- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2000

Independent counsel Robert W. Ray Thursday said there was no evidence to show that first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton or senior White House officials were involved in a scheme to obtain 900 secret FBI files of former Reagan and Bush administration officials.
In a two-page statement, Mr. Ray also said prosecutors found no evidence showing that former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum lied to Congress about the hiring of White House security chief Craig D. Livingstone, who gathered the files.
The independent counsel, named in October to replace Kenneth W. Starr, said his office had concluded both investigations and "no prosecutions were warranted." He will send a final report on the inquiries to a three-judge federal appeals court panel, which will give those named 90 days to respond before it is publicly released.
"There was no substantial and credible evidence that any senior White House official, or first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, was involved in seeking confidential Federal Bureau of Investigation background reports of former White House staff from the prior administrations of President Bush and President Reagan," he said.
Mr. Ray said there was no evidence to show Mrs. Clinton was involved in the hiring of Mr. Livingstone.
He also said he found "no substantial and credible evidence" that Mr. Nussbaum lied to the House Government Reform Committee "about his discussions with Mrs. Clinton regarding the hiring of White House personnel security chief Craig Livingstone or about his knowledge regarding the circumstances of Mr. Livingstone's appointment."
Former FBI agent Dennis Sculimbrene, in a 1993 note, wrote that Mrs. Clinton was responsible for Mr. Livingstone's hiring and that Mr. Nussbaum personally told him he had come to the White House "highly recommended" by the first lady. Mr. Nussbaum later denied the conversation had taken place. The first lady also denied playing any role in Mr. Livingstone's hiring.
In 1998, Mr. Livingstone acknowledged that errors had been made in getting files of former employees instead of just current employees, but the mistakes were not made "for nefarious reasons." It has never been clear who hired Mr. Livingstone or why the FBI files had been sought. President Clinton has referred to it as "an honest, bureaucratic" mistake.
In recent weeks, Mr. Ray has angered several Republicans whose files were collected by Clinton administration officials who have demanded that prosecutors bring charges for violations of their privacy. Mr. Ray noted in his statement that his office lacked jurisdiction to investigate suspected Privacy Act violations.
Joseph P. Duggan, a Washington public affairs executive who worked in the Bush White House and is a plaintiff in a pending lawsuit against the Clinton administration over the "Filegate" matter, called the failure to bring charges in the case "a travesty."
"This is the first time since the independent counsel's office was given the case that the victims of the Privacy Act violations have heard that he did not have jurisdiction to prosecute," Mr. Duggan said. "There's no telling how much damage we have suffered, and may yet suffer, because the FBI improperly gave our files to unauthorized and politically hostile individuals."
Mr. Duggan noted that former White House official Charles Colson "went to prison for misusing not 900, but just one political opponent's FBI file."
"It is now imperative that the Justice Department exercise its responsibility to investigate and prosecute the violation of my privacy and that of 900 others," he said.
Larry Klayman, chairman of Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest law firm that brought the Filegate suit, also challenged Mr. Ray. He said the independent counsel's office never interviewed or called before the grand jury "major material witnesses" in the case and has not reviewed recently uncovered White House e-mails that were not turned over under subpoena.
A former White House computer manager has said that more than 100,000 White House e-mails containing information on Filegate, "Chinagate," campaign finance abuses and Monica Lewinsky were missing, all of which were under subpoena by a federal grand jury and three congressional committees.
Sheryl L. Hall, chief of White House computer operations, said administration officials covered up the fact that e-mails from August 1996 to November 1998 had not been surrendered, as required by law. She said the cover-up was part of a bid to delay the investigations into 2001.
The Ray report will be followed by two others one on Mrs. Clinton's role in the purge of the White House Travel Office and another on the Clintons' Whitewater land dealings in Arkansas. That third report also will deal with Mrs. Clinton's legal work for her Whitewater partners' failing savings and loan.
Mr. Ray said the investigation was conducted by prosecutors in his office, assisted by agents from the FBI and IRS. He said prosecutors reviewed records from two congressional committees and the results of a separate FBI investigation into the Filegate matter.
He said the White House provided "substantial cooperation and assistance," that Mr. Clinton did not assert any privileges and that investigators were allowed "substantial access" to White House records and personnel.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide