Whitewater Committee report is scathing attack on first lady GOP document is leaked

Democrats prepare rebuttal

June 16, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Whitewater Committee, completing its 13-month investigation, has concluded that Hillary Rodham Clinton directed aides to prevent investigators from examining politically sensitive documents in the White House office of deputy counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr. after he killed himself three years ago.

In a report scheduled to be made public Tuesday after it is filed with the full Senate, the Republicans who control the committee said that senior White House aides also impeded other investigations and that several close advisers of the Clintons provided "inaccurate and incomplete" congressional testimony "in order to conceal Mrs. Clinton's pivotal role in the decisions surrounding the handling of Foster's documents following his death."

A copy of major portions of the report was provided to the New York Times by people involved in the congressional investigation.

The committee concluded that evidence "strongly suggests" Mrs. Clinton was concerned that investigators might discover documents in Foster's office about Whitewater or the firing of staff of the travel office, and so she "dispatched her trusted lieutenants to contain any potential embarrassment or political damage."

Congressional aides said yesterday that after the Republicans file their report with the Senate, they will ask Whitewater hTC independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr to consider charging several senior advisers to the Clintons with lying to Congress, a federal offense.

Most of the Republicans' charges have been reported in other investigations, news accounts, and months of hearings that began after the Senate voted 96-3 to set up the Whitewater Committee on May 17, 1995.

But the report provides the most exhaustive Republican account of events and the toughest assessment presented by the committee's Republicans of the first lady and her aides.

Senate Democrats plan to issue a dissenting report.

White House officials said yesterday that they had not seen the ** report but considered it a purely political instrument designed by the committee's chairman, Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato of New York, to help the Republicans in this presidential election year.

'Just not credible'

"Americans understand that a report from Senator D'Amato, the chair of Bob Dole's presidential campaign, is just not credible and amounts to nothing more than a $1 million taxpayer-subsidized press release for the Republican presidential campaign," said Mark Fabiani, an associate White House counsel.

"The fact that the report has been leaked further undermines its status as a legitimate investigative report."

Expecting the Republicans to come to explosive conclusions, the White House prepared a compilation in advance titled "The Report on Senator D'Amato, Senator D'Amato's Failed Whitewater Committee and Related Matters," with newspaper clips and other material that delved into D'Amato's record as a subject of ethics inquiries and campaigner for Dole.

Over the weekend, Senate Democrats worked on a minority report with far different conclusions from the Republicans'. The aides said the Democratic version will demonstrate dozens of flaws in the Republican findings.

To the Democrats and allies of the White House, the Whitewater report reflects the kind of politically motivated inquisition they say has pervaded the investigation from its outset.

"The public deserves an objective report that separates the Whitewater facts from the Whitewater froth," the chief Democratic counsel, Richard Ben-Veniste, said in a seven-page statement responding to the disclosure of the majority report.

"Unfortunately, the extension of these hearings directly into the presidential campaign season has provoked a high degree of partisanship that has undermined the objectivity of this investigation."

But both the Republican and Democratic reports are laden with political baggage. While the Republicans read the 10,729 pages of testimony from 250 witnesses in the most incriminating light, accounts provided by Democrats indicate that they accepted the most innocent explanations of widely conflicting testimony.

Even so, the Whitewater committee's report is a remarkable document, if only because never before in modern history has a congressional committee so aggressively challenged a first lady.

Portrayed as schemers

In broad strokes, the report paints a portrait of Mrs. Clinton and her associates as schemers who, for years, destroyed documents, stole sensitive files from a law firm, blocked investigators and went to great lengths to conceal the relationship between the Clintons and James and Susan McDougal, their business partners in the 230-acre Ozark land venture known as Whitewater and the owners of Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, which collapsed in 1989.

"At every important turn, crucial files and documents 'disappeared' or were withheld from scrutiny whenever questions were raised," the report said.

Four weeks ago, the McDougals were convicted on criminal charges related to loans and deals during the 1980s that were financed by the savings and loan.

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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