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FBI will review House GOP 'intimidation' complaint

Gingrich comes to Hyde's defense

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, September 18) -- The FBI says it will review the request from House Republican leaders that the agency investigate their suspicions that White House officials are planting stories about lawmaker's sex lives to deflect impeachment pressure against President Bill Clinton.

Rep. Henry Hyde  

The latest story, published in the Internet magazine Salon, detailed a 30-year-old affair between Rep. Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and a married woman.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Newt Gingrich came to Hyde's defense Friday, calling him "a wonderful person" in a speech at a meeting of the Christian Coalition.

"In Henry's case, it's human and it's personal and he's a decent and wonderful man, and many of you have known him over the years," Gingrich said. "And I think if you were to drop him a little note and let him know that you share his pain and you're sorry that doing his duty leads to that kind of treatment by this White House, I think he would be deeply grateful, because he's a wonderful person."

The White House, while denying any connection to the Hyde story, charges House Republicans said a congressman's personal life is "fair game" for reporters.

Rep. Tom DeLay  

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) charged the White House was trying to "orchestrate a conspiracy to intimidate members of Congress by using their past lives."

DeLay and other Republicans have sent a letter to FBI Director Louis Freeh calling on his agency to investigate what they said was "credible evidence that an organized campaign of slander and intimidation may exist."

"These intimidation efforts amount to a direct assault on the United States House of Representatives," DeLay said.

If there is evidence that Clinton is behind the effort, DeLay said, "this could be added to the impeachment inquiry."

"The FBI is currently reviewing these allegations, and appropriate steps will be taken to determine if a violation of federal law has occurred," the FBI said in a written statement.

White House Counsel's spokesman Jim Kennedy charged DeLay and his fellow Republicans "have taken this tragic case and used it for their own partisan purposes."

DeLay said it was the work of a "sick individual in a sleazy operation" who might think he could intimidate other congressmen into backing away from the impeachment of Clinton because they feared skeletons in their closets being made public.

White House Chief of Staff
Erskine Bowles

White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles sent a letter to Hyde (R-Ill.), denying anyone from the White House was behind the story and pledging to fire anyone found to be involved.

The Republicans specifically mentioned White House adviser Sidney Blumenthal as one suspected source of the Hyde story, but Blumenthal denied any role.

"I did not urge or encourage any reporter to investigate the private life of any member of Congress," Blumenthal said in a written statement. "Any suggestions otherwise are completely false."

The story of the relationship between Hyde, when he was in his late 30s and a rising Republican star in the Illinois legislature, and Cherie Snodgrass, a married woman 12 years younger, broke Wednesday in the San Francisco-based Internet magazine Salon.

The magazine said it looked into the story after one of its editors received a telephone tip two weeks ago from a retiree named Norm Sommer, who said he learned of the affair from Snodgrass' ex-husband, Fred.

"The White House had nothing whatsoever to do with any aspect of this story," the magazine said. "We did not receive it from anyone in the White House or in Clinton's political or legal camps, nor did we communicate with them about it."

Fred Snodgrass, 76, told Miami TV station WPLG Thursday he first heard of his wife's relationship with Hyde after "my son heard his mother talking to somebody called Hank on the phone."

Of Hyde, now 74, Fred Snodgrass said, "I don't think he's qualified to be on the impeachment committee ... Now here's a man who committed adultery with a woman of 28 or 29 at the time, with three small children."

According to the magazine, the affair lasted from 1965 to 1969 and ended after Hyde's wife found out about it. His wife, Jeanne, died of breast cancer in 1992. They were married 45 years.

Salon editor David Talbot said on CNN, "Salon is not necessarily pro-Bill Clinton. We have a lot of different viewpoints and when Congressman DeLay gets on the House floor today and accuses us of being in the White House's pocket, it's a bald-face lie... One of our editors called for his (Clinton's) resignation recently, so Tom DeLay and the other, they know we're not part of the spin machine. What they're threatened by is our independence."

Investigating the President


Friday, September 18, 1998

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