Democrats Plan To Turn Up The Political Heat On Burton
By John King/CNN
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (May 4) -- House Democrats are plotting several moves designed to put more political heat on Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) in the Webster Hubbell tapes debate, including filing an attempt to force him to step down as head of the House investigation of President Bill Clinton's campaign fund-raising and other questionable conduct.
There are growing worries in the Republican ranks about how Burton is handling this latest development in his investigation, CNN has learned. GOP sources say top aides to House Speaker Newt Gingrich went to Burton aides in recent days and implored them to improve a communications strategy one senior leadership aide said "breaks every simple rule of politics."
This source said senior GOP leadership aides were bewildered that Burton had released selected excerpts and allowed himself to become the subject of criticism. This source said, "Rule One of opposition research is once you have made a decision to release, then release everything and let the reporters pick the news; otherwise what you are trying to do gets lost in the debate over your motives."
Burton plans another vote in his committee Wednesday to see if Democrats will support granting immunity to four witnesses in the campaign finance investigation; Democrats balked the last time.
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and ranking committee Democrat Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) were in California Sunday night for a fund-raiser attended by the Clintons. According to Democratic sources, Gephardt and Waxman are plotting a strategy designed to put Republicans on the record about Burton's conduct.
In the committee, sources said Democrats were likely to announce they would support immunity for the four witnesses if Burton would step down as chairman. At the same time, Democrats plan to file a House motion Wednesday or Thursday acccusing Burton of abusing his powers and urging that he be removed as chairman of the investigation.
GOP sources said Republicans, despite their anxiety, were likely to rally to Burton's defense. But one noted the rising anxiety level among GOP moderates.
Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.), for example, did not vote when the immunity issue came up last time. She represents a moderate suburban Washington district and, according to a GOP leadership source, "she is getting absolutely hammered by her opponent on this , not the place to be aligned with a guy being painted as a right-wing kook."
The White House has kept in touch with House Democrats and is planning to stick to its line that releasing the tapes was an abuse of power by Burton and a violation of Hubbell's privacy in an effort to smear the president and first lady.
Administration sources say they have been told by Waxman and his staff that a good amount of the additional material to be released casts the first family in a more favorable light. But the officials said the White House will continue to criticize the release of the tapes.
In Santa Monica on Monday, Clinton did not respond when a reporter asked him about Burton's release of the Hubbell tapes.