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Did White House Officials Intentionally Mislead Investigators About Subpoenaed Materials?

Aired March 30, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, those missing White House e-mails.


REP. DAN BURTON (R-IN), CHAIRMAN, GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: The track record is pretty clear: Complying with subpoenas is something this White House does as a matter of last resort.


PRESS: Did the White House intentionally mislead investigators about a computer glitch, or was it an honest mistake?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Robert Novak. In the crossfire, Larry Klayman, Judicial Watch chairman and general counsel, and attorney Stan Brand.

PRESS: Good evening, and welcome to CROSSFIRE. What's a day in the Clinton administration without another scandal? Today, two of them: one, Kathleen Willey. Remember her? A federal judge has ruled that President Clinton violated the privacy act back in March of 1998 by releasing warm personal letters received from Willey after she accused him of groping her in the Oval Office. The president says he'll appeal.

Two, he's got mail. Missing White House e-mail, the subject of another hearing in the House today with Chairman Dan Burton talking cover-up.


BURTON: If documents are withheld once, we can try to understand. If it occurs twice, you have justifiable doubts. But when it happens over and over again, and not just here but with the independent counsels and Senator Thompson, you start to get a little skeptical.


PRESS: ... but with the president talking cooperation...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that it is accurate to say that we had turned over everything that had been found, and from what I understand, some things were not found because they were in a different system. And so now we're working on how to cooperate with the Congress.


PRESS: Both scandals emerged out of lawsuits filed against the Clinton administration by Judicial Watch, headed by tonight's guest, Larry Klayman, here debating with attorney Stan Brand.

Did the White House deliberately dump those missing e-mails, or did the computer just go south? And will we ever know? -- Bob.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Stan Brand, contrary to the president's ingenious description, explanation that they were just in another system, in fact, the White House knew that there was a computer glitch on these e-mails, did not reveal it at a time when those e-mails may have been instrumental in several cases, prosecutions brought against the White House.

Now, since this fits a pattern of delay and obfuscation and concealment, there is a really serious situation here, isn't there?

STAN BRAND, ATTORNEY: Bob, you say that this is a pattern. In fact, of all the charges of perjury, obstruction that have occurred in the seven years since these cases have began, there hasn't been a single case brought against anyone in the White House.

NOVAK: But that's because they're so good at concealment. They're so good at hiding things. But as -- you know, you're an officer of the court. The fact that these subpoenas were served and this material was hidden doesn't -- isn't that enormously suspicious that it was -- that -- that -- that this -- this glitch was never revealed to the people who would issue the subpoenas?

BRAND: E-mails from people outside, most of which, outside the White House to a computer server that I heard some member of Congress on the Republican side concede was the result of a glitch.

NOVAK: But -- but -- but whether it was the result of a glitch or whether it was intentional -- I have my suspicions -- they didn't tell anybody. They didn't -- when these subpoenas came in, they didn't say, we can't find this material because we have a computer problem, and we're going to try to reproduce it. There wasn't a word until Mr. Klayman brought his suit and until the hearings by Chairman Burton came up.

BRAND: The pattern, Bob, is that we started with allegations about missing White House records. We started with allegations about subpoenas that weren't complied with. And at the end of the day, the independent counsel decided not to prosecute anybody in those cases. At the end of the day, that's where we'll be here. The endless subpoenas issued by Congress -- just another charge. Let's see where the proof is at the end of the day. PRESS: Larry Klayman, of all the ridiculous allegations that you and Dan Burton have come up with so far, I have got to tell you this is the most ridiculous. Look, even the computer technicians who installed the system say they put in a system so that e-mails were stored and then archived. It didn't work, period, end of story.

LARRY KLAYMAN, CHAIRMAN & GENERAL COUNSEL, JUDICIAL WATCH: Bill, Bill, Bill, you're missing the point.

PRESS: Haven't you seen one too many conspiracies?

KLAYMAN: No, in fact, probably we haven't seen enough with this White House. You're missing the point.

This was revealed not by Larry Klayman, but by independent whistle-blowers right out of the White House who walked into our office, one of them, during the deposition of Harold Ickes in the "Filegate" case. And she revealed that White House employees and contractors for Northrop Grumman were threatened with being thrown in the slammer, in prison if they talked.

Now, it almost doesn't matter what's on the e-mails, although they also know that these e-mails concern "Filegate," sale of seats on trade missions, Lewinsky and "Travelgate." But the threats -- and now we find out -- we find out that a false affidavit was submitted by the Clinton/Gore Justice Department to Judge Royce Lamberth in our case. And it's not going to be Reno that gets to decide this; it's going to be the judge. And the judge is a lot different than a corrupt Reno Justice Department.

PRESS: Well what? First of all, I know this is a deposition of Harold Ickes where you demanded to know the names of this cat. Some of us are still trying to figure out what relevance that had to "Filegate."

KLAYMAN: In fact...

PRESS: But let's just...

KLAYMAN: Bill, in fact, he couldn't remember the name of his cat.

PRESS: Yes, well, what relevance does that have?

KLAYMAN: Raising questions, further questions about obstruction of justice?

PRESS: But this charge, this...


You're going to sue Harold Ickes because he didn't tell you the names of the cats?


PRESS: So this charge...

KLAYMAN: I'm just saying that Harold couldn't remember anything.

PRESS: This charge -- this charge, which is equally absurd, that they're going to throw somebody in jail, who's going to throw them in jail, on what charges? You know, this was raised by Dan Burton last week in the committee to this Laura Callahan, who used to be Laura Crabtree at that time. And here's what she responded to the chairman. Just listen up.


LAURA CALLAHAN, WHITE HOUSE PROJECT DIRECTOR: I did not threaten them with any sense of jail for several reasons, and first...

BURTON: Did you threaten them with dismissal or any kind of reprisals?

CALLAHAN: No, sir, because they would be idol threats. I have no authority, first of all, to carry out those types of threats. And No. 2, it's not anywhere in my demeanor, in my past practice or my character to do those types of threats.


PRESS: Now does she look like a woman who is going to scare you to death and throw you in jail? Come on, Larry.

KLAYMAN: I think it was one of the congressmen, Congressmen Horn, who said, gee, he'd sure hate to see her blow her top. The poor woman was wound so tight because the White House had wound her tight. It was clear she wasn't telling the truth. There are five people who have said that she participated with Mark Lindsay in threatening them with prison, Bill.

Now, you're a man who believes in the law. If you threaten people, ordinary people -- these are basic individuals, not high-level officials -- with going to jail, that's obstruction of justice.

PRESS: You haven't proved that anybody threatened anyone. But last question on this is the White House says they don't know...

KLAYMAN: It wasn't me. It was five witnesses who said this.

PRESS: The White House says they're -- no -- how many e-mails were not retrieved? They don't know, have any idea what's in them. How can you say with certainty that there's incriminating evidence against anybody in the White House?

KLAYMAN: Because...

PRESS: You don't know, do you?

KLAYMAN: Larry Klayman isn't testifying. I'm a lawyer. What we have are independent witnesses who have talked with people who have looked through the e-mails. And they say that if this stuff had come out during the impeachment proceeding it would be a whole lot different.

The fact is, is that this e-mail, maybe as much as 1 million e- mails. And in the vice president's office, there were no e-mails that were discovered from 1994 forward in any of these cases, including Judicial Watch's.

NOVAK: All right, Stan Brand, I'm going to ask you this: The -- there was no interest whatever by this vaunted task force at the Justice Department in this e-mail case until Larry Klayman, Klayman's Judicial Watch uncovered information, until they had the hearings. Then, they went, they subpoenaed material, the Justice Department subpoenaed material from the White House, and some people who were unsuspecting thought, my goodness, Janet Reno said is enough is enough. But that wasn't it at all. They then asked that his -- he be stopped, that Mr. Klayman be stopped from further proceeding in this case until this -- this slow-moving Justice Department acted.

Isn't that a slowdown to get you through the election, and your friend, Mr. Gore?

BRAND: Bob, every -- it's standard operating procedure in all administrations, including Republican administrations of the Justice Department, is to ask for stays in civil cases when criminal cases come up in the midst and there's a call for evidence.

NOVAK: Why didn't they subpoena the material long before? They knew about it. Why -- why did they wait until the civil case had exposed it to the public?

BRAND: They went in when they heard about it through the civil case.

NOVAK: Oh, oh.

BRAND: And this asking of a stay is standard operating procedure.

KLAYMAN: No, it's not. That's not, Stan.

BRAND: It is.

KLAYMAN: It's standard operating procedure when the Justice Department is conducting both the civil and the criminal investigation. Here, the Justice Department is defending the White House. And now we find out in Burton's hearings today, with evidence developed by Judicial Watch, the Justice Department lawyers are likely part of the obstruction of justice. They submitted this false affidavit. And Burton is going to be subpoenaing them in front of his committee next week.

PRESS: Oh, that's a surprise! A subpoena by Burton.

NOVAK: Mr. Brand, you deal with White House, with Clinton lawyers, and you can translate them. Beth Nolan, who is the current White House counsel, was asked about one of her very cagey predecessors, Charles Ruff, as to why he didn't reveal there was a problem with the e-mails, and this was her answer. I want you to listen to it carefully and tell me what she said.


BETH NOLAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I cannot tell you exactly why. What I can tell you is what he understood was that there was a small -- there may have been a problem, that it was fixed. There was no ongoing problem. There had been no documents not produced.


NOVAK: Well, that's just -- that's just a lie! There were documents not produced. There was a big problem, wasn't there?

BRAND: Well, I think only Chuck Ruff can answer those questions, and he should be the one to answer those. And I am sure he will.

KLAYMAN: Well, it goes higher than Ruff, because there's documentation taking this all the way up to John Podesta. John Podesta was then-deputy White House chief of staff, Bill, and you have to therefore assume that Bill Clinton himself, the president, knew of this e-mail problem and no one brought it forward.

BRAND: You're not going to be able to assume anything. You're going to have to prove it.

KLAYMAN: Well, that's his aide, John Podesta.

PRESS: Isn't it a fact, I mean, you filed this $90 million lawsuit against Clinton.

KLAYMAN: My clients did.

PRESS: Right, on behalf of your clients. It's basically about Filegate. You have used -- you've got this judge that has allowed you to use this basically as a hunting license. Under this lawsuit, you've subpoenaed George Stephanopoulos, Harold Ickes, Paul Begala...

KLAYMAN: ... George Stephanopoulos...


PRESS: Linda Tripp's former stepmother, for which the judge (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you by asking privacy questions. I mean, what is this? Is this a general hunting license to go any direction you want to against the Clinton administration? Is that it?

KLAYMAN: Well, you know, you made your point. The judge is very fair. He calls it on a...

PRESS: Very fair!

KLAYMAN: ... case-by-case basis. This is the one judge in the United States that isn't influenced, that I have seen, by politics. And he hasn't always ruled for Judicial Watch. But you guys don't like it because you see he's different than a bunch of politicians and he's different than the Reno Justice Department, which sweeps everything under the rug.

PRESS: He's your judge, Larry.

NOVAK: We've got -- we've got to take a break.

KLAYMAN: No, he's the judge of the American people.

NOVAK: We've got to take a break. Next on CROSSFIRE, did President Bill Clinton -- shock! -- break the law in revealing private correspondence from Kathleen Willey?


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's Kathleen Willey back in the news. She's the sometime White House volunteer who claims the president groped her in the Oval Office, which was denied by President Clinton.

Now, a federal judge has ruled that the president committed a crime in releasing Willey's letters to him. We're talking to Stan Brand, a prominent Democratic lawyer in Washington, and to Larry Klayman, chairman and founder of Judicial Watch, the organization that brought the suit resulting in the Kathleen Willey ruling -- Bill.

PRESS: Now, Larry, I want to understand this. Is it your opinion and Judge Lamberth's that if someone accuses me of sexual misconduct and I have evidence to the contrary, that I'm not allowed to defend myself?

KLAYMAN: That's not the issue. The issue is your guys, the Democratic Party after Watergate, correctly put in force an act called the Privacy Act, which means the government can't keep files on individuals without letting them know about it and can't release information from those files without getting the person's authorization. In this case, the president kept information about Kathleen Willey in a White House government file. He released it to smear her.

By his own admission at the grand jury, the Lewinsky grand jury, he harmed her with that. And because he knew the Privacy Act was in effect, Judge Lamberth having already ruled to that effect, it was a crime.

This is the first time in American history that a president has been held guilty of a crime, and I would suggest, Bill -- let me finish here. Now, that we have a definitive finding that the president has committed a crime, it's time for another impeachment proceeding. You've triggered that.

PRESS: I think we have a chance to, first of all, appeal a ruling. And No. 2, I would like to point out that your guys, as you're fond of saying, your guy Antonin Scalia in 1975 ruled that the Privacy Act does not apply...

KLAYMAN: He didn't rule. He did not rule. He did not rule.

PRESS: In fact, that was his opinion at the time, and it's been followed by Republican and Democratic administrations ever since.

KLAYMAN: Bill, the talking points that the White House gave you tonight were defective.

PRESS: Not -- not...

KLAYMAN: They didn't tell you that there are internal memoranda in the White House which admit -- the Clinton White House -- that the Privacy Act applies. There's absolutely no dispute.

PRESS: Absolutely, absolutely in dispute.

KLAYMAN: The plain language of the statute says it applies to the executive office of the president.

PRESS: Let me move on to the letters themselves. I've got a stack of these letters upstairs. These are personal letters, copies of them, personal letters, handwritten letters by Kathleen Willey, most of them after this alleged incident took place.

KLAYMAN: How did you get them, Bill?

PRESS: I want to read you -- I want to read you...

KLAYMAN: How did you get them when...

PRESS: None of your damned business.

KLAYMAN: Why? I don't know about that.

PRESS: "Dear Mr. President," written...

NOVAK: You may get a subpoena, Press.

PRESS: ... on November 13th, 1996. "Dear"...

NOVAK: I see a subpoena in your future.

PRESS: May I read this, Bob, if you would stop interrupting me?

NOVAK: I'm sorry.

PRESS: "Dear Mr. President, you have been on my mind so often this week. There's so very many people who believe in you and what you are trying to do for our country. Take heart in knowing that your No. 1 fan thanks you every day for your help in saving her wonderful state. Fondly, Kathleen."

Now, doesn't that cast a little different light on what she says was the nature of their relationship? And why shouldn't that be able to come out?

KLAYMAN: The issue is not who she is or what she is or what she said.

PRESS: Yes, it is. KLAYMAN: The fact is this White House has kept files on virtually everyone. We have cases for Bob Barr, for Juanita Brodderick, for Gennifer Flowers, you name it, Billy Dale, who was smeared. They keep files. And this is a tactic that has been used in other countries, in Latin America and the Soviet Union.

NOVAK: Let me -- let me -- let me...

KLAYMAN: And they put stuff...


PRESS: She wrote the letter.

NOVAK: All right. All right. Stan...

PRESS: She wrote the letter.

NOVAK: You've made your point. Stan Brand, I want to just clear up a couple of things. First place, the opinion by Antonin Scalia was given when he was an assistant attorney general, a very young lawyer, in the Justice Department as a part of the Nixon administration. It wasn't as a Supreme Court judge, as you might get...

PRESS: I said that, Bob.

NOVAK: I don't think you said that. Did you say...

PRESS: I said 1975.

NOVAK: Yes, but...

BRAND: Bob, I'll concede that.

NOVAK: Just a minute. Let me -- let me finish my question.

BRAND: I don't have to dispute that. What's ridiculous is the ruling. The notion that a letter that Kathleen Willey wrote to Bill Clinton, that she could have an expectation of privacy in that, that that is a record...

NOVAK: It was in the government file.

BRAND: So what? The fact that it's in a file doesn't make it within the...


NOVAK: I want -- I want to read you what Judge Lamberth -- what Judge Lamberth wrote.

BRAND: Oh, I read what he said.

NOVAK: Some of our viewers may not have read the whole opinion. I think it's chilling for -- for -- for a president to function this way. Listen to this. "The court finds that the plaintiffs have sufficiently established that the White House and president were aware that they were subject to the Privacy Act and yet to chose to violate its provisions. Thus, the plaintiffs have established that the president had the requisite intent for committing a criminal violation of the Privacy Act."

BRAND: Totally ridiculous. First of all, that -- this is a civil case. Criminal intent would be a jury issue. If anybody ever charged Bill Clinton with a crime of violating the Privacy Act, and I would suggest to you that is an absolutely absurd prospect given the fact that this was Kathleen Willey's letter, that the statute says things like financial information, medical history -- the fact that it was put in a manila folder doesn't make it sacrosanct.

KLAYMAN: Bob, let me interject here, recently we had released -- it's on our Web site at -- pictures of Craig Livingston with Hillary Clinton. We might remember Hillary Clinton said she never knew Craig Livingston, the guy who was responsible for Filegate. Well, the White House claimed they couldn't give us the pictures because they were kept in a file under the Privacy Act. You see? So they want to have it both ways.

NOVAK: I just...

BRAND: They wanted Craig Livingston's photos, there's big difference.

NOVAK: I just want to...

KLAYMAN: They wanted the White House photos.

NOVAK: I want you to hear...

BRAND: Well, this was a letter from Kathleen Willey, not a White House document, not generated by the government.

NOVAK: Once it's in the White House, it's a White House document.

BRAND: I see, there is a Midas touch.

NOVAK: Absolutely, Bill.


NOVAK: I just want you to hear what President Clinton -- the due diligence offered -- the due diligence followed by this former University of Arkansas law professor. He was asked in his press conference about the Privacy Act violation. Here's what he said.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When the decision was made to release those letters, I didn't even have any conversations with anybody about the Privacy Act. I never thought about it, never thought about whether it applied or not.


NOVAK: That is really the stupid defense, isn't it? I didn't even think about it.

BRAND: No, he has much better ones and that is...

KLAYMAN: Yes, I never had sex with that woman.

PRESS: Wait, Larry.

BRAND: ... the statute couldn't possibly apply to this. It's an absurdity. And, Bob, watch the Court of Appeals.

PRESS: Larry Klayman, I have just got one...

KLAYMAN: Well, the Court of Appeals...

PRESS: Larry, we're almost out of time.

KLAYMAN: Let me interject here.

PRESS: I have only got one question for you.

KLAYMAN: The Court of Appeals rejected an interlocutory appeal.

PRESS: Almost out of time. All right, one of our producers went to your Web site today. You claim that you're involved in over 50 lawsuits, which you may be. There are 31 of them listed on your Web suit, every one of them is a lawsuit filed against the Clinton administration for which you have received $1.35 million, according to "The Washington Post," from Richard Mellon Scaife over the last years.

KLAYMAN: A great patriot, a great patriot.

PRESS: Judicial Watch is just a full-time anti-Clinton operation, isn't it?

KLAYMAN: Not at all.

PRESS: Be honest.

KLAYMAN: Not at all. The fact that we're...

PRESS: Thirty one out of thirty one.

NOVAK: Let him answer.

KLAYMAN: Let me answer. We have cases concerning the Olympics. There was a scandal here in Washington. We have other cases with regard to Republicans. And let me tell you something about Richard Mellon Scaife. He is a patriot because he has funded conservative groups that have challenged the illegality and criminality in this administration. I wish we had a hundred lawsuits, Bill, because that's how rampant the corruption is. PRESS: I wish I had a Richard Mellon Scaife to fund mine.

Larry Klayman, thank you for coming into CROSSFIRE.

KLAYMAN: You're welcome.

PRESS: Stan Brand, good to have you back, guys.

BRAND: Thank you, Bill.

PRESS: And Mr. Novak and I will have a final word on e-mail and Kathleen Willey, closing comments coming up.


PRESS: Bob, you know, I'm glad that I still live in a country where a man who is accused of sexual harassment is able to defend himself including, Bob, the president of the United States. This ruling is ridiculous.

NOVAK: You know, I just -- this is a side issue on this, Bill -- I call anybody who believes President Clinton, who was called by Bob Kerrey an unusually able liar and certainly is an admitted liar instead of this poor woman, is somebody who is really in the bag for the Clintons.

PRESS: I wrote a column, Bob, saying I believed Kathleen Willey. That's not the issue. Don't accuse me of that. The issue is this ridiculous ruling that if she wrote him letters, sometimes -- these privileged correspondence they could never reveal. He was perfectly within his right to do so. Don't you agree?

NOVAK: You're being Slick Willie right now. You're modeling yourself after your rival.

PRESS: Bob, I think you better to stay away from these right- wing wackos like we just saw.

From the left, I am Bill Press, good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: Well, I think Mr. Klayman is an American hero.

From the right, I'm Robert Novak, join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.



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