once upon a time in arkansas

Notations dealing with 'Travelgate

Editors' Note:
Vince Foster committed suicide July 20, 1993. In the spring and early summer of that year 'Travelgate' erupted. It was one of a series of problems and 'scandals' Foster was confronting - not only in his role as deputy White House counsel but - as in the case of Whitewater - in his role as personal lawyer for the Clintons. It all took a toll on Foster, and his wife and friends sensed his gathering despair.

Before clicking here for the notations from Foster's journal, the following brief background on Travelgate is helpful in understanding the notations:

Harry Thomason, a close friend of the Clintons, and Thomason's partner Darnell Martens, had helped the Clinton campaign by providing charter air service. After the election, Harry was everywhere in and around the White House, working on improving the First Couple's image. His most disastrous meddling came when his partner Darnell told Harry he'd heard rumors that the White House Travel Office was corrupt, and worse, disloyal to the First Family. (This happened in the time frame of the leaks about marital discord in the White House and everyone was ultra sensitive.) So Harry began pressing Hillary, telling her that the travel office people were "a bunch of crooks" and that "we've got to get our people in there."

Hillary, in turn, pressed Vince Foster and David Watkins (who in her opinion were already failing her because of leaks, the secret service, etc,). Quickly, the whole messy and silly 'Travelgate' episode was in full swing.

The FBI was called in. A young cousin of Clinton's appointed herself undercover agent in the Travel Office and started sneaking memos away in the dark of night. Harry Thomason kept asking Watkins what was being done. Hillary kept asking Vince Foster what was being done. The FBI showed a disconcerting willingness to help find some evidence of wrongdoing (though none of them had any solid basis for suspicion except for those 'rumors.')

In the end, seven staffers in the Travel Office were fired. But the staffers had pals in the press who wrote their story and suddenly Congress is talking about an investigation into the firing.

Suddenly, the White House (it's now May-June-July 1993) is on the defensive, trying to explain itself. At a press conference, George Stephanoupolos says the FBI had evidence the travel office people were crooks - an assertion that the FBI disputes.

And then came the inevitable self-inquiry, led by White House lawyer John Podesta, which was aimed at pointing the finger some place besides at Hillary and her meddling friend, Harry Thomason. In the end, David Watkins and, to a degree Vince Foster got the blame.

All of this made Foster quite sick. He was integrally involved in Travelgate, having been consulted by Watkins because he was a White House lawyer. He'd overseen the 'investigation' of the seven Travel Office employees (though he'd always been cautious about acting precipitously). He'd participated in meetings with the FBI. And most importantly, he'd discussed the problem with Hillary - who had impatiently asked him "what's being done" about those crooked, disloyal Travel Office people.

Over the course of several weeks, Foster, in his careful, lawyerly, increasingly distressed fashion, laid out his case in a private chronology he kept in a spiral notebook. He'd write down his memory of events, consult his calendar, add things here and there. And then, he'd write it all down again, over and over, narrowing, broadening, editing - obsessing, in other words. He plainly feared embarrassment and public humiliation in a Congressional hearing that he believed was coming. Through it all, he was clearly motivated by his pointed intention to protect HRC - the Client.

Read the notations from his journal:

Foster's first recollection of a meeting with Hillary about the Travel Office affair

A later recollection of the same meeting

His strategy for dealing with the Travelgate scandal

Notes from a meeting with John Podesta, White House Deputy Chief of Staff, about the in-house inquiry

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