition of the files.

The White House has said the collection of the files stemmed from a series of bureaucratic blunders, not from any intention to dig up dirt on adversaries. There has been no evidence to date that the potentially embarrassing background information was put to any improper use by White House aides.

The brevity of Wednesday’s interview may be an indication that Starr is closing out final questions and preparing to conclude the FBI files portion of his work. Starr’s office has interviewed Clinton on numerous occasions about various matters the independent counsel is investigating, principally Whitewater.

“As the president has previously announced, he and Mrs. Clinton are cooperating fully with the independent counsel,” White House counsel Charles F.C. Ruff said in a statement Wednesday. “Mrs. Clinton voluntarily agreed when an interview was requested.”

More than 400 files on employees of the Reagan and Bush White Houses, including such well-known figures as secretary of state James A. Baker III and press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, were turned over by the FBI upon a request from the Clinton White House. FBI Director Louis J. Freeh said the White House had no justification to seek the records and the bureau should not have provided them.

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