White House did not order passport probe, investigator says

November 19, 1992|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The State Department's internal investigato says he suspects that the White House was aware of what he called a "politically motivated" search through Bill Clinton's passport records while it was under way. But he says there was no evidence that the White House instigated the search.

After a seven-week investigation into a scandal that jolted President Bush's re-election campaign and deeply embarrassed the State Department, the agency's inspector general, Sherman Funk, said yesterday it was clear that White House officials had hoped the State Department could get "information detrimental to Clinton" in an effort "to influence the outcome of a presidential election."

The search, Mr. Funk said, was conducted in an atmosphere in which "there were people in Washington who were salivating" for information that could erase Mr. Clinton's lead in opinion polls.

In his report, Mr. Funk wrote, "We found no evidence that the White House -- or any other external source -- orchestrated an 'attack' on the Clinton files." He laid blame for the affair on relatively junior State Department political appointees, who were punished by being dismissed or demoted, and he exonerated all the department's top-level officials.

If Mr. Funk's account is correct, the White House did not instigate, order or encourage the search but knew of it and took no action to stop it.

The inspector general said he had found no evidence implicating James A. Baker III, the White House chief of staff, in the search for Mr. Clinton's passport files. But he said Mr. Baker learned of the search on Sept. 30 or Oct. 1, soon after it began.

Margaret D. Tutwiler, a top aide to Mr. Baker, deliberately avoided involvement in the search, but may have had some information about it at the time it was carried out, Mr. Funk said.

The investigation was ordered by Acting Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger, who said yesterday that the search had thrust the State Department into politics, "where it does not belong," and had damaged its reputation.

Under federal law, the inspector general is supposed to conduct independent, impartial investigations without interference by federal employees or outsiders. Mr. Funk was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and was inspector general of the Commerce Department from 1981 to 1987.

Before and after the search, Mr. Funk said, there was "a continuing dialogue" between Janet G. Mullins, the White House director of political affairs, and Steven K. Berry, the acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs. Mr. Funk said they frequently talked to each other about requests filed by news organizations, under the Freedom of Information Act, for data from Mr. Clinton's files.

At a news conference yesterday, Mr. Funk said he believed that Ms. Mullins and possibly other White House officials knew of the search at the time it was conducted, on the evening of Sept. 30 and on Oct. 1.

In his report, Mr. Funk gave a detailed account of what happened when the State Department official who supervised the search, Elizabeth M. Tamposi, called Ms. Tutwiler on the night of Sept. 30. He said that Ms. Mullins "happened to be in Ms. Tutwiler's office" when Ms. Tutwiler's secretary announced the call.

"Ms. Tutwiler raised her eyebrows, stated that she did not want ** to talk to Ms. Tamposi and that she was not going to return the call," the inspector general said. "Ms. Tutwiler told Ms. Mullins that she did not think it would be appropriate for her to become involved in the Clinton files matter."

Mr. Funk said he suspected that Ms. Mullins and possibly other White House officials knew of the search and wanted to avoid any discussion with Ms. Tamposi.

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