- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2000

The revelation of the 18-and-a-half-minute gap in White House secretary Rosemary Woods' transcription of a potentially incriminating Nixon tape sent shock waves through official Washington and the television networks. So far, however, mostly silence has greeted recent revelations of another "gap." Jerry Seper of The Washington Times has reported that the Clinton-Gore White House has failed to release thousands of potentially incriminating e-mail messages sought under subpoena by a federal grand jury and assorted congressional committees.

Not only has the White House failed to surrender the e-mail documents as required by law. But five Northrop Grumman employees, who worked on a technical-support contract maintaining White House computers, have told House investigators that White House political appointees threatened to send them to a "jail cell" if they told anyone, including their bosses and spouses, about their discovery of more than 100,000 e-mail messages that had been temporarily lost in the White House computer system because of a computer glitch. Once the problem was discovered, the evidence suggests, the White House deliberately attempted to conceal those messages from the authorities entitled by law to review them.

According to Sheryl Hall, the former chief of the White House computer operations, at least 4,000 of the e-mails in question related to former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, with whom President Clinton admitted having engaged in a sexual relationship. Mrs. Hall has asserted that hundreds of other subpoenaed-but-unsurrendered e-mails included references to the White House's receiving secret FBI files on former Reagan and Bush administration officials; information on the selection of corporate executives for overseas trade trips; and messages concerning campaign-finance abuses. Also, in a recently unsealed sworn statement, Mrs. Hall accused the White House of seeking to destroy computer back-up tapes and the hard drives of presidential aides who leave the White House. She has alleged that a staffer in the White House Office of Administration told her "the Clinton-Gore White House plans to destroy … archival cartridge tapes" and to "reformat the hard drives" of departing White House staffers.

Betty Lambuth, a Northrop Grumman computer manager at the White House, has confirmed Mrs. Hall's allegations. In a sworn statement, Mrs. Lambuth testified that a subordinate told her that some of the missing e-mails involved "Vice President Al Gore's involvement in campaign fund-raising controversies" and "the sale of Clinton Commerce Department trade mission seats in exchange for campaign contributions."

Not to worry, President Clinton told the press recently. The matter is being reviewed and "will all be handled in an appropriate way" by the White House counsel's office. Well, it depends on what the definition of "appropriate" is. Undoubtedly, the president has in mind the handling of the Travelgate scandal by former White House Associate Counsel William Kennedy, who belligerently threatened the FBI that he would bring in the IRS unless the FBI pursued an ultimately bogus criminal investigation of White House Travel Office personnel.

The office of independent counsel Robert Ray, who replaced Kenneth Starr, has announced that it would take appropriate steps to investigate "the allegations regarding the e-mail issue." In words even the Clinton-Gore White House can understand, however, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth announced recently during a hearing involving the unsurrendered e-mails, "The White House has had dealings with me before. I know the names of the people who can be hung, and they know I will hang them." Whether official Washington, the network news divisions and Democratic members of Congress understand the constitutional implications of the Clinton-Gore White House's apparent obstruction of justice and take the appropriate action as their Watergate-era counterparts did is a different matter. Stay tuned.

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