NEWSMAKER INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR ALFONSE D'AMATO
DECEMBER 15, 1995
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you very much for being with us, Senator.
SEN. ALFONSE D'AMATO: (Capitol Hill) A pleasure.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: This issue has moved on to a different plane now, hasn't it, with the resolution that you voted today, perhaps leading to a court battle after these notes that you are trying to get.
SEN. D'AMATO: Well, I'm still hopeful that the President would understand that if, indeed, he pushes us to take this matter to the Senate floor and then ultimately to the courts, people are going to say, why? If, Mr. President, you have nothing to hide, we're not asking for your attorney's notes, we're not asking for any conversations that may have taken place with the President and his personal attorney, but certainly we have the right to government officials who were working for the government at that time and who were not representing the President in his official capacity, who had gone out, who had gathered information, and the question is: Did they gather information that was not appropriate? For example, did they turn over to the President's private lawyers files or information that was, indeed, protected and not proper? Were there criminal referrals that should not have been turned over to the President's attorney?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Let me interrupt you right there. So is this the kind of thing you think might have been discussed at the meeting? That's why you want the notes from this meeting, to figure out what was discussed? Tell me about what you think might have happened at the meeting.
SEN. D'AMATO: Well, from all the evidence that we have and the facts that we have been getting, we understand Mr. Lindsey, who while an attorney and working for the White House, was not working in the capacity of the counsel's office, was not--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: He was at this meeting?
SEN. D'AMATO: He was at this meeting. Again, he was not in the White House counsel's office. He had been busy gathering information. He supposedly got some nine criminal referrals from the RTC.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: He got information about criminal referrals that involved the Whitewater business.
SEN. D'AMATO: It involved Whitewater, involved Madison, it involved the Clintons as it related to their being potential witnesses in this case, that involved the then governor and the now present governor of Arkansas, Jim "Guy" Tucker, who has been indicted, that involved the entire, I call it the criminal enterprise because that's what that bank was. The Madison Bank was operating as a criminal enterprise.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And you think he brought this information he'd gotten to this meeting and they discussed it, is that you what you suspect?
SEN. D'AMATO: I'm very--I, I suspect it, I strongly suspect it, because, again, this was just a short time before Mr. Lindsey received this information, and I might say that I think it was improper for him to get it. I think it was improper for it to have been passed on to him, and he uses as the excuse that he wanted to be in a position to answer press inquiries. So you can't have it both ways. You can't get information in one hand that you use to satisfy press inquiries and then claim a privilege, so that's as it relates to Mr. Lindsey. But the fact is here's Mr. Kennedy, who was an employee of the White House who kept notes there, who was not acting in an official capacity.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: He was an assistant counsel.
SEN. D'AMATO: An assistant counsel. And--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And it's his notes you're seeking. Let me just interrupt you one minute. So is the bottom line that you suspect that there was a conspiracy to obstruct justice in this meeting, is that what you're looking for?
SEN. D'AMATO: Well, we want to look to see what those notes indicate and, indeed, if there was and if we ascertain that there was an attempt to keep investigators who are looking into this matter, various areas, the Small Business Administration loans, where the federal government was defrauded millions of dollars, the matter of the loss of millions of dollars from Madison Guaranty, whether or not these investigations, there was an attempt to thwart them, and so it is-- goes right to the heart of the inquiry.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me just ask you this. The White House says that they would give up the notes or they would instruct the attorney who has the notes to give them up, if certain conditions were met. Why was there not more negotiating or talking about the conditions to try to come up with some formula that you all could agree with?
SEN. D'AMATO: You have to understand, we have been negotiating with them for close to a month, and--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: About this issue?
SEN. D'AMATO: Oh, sure. And the two very legitimate concerns we met and we agreed to, but when, for example, as a condition, they said we had to get the approval of other agencies, agencies that were under the control of the President, the FDIC, the special prosecutor--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Other agencies that are looking into Whitewater-related matters?
SEN. D'AMATO: Yes. That is absolutely disingenuous on their part. It might take us months. And what this is, is an effort to delay, to get us past the holiday recess, to run the clock out on this, and we certainly could not accept that. And once again, I say, that if the President has nothing to hide, make the notes available, we'll end this. We're not attempting to invade that relationship of attorney-client that exists between the President and any individual.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The White House says that they have to stand on principle here, or all of their communications with the attorneys will be, you know, open to the public.
SEN. D'AMATO: As a matter of fact, we specifically indicated in Provisions 2 and 3 that this would not be deemed a waiver if he made these notes available to us. And so that's not--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: It wouldn't be deemed a waiver of the attorney-client privilege?
SEN. D'AMATO: Exactly.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you suspect, just briefly, about Mrs. Clinton's involvement in this?
SEN. D'AMATO: Well, it's troubling, and I'll tell you, I just discovered this last week, because it has been difficult getting the facts and getting the records and digging this out, and it's complicated, but to try to boil it down to, I think, three main areas, it would, it would seem quite clear at this point that the bank which they are partner, the Clintons' partner, McDougal, owned, that it was being operated not only improperly but as a criminal enterprise in which millions of dollars of taxpayers' monies were being given to political insiders: Gov. Jim "Guy" Tucker, Web Hubble, his father-in-law, millions of dollars, with no hope of ever getting payment. And very interestingly, we find for the first time that notwithstanding Mrs. Clinton's protestations, that not only that her law firm handled some of these transactions, but she herself handled them and was personally acquainted with them, very troubling.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What about the charge that you really haven't come up with anything hard? The Democrats in the Committee say you're just trying to inflict political damage.
SEN. D'AMATO: You know, this investigation has been impeded in order to allow the special counsel to do his work, in order to meet some of the requests by the White House. It is just in its infancy, and yet, we are already beginning to unearth some very revealing factors, factors that would indicate that Madison dollars flowed improperly into the investment that the President and Mrs. Clinton made in Whitewater, and that's the other aspect. And then the second aspect is: Was there an attempt by the White House to abuse its authority in curtailing the legitimate investigation into Madison and into Whitewater?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you very much for being with us, Senator.
SEN. D'AMATO: My pleasure.