Baker focus of Clinton passport probe

December 15, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Congressional investigators have requested copies of White House phone logs, appointment calendars, computer records and memos to Chief of Staff James A. Baker III and two senior aides in connection with the pre-election search of Bill Clinton's passport file.

Stepping up its formal inquiry, the General Accounting Office notified the White House yesterday that it wants any records that document contacts between the three officials and the State Department in the passport matter. The GAO is the investigative arm of Congress.

The records are potentially valuable sources of information in determining whether Mr. Baker, Margaret D. Tutwiler and Janet G. Mullins discussed the search for politically damaging material with officials at the State Department, the Bush-Quayle campaign, or the British government, which instituted a search of its files as well.

The request appears to signal that congressional Democrats intend to push hard to get to the bottom of the passport controversy, even if they must continue their inquiry after Mr. Clinton succeeds Mr. Bush as president Jan. 20.

It also indicates that the GAO is focusing on Mr. Baker, President Bush's closest adviser for more than a decade and a man sometimes considered a potential GOP presidential nominee.

Mr. Clinton's passport records became an issue in the fall campaign, when some Republicans cast aspersions on Mr. Clinton's visit to the Soviet Union while he was a student at Oxford University and circulated rumors that he had considered seeking British or Norwegian citizenship to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.

In response to queries from news organizations, the State Department undertook an expedited two-day search of Mr. Clinton's passport files, in violation of department procedures. Mr. Clinton flatly denied the stories and no supporting evidence was ever produced.

Following an investigation last month, Sherman M. Funk, the State Department inspector general, reported that he found no evidence the White House had orchestrated the file search. But he concluded that Mr. Baker, the former secretary of state, and Ms. Mullins, an assistant to the president, knew about the search almost as soon as it began.

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