House Investigation of the White House travel office firings and related matters, September 26, 1996, Vince Foster death, Bill and Hillary Clinton obstruction of justice and coverup

House Investigation of the White House travel office firings and related matters, September 26, 1996, Vince Foster death, Bill and Hillary Clinton obstruction of justice and coverup

 

“INVESTIGATION OF THE WHITE HOUSE
TRAVEL OFFICE FIRINGS AND RELATED
MATTERS
FIFTEENTH REPORT
BY THE
COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT
REFORM AND OVERSIGHT
together with
MINORITY AND ADDITIONAL VIEWS

September 26, 1996”

“I. SUMMARY OVERVIEW
Travelgate is a story about the failure of the Clinton White
House to live up to the ethical standards expected of the highest
office in the land. The wrongdoing of this administration lies not
in the firings of the seven Travel Office employees. They served at
the pleasure of the President. If the President chose to fire them
to reward political cronies, that was his prerogative. And he must
reap the consequences.
Rather, the wrongdoing occurred after the firings. It resulted
from a desire to hide the truth about who actually fired them and
why.
The committee spent 31⁄2 years investigating not just who fired
them and why, but the wrongdoing that followed. The resulting
mosaic pieced together from the facts uncovered reveals the answers
the White House refused to disclose. In the end, the actions
of the Clinton administration following the firings may have a lasting
and damaging impact on the Office of the Presidency.
The committee has found that the motive for the firings was political
cronyism: the President sought to reward his friend, Harry
Thomason, with the spoils of the White House travel business. A
pretext for the firings was created, and the trigger was pulled.
When the public reacted to the firing with outrage, the roles of
the President, First Lady and Thomason were minimized as the
White House staff engaged in a colossal damage-control effort.
First, it had to portray the victims of the firings as the wrongdoers.
This was achieved by White House officials unleashing the
full powers of the Federal Government against the seven former workers.

The extraordinary might of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice—
not to mention the prestige of the White House itself—all
were brought to bear. These actions constitute a gross abuse of the
rights of seven American citizens and their families.
Second, an enormous and elaborate cover-up operation, housed in
the White House Counsel’s Office, sought to prevent numerous investigations
from discovering not only the roles of who fired the
workers and why, but also their efforts to persecute the victims. In
the process, the administration may have severely damaged the
credibility and prestige of the White House: it obstructed and frustrated
all investigations; it turned the Office of the White House
Counsel into a political damage-control operation; it made frivolous
claims of executive privilege; it abused its powers to smear innocent
citizens; and most important, it failed to level with the American
people.
As a result, it is the committee’s view that the White House
stands in contempt of its own constitutional responsibilities to
faithfully uphold and execute the Constitution and laws of the Nation.
Never before has a President and his staff done so much to
cover up improper actions and hinder the public’s right to learn the
truth. The following chapters reveal the facts that tell this story.”

“It is clear that once the ‘‘official’’ story was made public, any movement toward the truth brought the threat of damaging legal and political ramifications that the Clinton White House could not afford to risk.

The extensive documentary record constructed over the past year has dismantled the White House cover story.

The committee sought records of meetings, phone logs, Secret Service logs and White House residence records that were the only way to fill in the missing memories of countless witnesses. While the recollections of witnesses frequently have been implausibly flawed, the documentary record often tells a very different and far more complete story.

Finally, it is the President himself who ultimately must be held accountable for this persistent pattern of White House misinformation and misuse of executive power and executive privilege. Given the alarming turnover of key White House operatives over the past 31⁄2 years, only the President himself could have sustained such a pattern of misbehavior. Why has President Clinton tried to keep the true story from being told? A recurring question arises whether the President is above the law—whether the First Lady is above the law.

The discrepancies, vagaries and omissions between the ‘‘official’’ White House account of these matters and the factual record now properly falls within the scope of the criminal investigation by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, now known as ‘‘Travelgate.’’”
“MRS. CLINTON INSTRUCTED WHITE HOUSE STAFF ON THE HANDLING
OF FOSTER DOCUMENTS AND THE FOSTER NOTE FOUND ON JULY 26,
1993, AND SENIOR WHITE HOUSE STAFF COVERED UP THIS INFORMATION
AND KEPT IT FROM INVESTIGATORS

· Mrs. Clinton personally was involved in the discussions regarding the White House’s handling of documents in Vince
Foster’s office following his death. Mrs. Clinton made known her views that investigators should be denied ‘‘unfettered access’’ to Foster’s office prior to the search of the office on July 22, 1993.

· The White House withheld evidence subsequently discovered among the 2,000 pages over which President Clinton invoked
executive privilege, that senior White House aide Bill Burton spoke with Mrs. Clinton on the evening of Foster’s death (July 20, 1993).

· Mrs. Clinton directed that Mack McLarty and others not inform the President about the discovery of the Foster ‘‘suicide’’ note on July 26, 1993. This note essentially defended Foster’s and the White House’s actions in the Travel Office firings and Mrs. Clinton suggested that executive privilege research be done regarding the note.

· The White House’s delay in turning over the Foster note was due to senior staffers’ deference to Mrs. Clinton’s wishes.
Statements by Mack McLarty and David Gergen that the note was not immediately turned over because of the need to notify
Mrs. Foster and the President are not consistent with the evidence. No one called Mrs. Foster the evening the note was discovered and President Clinton was not told about the note’s existence until after Mrs. Clinton met with Bernard Nussbaum and Steve Neuwirth. Mr. Nussbaum and Mr. Neuwirth had been tasked with studying the executive privilege issue at 2:30 p.m. Susan Thomases and Bob Barnett also were in the residence that afternoon at approximately 3 p.m.

· The Foster note most likely was not a ‘‘suicide’’ note but rather a note in preparation for resigning or in the event that Foster was asked to resign or take the fall for the problems generated by the firings and related matters.43”
“WHITE HOUSE OFFICIALS ENGAGED IN A PATTERN OF DELAY, DECEIT
AND OBSTRUCTION OVER THE COURSE OF 3 YEARS OF INVESTIGATIONS
INTO THE TRAVEL OFFICE AND MATTERS RELATED TO VINCENT
FOSTER’S DEATH

· The GAO’s investigation was delayed for months by document production delays. Ultimately GAO did not receive all
documents relevant to its inquiry including: the Vince Foster Travel Office file, the White House Management Review interview notes, documents related to the TRM efforts to obtain GSA contracts and the Watkins ‘‘soul cleansing’’ memo. A GAO representative noted that the level of cooperation that it received from the White House was not conducive to properly
conducting GAO’s work.47

· The ‘‘Watkins memo’’ was responsive to numerous document requests and was inappropriately withheld by David Watkins,
Matthew Moore and Patsy Thomasson. All three had hard copies and/or computer copies of the memo and were made aware
of the various document requests and subpoenas to which it would have been responsive.

· In responding to a Public Integrity request for documents regarding Harry Thomason, Matthew Moore wrote an April 4,
1994 memo to Neil Eggleston stating: ‘‘I know of no documents in my possession, or ever in my possession, responsive to the request.’’ This was false. The Watkins memo clearly was responsive to this request. At or around this time, Moore removed the Watkins memo from his computer and provided a disk copy to Watkins as he left the White House. However,
Moore maintained his own copy of the disk which included several previous drafts of the memo.

· The White House withheld documents from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility including the
Vince Foster Travel Office file, the White House Management Review interview notes and the Watkins ‘‘soul cleansing
memo.’’ OPR Counsel Michael Shaheen found the White House’s lack of cooperation ‘‘unprecedented’’ in his 20 year
Government career.

· White House stonewalling forced the Public Integrity Section at the Justice Department to acknowledge it had no confidence that the White House had faithfully produced all documents ‘‘relating to the Thomason allegations.’’ While Section Chief Lee Radek noted that the ‘‘integrity of our review is entirely dependent upon securing all relevant documents,’’ he did not obtain all relevant documents: notably the complete Vince Foster Travel Office notebook and the Watkins ‘‘soul cleansing’’ memo, as well as more than 120 items over which the White House claimed executive privilege. The Justice Department quietly acceded to this inappropriate invocation of privilege.
One of the key items that it did not receive was a White House Counsel’s Office memo demonstrating that the Counsel’s office did believe there was a case to be made that Harry Thomason was a special Government employee.48

· Bernard Nussbaum obstructed the FBI investigation into the discovery of the Foster note as well as numerous other investigations, including congressional investigations, by failing to timely inform anyone in law enforcement, the White House, or Congress about the Vince Foster Travel Office notebook that he had secreted in Nussbaum’s office by July 22, 1993.

· An FBI investigation was ordered on July 28, 1993 by Philip Heymann, the day after the note was turned over to the Park
Police after the 30-hour delay in informing law enforcement authorities. Heymann instructed David Margolis to be ‘‘very
aggressive’’ in the investigation.

· Nussbaum failed to inform those tasked with overseeing document production to both the Justice Department and the
GAO that he was secreting a relevant document in his office. Nevertheless, once he informed Neil Eggleston in May 1994,
Eggleston also failed to turn over the documents to the Public Integrity Section in a timely and responsive manner.

· Neil Eggleston and Cliff Sloan, at Nussbaum’s direction, delayed the production of documents relating to the criminal investigation of Harry Thomason and Darnell Martens to the Public Integrity section and ultimately denied all such documents to GAO.”

 

 






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