Clinton Invokes Executive Privilege In Travel Office Probe
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 9) -- Inviting a contempt of Congress vote, President Bill Clinton today claimed executive privilege as a basis for refusing to provide additional documents on the firings of the White House travel office staff.
The move drew a quick reaction from Rep. William Clinger (R-Pa.), who chairs a House panel looking into the controversy. Clinger requested and got a vote from his committee holding White House counsel Jack Quinn and former White House aides Matthew Moore and David Watkins in contempt of Congress.
"Unfortunately, the White House, in keeping with their culture of secrecy, has decided to withhold from this investigation a vaguely defined body of documents," Clinger told the Associated Press.
Clinger accused Clinton of attempting "to contain a scandal that has no connection with national security or any vital domestic policy, but at the bottom is a scandal about the character of this presidency."
Democrats, however, say the documents are not relevant and the dispute has more to do with election-year politics. Quinn has said the only papers withheld are ones prepared for previous hearings and for independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
Executive privilege allows a president to prevent release of documents containing private conversations between the president and his aides.
At issue in the House panel's probe is the Clinton Administration's action in firing travel office staffers who book flights for reporters traveling with the president. Critics said the Clinton sacked the workers so they could be replaced with political allies.
There could still be room for compromise. A letter from Quinn to Clinger's committee indicated some of the disputed documents could be provided, and Clinger said he would wait to bring the contempt resolution to the full House to leave time for more negotiations.
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