THE WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE
October 29, 1997
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KWAME HOLMAN: This afternoon White House Counsel Charles Ruff and two of his associates appeared before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to answer charges by Chairman Fred Thompson that they have been very slow in providing a long list of information requested by the committee.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON, Chairman, Governmental Affairs Committee: Well, April 23, 1997, a letter from Madigan to Ruff: complaint of limited production, withholding of U.S. TR documents based on privilege; April 24, 1997, a letter from Buckland to Breuer regarding documents missing from first document production; May 14, a letter from Buckland to Breuer regarding document problems, failure to produce documents, privilege log, identification of certain documents, redactions, requests for Ickes' e-mail logs. Then we found out fairly recently that there were videotapes available that were relevant to our inquiry; that we had made requests as far back as April. We made requests in May. The conversation with our staff, Mr. Imbroscio, in early August, and then a letter of August 19, all asking for relevant videotapes.
In addition to all this, this week our staff learned that the White House prepares daily diaries of President Clinton's movement and activities. These diaries are so detailed that they identify the President's actions by minute and indicate with whom he met and spoke. Not only has the White House simply failed to produce these documents but has also failed to disclose even the existence of the diaries.
KWAME HOLMAN: One by one, the three White House lawyers defended their actions and the work of their staffs, beginning with Charles Ruff.
CHARLES RUFF, Counsel to the President: Mr. Chairman, on Monday, the majority staff took the deposition of Ms. Ellen McCatherine, the presidential diaress. He's an employ of the National Archives who works in the Old Executive Office Building and has done so for some 22 years now. We have produced, whenever asked, all responses, schedules, phone logs, trip books, briefing papers located through Ms. McCatherine's index. And I believe, Mr. Chairman, it's fair to say that if after taking her deposition on Monday counsel for the majority had called us up and said, what is this we're talking about, could you explain to us what you've given to us and whether, in fact, this computer index is a separately responsive document or simply a redundant mirror image of what we've already given you, we would have told you.
KWAME HOLMAN: Lanny Breuer is a special White House counsel brought on in February specifically to handle requests for information from the congressional committees investigating campaign fund-raising.
LANNY BREUER, Special Counsel to the President: Those videotapes of coffees were one part of 280 different requests. Indeed, when you say the committee says that it requested videotapes, and, indeed, it did, it was approximately the 56th definition of 60 definitions of what a document comprises. And so I just want everybody to be clear that the moment we learned about these we identified it and we notified this committee. But while Mr. Imbroscio was looking for these videotapes, he was also looking for very many other documents and requests from this committee.
KWAME HOLMAN: Imbroscio is Michael Imbroscio, the White House lawyer who ultimately brought forward the videotapes of the White House coffees.
MICHAEL IMBROSCIO, Associate Counsel to the President: I showed Mr. Roth the sample tape that Walker had made for me the evening before and explained to him that from my preliminary review there might be some thirty to forty snippets of coffees on videotape. Mr. Roth instructed me to do whatever was necessary to identify and to gather all the coffee tapes and get them produced as quickly as possible.
KWAME HOLMAN: Since the beginning of the Senate investigation, Republican Committee Counsel Michael Madigan has dealt directly with the White House lawyers to fill the committee's requests for information. Madigan seemed less than satisfied after the three completed their statements.
MICHAEL MADIGAN, Republican Counsel: We had a number of meetings up here in my office, and on at least two of those meetings both myself and Mark Tipps asked you specifically whether there was any recording or filming or taping not only of White House coffees but of any White House events, isn't that right?
LANNY BREUER: Mr. Madigan, I have no recollection of that whatsoever. Indeed, Mr. Madigan, other than the fact that you've now arranged that with me, in all the times you and I have spoken, I've never once before heard you--
MICHAEL MADIGAN: In fact, one time I raised it in very loud language. And I don't have a recollection problem, Mr. Tipps--I mean, Mr. Breuer.
LANNY BREUER: Mr. Madigan, I have absolutely no memory of that at all, and I wonder if you could tell me who else in the White House attended that meeting.
MICHAEL MADIGAN: You were there and Mr. Tipps was there, and Mr. Tipps has a recollection of it, but let's move on.
LANNY BREUER: But who else from the White House, Mr. Madigan? I'd like to know because I'd like to also go back and find out if anyone else from the White House since you know I never--
MICHAEL MADIGAN: This would have been a meeting with you there, Mr. Breuer.
KWAME HOLMAN: And that's how much of the afternoon went, Republican Committee Counsel Madigan and Special White House Counsel Breuer sparring over how responsive the White House has been to the committee's requests for information. In the end, they agreed to disagree on that but pledged to work better together over the remaining term of the investigation. The Senate campaign fund-raising hearings continue tomorrow.