Republicans turn up heat on Whitewater

March 07, 1994

WASHINGTON -- Republicans are turning up the heat on the Whitewater affair by raising the specter of another Watergate. Top administration officials stressed today that they are cooperating with investigators.

"We could have done things a lot better here at the White House," senior presidential adviser George Stephanopoulos acknowledged today. But, he said, "I would point out as well that we have been fully cooperating with the special counsel in every way."

The White House, facing heightened scrutiny from Congress, a special prosecutor and the press, tried to put the best face on the matter.

"The best we can do is push ahead," Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said.

She said the administration will "continue to do whatever we can to cooperate with the inquiries."

Ms. Myers said the White House counsel's office was issuing a memorandum today instructing the staff how to provide a special prosecutor with subpoenaed paperwork regarding three briefings White House officials received on a confidential government inquiry into the Whitewater affair. News of the briefings stoked the most recent controversy and led to the resignation of Bernard Nussbaum as White House general counsel.

The staff was told Friday not to destroy any paperwork or computer tapes, leaving garbage overflowing in trash cans today.

"The first run of the instructions were to destroy nothing, remove nothing -- don't take out your trash. Now that everybody's back . . . people will be instructed today to start collecting their documents and hand them over," Ms. Myers said.

She said Mr. Clinton will move quickly to replace Mr. Nussbaum, who resigned Saturday under fire, but will remain on the job until next month.

Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the House Banking Committee, appearing with Mr. Stephanopoulos on NBC, warned that "unless this White House operates with a greater sense of the law . . . it is going to find itself in far worse shape than it has any reason to be."

"There is still no credible allegation of wrongdoing by anyone in the administration," Vice President Al Gore said yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

He said mistakes have been made in White House responses to the investigation into a failed Arkansas savings and loan tied to the Clintons and their Whitewater land venture. But "the handling of it from this moment forward is going to be absolutely dead on in following the absolute highest ethical standards."

In another Whitewater report today, the Washington Times said that during the 1992 presidential campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton summoned couriers from the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock to the Arkansas executive mansion, where she gave them records to be shredded.

The Times quoted three current or former Rose employees as saying the shredding began after the New York Times reported on the involvement of the Clintons in the Whitewater Development Corp. The Washington Times quoted one source as saying more than a dozen boxes of documents were destroyed, but the newspaper said the nature of the records was not clear.

Ms. Myers declined comment on the report.

Yesterday, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., said more recent alleged attempts to conceal information were "the acts of a desperate White House." He said White House actions "went well beyond what [then-President] Nixon did in terms of a cover-up" in the Watergate break-in.

JTC Ms. Myers bristled at the comparison, "I think it's unseemly that Republicans are trying to use this to their political advantage."

Mr. Leach, appearing on NBC today, downplayed any idea of impeachment, saying, "I think it would be very inappropriate to put forth the notion that the presidency is in jeopardy."

But Mr. Leach stressed full disclosure by the White House is crucial.

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