Senators Grill White House Lawyers Over Tapes
Businessman tells senators about Clinton call
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 29) -- Republican senators investigating campaign fund-raising lit into three Clinton Administration attorneys today over the delayed release of videotapes that had been under subpoena for months.
"It appears in some cases we have been misled," the panel's chairman, Sen. Fred Thompson, said to White House Counsel Charles Ruff and two of his subordinates, attorneys Lanny Breuer and Michael Imbroscio.
Majority counsel Michael Madigan expressed incredulity that the attorneys would have missed more than 100 videos of White House coffees, but Breuer defended the error as "a slip-up of the most routine and the most innocent sort, and the kind of mistake that happens every day in complicated litigation."
To Thompson's charge that numerous documents had been delayed or withheld, including pages from a White House diary of President Bill Clinton's movements, Ruff responded, "I do not believe it's fair to suggest we withheld some treasure trove of information."
Echoed Breuer, "The events of the past few months taken as a whole vividly demonstrate that the White House has diligently complied with this committee's many, many requests."
Imbroscio, who made the initial discovery that the White House coffees were videotaped, testified, "There was no editing, there was not selective copying."
"There was never any intention on my part or anyone else's part in the White House to hide the existence of these videotapes or delay their production to the committee," he continued.
Earlier in the day, senators learned that an addition 60 tapes of the president at fund-raising events would be made available. They were not turned over before, White House lawyer Lanny Davis told reporters, because, "We gave them what we thought they wanted."
Banker says Clinton's call seemed appropriate
During the morning sessions, the senators focused on a phone call between the president and New York banker Richard Jenrette, who testified before the Senate committee this morning.
Jenrette, chairman and CEO of Equitable Companies, Inc., is the only Democratic donor who has acknowledged receiving a direct solicitation from the president by phone. The call came, he recounted, in October 1994, when the president said he was trying to raise $2 million from about 40 individuals before the midterm congressional elections.
Jenrette recalled he had been told by a secretary the president would call on a "private" line, though he said he didn't know where exactly Clinton called from. Was he strong-armed into giving, Jenrette was asked?
"I didn't feel that way," he said. The call "was fairly low key. No Lincoln bedroom was offered."
Jenrette gave $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee in five $10,000 installments. Majority counsel Michael Madigan noted the third check had been deposited in a "hard money" account, usable for campaigns.
After Vice President Al Gore called him in February 1996, Jenrette testified, he donated $25,000 to the DNC. A subsequent letter from former DNC chairman Don Fowler informed him the money would be deposited in non-federal, "soft money" accounts.
"Why are you here?" asked Sen. Carl Levin, one of several panel Democrats who suggested Jenrette had no compelling evidence to offer the committee. But Republican Bob Smith of New Hampshire said Jenrette offered proof of the president's lack of candor.
"It's not the issue of the phone calls so much is that he [the president] doesn't recall making the phone calls," Smith said. "It goes right to the heart of the president's own style of operation, and it frankly goes to the heart of candidness, character, and integrity here in this office in the presidency which is I think why we are here."
Jenrette acknowledged making contributions to both Republicans and Democrats, including a few members of the committee. At one point during questioning, he quipped, "It's wonderful that at age 69 I'm the only one who can remember."
Thompson seeks an extension
Meanwhile, aides to Chairman Thompson confirmed the Tennessee Republican has written Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) requesting the investigation be extended past its Dec. 31 deadline.
Republicans have griped that the White House has stonewalled the committee to run out the clock. But at least one GOP member of the committee, Don Nickles of Oklahoma, is ready to end it.
"That committee is a pain" to be on, Nickles was quoted in The Associated Press. "My personal hope is the investigation won't be extended unless there are significant things that have been uncovered ..."
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Wednesday Oct. 29, 1997
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