Independent Counsel: No 'substantial and credible' evidence of Clinton involvement in 'Filegate'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- There is "no substantial and credible evidence" that President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton sought confidential Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks of former GOP White House personnel, according to a report filed Thursday by Whitewater Independent Counsel Robert Ray's office.
In a statement, Ray's office said that no substantial and credible exists to implicate any other senior White House official in the FBI background files controversy that came to be known as "Filegate," and that no prosecutions would be pursued. It also said prosecution was not warranted after an investigation into whether former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum testified falsely to Congress on the matter in 1996.
The report, first of several expected final reports to be submitted to the federal three-judge panel that oversees the counsel's operations, focuses on the "Filegate" controversy that swept over the Clinton White House.
The report was filed under seal and its contents may not be released for some weeks or months -- at least until many of those named in the document have had time to peruse the sections in which they are mentioned, and then file a statement that will be added to the report as an appendix prior to its public release.
According to a spokeswoman for Ray's office, the court could then choose to release that portion of the full Whitewater report, or wait until all portions have been submitted and run through the same process.
"It will be up to the court to decide whether to hold on to (the Filegate portion) until they have everything, or even not release it at all," Independent Counsel spokeswoman Neille Russell said Wednesday.
"Filegate" grabbed the attention of official Washington in when it was revealed that a White House security officials had managed to acquire some 900 FBI files -- including those of several prominent Republicans who served in the Bush and Reagan administrations.
The files reportedly spent a significant amount of time at the White House security office, and foes of the Clinton Administration accused both the president and the first lady of ordering the acquisition of the documents for political purposes.
House Republicans launched an extensive probe prior to the 1996 election, which was spearheaded by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, then chaired by former Rep. William Clinger (R-Pennsylvania).
Clinger and committee Republicans accused the Clinton Administration of taking vital information from the files and entering it into a political enemies computer database. The first lady was linked to the hiring of Craig Livingstone, one of the security officials involved in the files acquisition, with many reports circulating at the time that Livingstone's appointment was a priority for her.
Mrs. Clinton signed a sworn statement in July of 1999 that said she never ordered anyone to request any files from the FBI, nor did she order any background checks on any operatives from the previous administrations.
She also said she had nothing to do with Livingstone's hiring in the White House security office.
The Government Reform and Oversight Committee's report, released in the autumn of 1996, reached similar conclusions, though it blasted the Clinton White House for its "cavalier approach" to security. Livingstone resigned his post soon after the scandal broke.
The release of the report Thursday is just the tip of the iceberg for Ray, who signed on last fall to finish Starr's work.
In coming months, Ray's office will release reports on Mrs. Clinton's alleged role in the firing of several White House Travel Office employees, the Clinton's Arkansas Whitewater land dealings, and the long-awaited final report on the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
CNN learned Monday that Ray is actively investigating whether to pursue indictments against Clinton when he leaves office for his role in the Lewinsky case, as well as the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.
Those indictments could cover whether Clinton urged Lewinsky to lie about their relationship in her affidavit statement taken during court consideration of the Jones case.
Clinton was acquitted by the full Senate at the beginning of 1999, after the House impeached him for lying under oath about his relationship with the former intern while giving his sworn deposition in the Jones case.
CNN staff writers Bob Franken, Ian Christopher McCaleb and Amy Paulson contributed to this report.