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Clinton Library Dispute: Library Will Allow Congressional Committee Access to Records

Aired February 27, 2001 - 1:44 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We have a development to bring you in the pardon controversy and the investigation into it by Congress.

CNN's Bob Franken working the story for us from New York -- Bob, what is it?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has to do with the hearing that is going to be conducted on Thursday and the Clinton Presidential Library and demands that it turn over records relevant to the Marc Rich pardon case.

The library officials had turned down a demand by the House Government Reform Committee that it turn over all records that have -- of donors over $5,000, saying it didn't have to. But then the committee offered a compromise: that, in fact, it be allowed to look in private at these records and decide which ones were relevant, and take those and leave the rest, protecting the confidentiality of donors to the library.

The presidential library board has accepted that offer, has sent a letter to the House Government Reform Committee chairman, Dan Burton, saying that it will in fact allow private access to these records to allow the committee to decide which ones are needed. However, there was a request -- only a request -- that, in fact, this access be limited only to Chairman Dan Burton and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Henry Waxman.

The committee sources tell us they have not received this request yet, have not officially accepted it, although this would seem to be a significant step toward ending this impasse. Now, on Thursday, the committee is holding a hearing. It is supposed to include, if there was no agreement, Skip Rutherford, who is the head of the library board in Little Rock, Arkansas. Rutherford was to testify and possibly could be held in contempt, the committee threatened.

But this proposal is being made. There is a significant effort to reach a compromise. But the compromise has not yet been officially completed.

Now, why are we in New York? That's because president -- ex- President Clinton is in New York. Of course, he is the center of all of this. He's making another speech, this one before a convention that was called by Credit Suisse First Boston and "Variety" magazine. Interestingly, if you look, you see no evidence of Credit Suisse First Boston here, because there has been quite a bit of complaints, say sources, about the fact that Clinton is speaking. So Credit Suisse has taken a very low-key approach to all this, although you do see "Variety," the daily entertainment trade paper here -- President Clinton speaking today.

We are told he is not expected to the speak about the conference -- the pardons matter, which, of course, is the subject of quite an investigation, an investigation now that will be moved forward perhaps with a negotiated settlement -- if, in fact, that's what happens -- between the president's library and its records and the committee -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And, Bob, what will this committee be looking for in these records?

FRANKEN: Well, the committee is looking for donations, particularly from people who might be figures in the pardon case. Of course, the ultimate question the committee is investigating is whether there was some sort of quid pro quo in exchange for the pardons that were granted, particularly in the matter of Marc Rich.

The committee believes that the records of donations or pledges to the presidential library might be relevant, so it's looking for possible leads in this investigation.

ALLEN: All right, Bob Franken in New York -- Bob, thanks.

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