Aide who searched Clinton passport files resigns

November 18, 1992|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- A State Department official who carried out the two-day search of passport files for information about Bill Clinton said yesterday that he had resigned, just 48 hours before federal investigators are expected to issue a report criticizing the search.

The official, Steven M. Moheban, was a top aide of Elizabeth M. Tamposi, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs who was dismissed last week by President Bush for her role in the search of files on Mr. Clinton, his mother, Virginia Kelley, and Ross Perot, the independent presidential candidate.

"I resigned Monday," said Mr. Moheban, a 30-year-old native ofNashua, N.H., Ms. Tamposi's hometown. "I no longer work for the State Department."

Mr. Moheban said he had not been asked to resign but had stepped down voluntarily to "pursue business opportunities in the private sector."

He was reluctant to give details about his role in the file search, saying he wanted to wait for a report from the inspector general of the State Department.

The inspector general, Sherman M. Funk, and the acting secretary of state, Lawrence S. Eagleburger, plan to issue the report on the investigation today.

Among those it is expected to criticize are Ms. Tamposi and Mr. Moheban, a political appointee who had served as her special assistant since July 1990.

Ms. Tamposi has said that White House officials encouraged the search of Mr. Clinton's records and that her superiors approved it.

The inspector general has interviewed White House officials. But it is not clear whether he will assign any responsibility for the search to senior officials at the White House and the State Department, or merely blame Ms. Tamposi and lower-ranking employees.

Officials following the investigation said Mr. Funk's report would probably not accuse or absolve anyone outside the State Department.

In addition, they predicted, Mr. Funk will probably conclude that officials made contradictory statements to him and that he has no way to resolve some of the contradictions.

Ms. Tamposi, a 37-year-old former state representative in New Hampshire, got her job at the State Department on the recommendation of John H. Sununu, a former governor of New Hampshire who was Mr. Bush's first chief of staff and who was often blamed for many of Mr. Bush's political troubles.

State Department officials say they searched Mr. Clinton's passport file in response to requests filed by several news organizations under the Freedom of Information Act. The department acknowledges that it violated its own regulations by accelerating the search to complete it before Election Day.

Mr. Moheban confirmed that he went to a National Archives warehouse in suburban Maryland on the night of Sept. 30 and on Oct. 1 to look for Mr. Clinton's records. Mr. Moheban carried out the search with two career employees of the State Department.

"I went out to the records center to respond to the FOIA requests," Mr. Moheban said. "I personally was asked by Ms. Tamposi to get involved." Mr. Moheban said his responsibility was to make sure the two Civil Service employees followed proper procedure in performing the search.

Ms. Tamposi has said that she was told by another State Department official on Sept. 28 that the White House wanted the files checked for negative information on Mr. Clinton.

Ms. Tamposi has told associates that she believes the administration is trying to make her a scapegoat for the search.

Mr. Moheban's family has been involved in many real estate deals with the Tamposi family in New Hampshire. Maurice L. Arel, a former mayor of Nashua, said Mr. Moheban had worked for the Tamposi family's real estate business.

Ms. Tamposi and her family have raised large amounts of money for Mr. Bush, Mr. Sununu and other Republicans.

State Department officials said Ms. Tamposi and Mr. Moheban were looking for documents that would show whether Mr. Clinton had ever considered renouncing his U.S. citizenship or becoming a citizen of another country to avoid military service in Vietnam.

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