- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hillary Rodham Clinton hit the ground running just days after her husband was sworn in as the nation’s 42nd president, scheduling nearly daily meetings with her top aides and several members of Congress in a bid to create a health care task force, her daily schedule shows.

The arduous task force schedule is documented in 11,046 pages of the former first lady”s daily White House activities, released yesterday by the William J. Clinton Presidential Library as part of a Freedom of Information Act request sought by Judicial Watch, a Washington-based watchdog group.

The Clintons had resisted releasing the documents for 15 years.

The records are an accounting of her day-to-day activities from 1993 to 2001, when Mr. Clinton left office, and detail public and private meetings, speeches she made, dinners and celebrations she attended, social engagements she attended, and numerous domestic and foreign trips.

They also show that:

• Mrs. Clinton hosted a number of White House coffees for potential political donors, along with her husband and Vice President Al Gore, even following a script calling for her to “greet” the guests and to “welcome and open discussions” with them.

The Justice Department’s campaign finance task force, headed by career prosecutor Charles G. LaBella, recommended in 1998 that Attorney General Janet Reno seek outside counsel to probe accusations of White House fundraising abuses, including the coffees.

Mr. LaBella said the “intentional conduct and the willful ignorance uncovered by our investigations … resulted in a situation where abuse was rampant, and indeed the norm.” He said White House officials, including the president and the first lady, had a “desperate need to raise enormous sums of money” to offset losses to Republicans in 1994 and relied in 1996 on the “calculated use of access” to the Clintons “as leverage to extract contributions.”

Miss Reno rejected the recommendation.

• The first lady kept herself busy during the days that Mr. Clinton’s sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky dominated the headlines, even leaving the nation’s capital on Jan. 26, 1998, the day that the president said he “did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” for a black-tie gala marking UNICEF’s 50th anniversary in the Imperial Ballroom at the Sheraton Towers in New York.

On Feb. 28, 1997, the day Miss Lewinsky’s blue dress reportedly was stained by the president, the former first lady’s schedule shows she was a “drop by” at four meetings, but was finished by 12:30 p.m. and never left the White House.

Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr said in his final report that Mr. Clinton met Miss Lewinsky in an Oval Office bathroom in the early evening after recording a radio address and that forensic tests determined the dress had been “stained with the president’s semen.”

The records show Mrs. Clinton was in the White House when Miss Lewinsky had what she said were sexual encounters with the president in a private study off the Oval Office, while he was on the telephone with a member of Congress; in a White House study; and in a hallway next to the Oval Office.

• Mrs. Clinton helped her husband pass the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a deal she now routinely criticizes.

The schedules show she held several meetings on NAFTA and health care, including one with her husband. The documents also show she was the closing speaker at a White House briefing on NAFTA on Nov. 10, 1993, just days before the agreement passed Congress.

• She traveled abroad extensively and met with several government leaders but was not substantially involved in matters of state. Instead, she often toured educational facilities, met with students and teachers, and visited hospitals and clinics. She was a frequent visitor to tourist sites.

Failed fight

As detailed as the schedules are, they only capture her priorities based on where and how she spent her time. And they also do not offer much in the way of support for her campaign assertions that she was instrumental in the Northern Ireland peace process that her husband helped shepherd.

In her effort to create new health care legislation, Mrs. Clinton scheduled her first White House meeting on Jan. 23, 1993, just three days after her husband was sworn in. It was a private Saturday afternoon session with several of her top aides. She had been appointed by Mr. Clinton to be chairwoman of the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, hoping to replicate success that she had in seeking education reform in Arkansas.

The recommendation of the task force became known as the Clinton health care plan, a proposal that would have required employers to provide health coverage to their employees through individual health maintenance organizations. The plan failed to win support in either the House or the Senate, although both chambers were controlled by Democrats. The proposal was abandoned in September 1994.

That first meeting, held in the office of Carol Rasco, the White House domestic policy adviser, included the same people who would form the core of her health care task force effort during the next several months. They included Ira Magaziner, senior policy adviser; Melanne S. Verveer, Mrs. Clinton’s deputy chief of staff; and Maggie Williams, chief of staff to Mrs. Clinton, who is now running her 2008 presidential campaign.

Mr. Magaziner later was criticized within the Clinton administration when the task force effort failed, many citing his often blunt approach to critics. The plan was criticized widely for being too complex, and many placed blame for that on Mr. Magaziner.

The task force effort eventually widened to include numerous elected and appointed officials, including Cabinet members and health care professionals. Mr. Clinton also frequently attended the meetings, almost all of which were described in the documents as private or closed.

Once the health care proposal was defeated, the records show a decrease in Mrs. Clinton’s daily activities.

The records had been sought by Judicial Watch, which was notified earlier this month that a line-by-line review of the documents had been completed.

“It is about time,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “We’re pleased, thanks to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, that the American people will be able to review Hillary’s daily schedule records. The Clintons slow-pedaled this process but were unsuccessful in delaying the document release any further.”

The 11,046 pages cover the first lady’s schedule over 2,888 days. A total of 4,746 pages included redactions for what the library described as “the privacy interests of third parties, including their Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, and home addresses.”

Clinton campaign spokesman Jay Carson said the redactions were by the National Archives and not the Clintons or their representatives. He said Clinton lawyer Bruce R. Lindsey, former White House senior adviser, received the documents and urged the archives to “unredact large sections.”

“We do not touch the documents,” Mr. Carson said. “We are not involved in that process at all.”

Mrs. Clinton’s presidential rival, Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, has been urging the former first lady to release her information and her tax returns for years not already disclosed. The Clinton campaign said that with yesterday’s release, it is now more forthcoming than Mr. Obama because he has not released similar documents for his service in the Illinois state legislature.

“She is in many respects an open book,” spokesman Howard Wolfson said. “Senator Obama has not been forthcoming … in many respects he has gotten a free ride on this.”

Stephen Dinan and Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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