"Bernie, are you hiding something?"
--Philip Heymann, former Deputy Attorney General.6
Whitewater is a "can of worms you shouldn't open."
--Vincent Foster's handwritten notes.7
"HRC `doesn't want [an independent counsel] poking into 20 years of public life in Arkansas.'"
--Diary of Roger Altman, former Deputy Secretary of Treasury, quoting Margaret Williams, Chief of Staff to the First Lady.8
"Ms. Thomases and the First Lady may have been concerned about anyone having unfettered access to Mr. Foster's office."
--Associate White House Counsel Stephen Neuwirth9
The death of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr. on July 20, 1993 marked the first time since the death of Secretary of Defense James Forrestal in 1949 that a high-ranking U.S. official took his own life.10 Now, almost three years later, the circumstances surrounding Mr. Foster's tragic death remain the subject of much speculation and even suspicion. Against the backdrop of the death of a high-ranking U.S. official, this controversy has been fueled by a series of misguided actions taken by senior White House officials to shield the documents in Mr. Foster's office from independent career law enforcement investigators and to spirit the documents to the White House Residence.
As Deputy Counsel to the President, Mr. Foster was the number two lawyer in the White House. He worked on the most important public issues faced by the new Clinton Administration. At the time of his death, Mr. Foster also was one of the Clintons' key advisors on Whitewater and Travelgate. These matters are now the subject of criminal investigations by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. In fact, by July 20, 1993, federal investigators already were examining Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association, the S&L at the center of the Whitewater affair, as well as the controversial firing in May 1993 of seven career White House Travel Office employees. Mr. Foster's office contained important evidence of actions that the Clintons and senior White House officials took with respect to Whitewater and Travelgate.
The Special Committee's investigation into the handling of Mr. Foster's documents was among the most important matters of inquiry under Resolution 120. It raised the question, once again in our nation's history, whether the power of the White House was misused to serve the purely private ends of the President and his associates: specifically, whether senior officials took improper steps, in their handling of Mr. Foster's documents, to cover up embarrassing revelations or even crimes relating to Whitewater and Travelgate.
Often, the successful prosecution of financial crimes and public corruption depends on the documentary trail left by the perpetrators of such wrongdoing. For example, Independent Counsel Starr recently obtained the convictions of Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker and James and Susan McDougal, the owners of Madison Guaranty and the Clintons' partners in the Whitewater real estate development, in part on the basis of more than 600 documents introduced into evidence. By the same token, the concealment or removal of documents can seriously delay or derail investigation of financial malfeasance.
The White House undeniably mishandled the review of documents in Mr. Foster's office following his death. Department of Justice and Park Police investigators told the Special Committee that their investigations were hindered and impeded by the refusal of senior White House officials to allow them to review Mr. Foster's documents. The question before the Committee, then, is whether senior White House officials simply committed an inexplicable series of blunders and misjudgments or whether these officials deliberately interfered with the investigations into Mr. Foster's death and, perhaps, into the Whitewater and Travelgate affairs.
After careful review of all the evidence, the Special Committee concludes that senior White House officials, particularly members of the Office of the White House Counsel, engaged in a pattern of highly improper conduct in their handling of the documents in Mr. Foster's office following his death. These senior White House officials deliberately prevented career law enforcement officers from the Department of Justice and Park Police from fully investigating the circumstances surrounding Mr. Foster's death, including whether he took his own life because of troubling matters involving the President and Mrs. Clinton. At every turn, senior White House officials prevented Justice Department and Park Police investigators from examining the documents in Mr. Foster's office, particularly those relating to the Whitewater and Travelgate affairs then under investigation.
This pattern of concealment and obstruction continues even to the present day. The Special Committee concludes that senior White House officials and other close Clinton associates were not candid in their testimony before the Committee. Specifically, the Committee concludes that Margaret Williams, Chief of Staff to the First Lady, Susan Thomases, a New York attorney and close advisor to Mrs. Clinton, Bernard Nussbaum, then-White House Counsel, and Webster Hubbell, former Associate Attorney General and now-convicted felon, all provided inaccurate and incomplete testimony to the Committee in order to conceal Mrs. Clinton's pivotal role in the decisions surrounding the handling of Mr. Foster's documents following his death.
Finally, the Special Committee concludes that the misconduct surrounding the handling of Mr. Foster's documents is part of a larger and more troubling pattern, that began in Arkansas in the 1980s and has continued in Washington during the Clinton Administration, in which the Clintons and their associates have sought to hinder, impede and control investigations into Madison Guaranty S&L and the Whitewater real estate investment. Parts of this larger pattern include (i) Mrs. Clinton's decision in 1988 -- when federal investigators were examining possible misconduct leading to Madison Guaranty's failure just two years before -- to order the destruction of records relating to her representation of this S&L; (ii) Mr. Foster's and Mr. Hubbell's improper and unauthorized 1992 removal of Rose Law Firm records and files relating to Mrs. Clinton's representation of this corrupt S&L; and (iii) and the improper communication to White House officials during the fall of 1993 of confidential information relating to ongoing criminal investigations of Madison Guaranty and of Capital Management Services, Inc., a small business investment company also central to the Whitewater affair.
* * *
By the time of Vincent Foster's death in July 1993, the Clintons had established a pattern of concealing their involvement with Whitewater and the McDougals' Madison Guaranty S&L.
The actions of senior White House officials and other close Clinton associates in the days and weeks following Mr. Foster's death cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Their actions were but part of a pattern that began in 1988 of concealing, controlling and even destroying damaging information concerning the Whitewater real estate investment and the Clintons' ties to James and Susan McDougal and the Madison S&L. Indeed, at the time of Mr. Foster's death, the Clintons and their associates were aware that the Clintons' involvement with Whitewater land deal, the McDougals, and the Madison S&L might subject them to civil liability and even criminal investigation.
In 1988, Mrs. Clinton ordered the destruction of records relating to her representation of Mr. McDougal's Madison S&L.11 This was not a routine destruction of records. At the time, federal regulators were investigating the operation and solvency of Madison in anticipation of taking it over. These Rose Law Firm records, which after Madison's failure would have belonged to the Resolution Trust Corporation ("RTC"),12 were directly relevant to that investigation.
By ordering their destruction, Mrs. Clinton eliminated pertinent records and also exposed her firm to potential liability with respect to her representation. Indeed, if such representation was proper, as Mrs. Clinton has claimed, her document destruction deprived the law firm of the records necessary to defend itself in a suit by federal investigators. Moreover, in 1988, Seth Ward, a former associate of Mr. McDougal and Webster Hubbell's father-in-law, was actually suing Madison Guaranty over a land deal that federal regulators have described as a fraud.13 Mrs. Clinton had performed work on the project, including having numerous telephones calls and meetings with Mr. Ward, and the law firm record of her work and the transactions surrounding this land deal certainly would have been highly relevant to the conduct of that suit.
Accordingly, Mrs. Clinton's destruction of documents could constitute a breach of legal ethics and, possibly, a violation of law if done with the knowledge that the documents are material to investigations or ongoing litigation.14 Professor Stephen Gillers of New York University, a noted ethics expert, has recently stated: "I don't know how it could be that these files were destroyed. . . . It makes it stranger that they were destroyed, not only so soon after they were created but also at a time when this lawsuit was about to go to trial. . . . It certainly could lead to suspicion that she has something to hide because one possible inference from the destruction is that there was something in those files that she did not want to have made public."15
The pattern further continued during the 1992 presidential campaign, after questions arose about the Clintons' investment with the McDougals in Whitewater and Mrs. Clinton's representation of Madison Guaranty before a state agency. In an effort to respond to inquiries from the press and charges from other candidates, Mrs. Clinton's then-law partner, Vincent Foster, collected all the information he could on the Madison representation. At the conclusion of the campaign, the Madison files, which were by now the property of the RTC as conservator of Madison, as well as the files of other Rose clients for whom Mrs. Clinton had performed legal services, were secretly removed from the firm by another then-Rose Law Firm partner, Webster Hubbell. Mr. Hubbell removed these files, at times taking the firm's only copies,16 without obtaining the consent of the firm or client.17 Given that Mr. Hubbell was about to assume a position of great public trust as Associate Attorney General, his unauthorized decision to remove these files is especially troubling.
Also during the 1992 presidential campaign, Mr. Foster or Mr. Hubbell ordered the printing of billing records relating to the Rose Law Firm's representation of Madison Guaranty. These important records revealed the extent of Mrs. Clinton's legal work for McDougal's S&L, including her telephone call to Beverly Bassett Schaffer, the Arkansas Securities Commissioner appointed by Governor Clinton, about the troubled thrift's controversial proposal to raise capital by issuing preferred stock. The records also reflected Mrs. Clinton's work on the IDC or Castle Grande transaction, which federal regulators described as a series of fraudulent land flips.18 The records contain the handwritten questions of Mr. Foster to Mrs. Clinton and notations by Mr. Hubbell.19 Mrs. Clinton has recently stated through her lawyer that she may have reviewed them during the 1992 presidential campaign.
After federal investigators began to look into matters relating to Madison Guaranty and Whitewater, a number of subpoenas were issued for these Rose Law Firm billing records. By then, however, the records were nowhere to be found. Despite extensive searches conducted by the law firm, neither the originals nor copies were discovered.20 They were not in the firm computers, its client files, or the firm's storage facility.21
Apparently, at some point, someone removed these billing records from the Rose Law Firm. In August 1995, Carolyn Huber, an assistant to Mrs. Clinton, discovered them in the book room of the White House Residence, next to Mrs. Clinton's office.22 At the time, Mrs. Huber did not realize the records were under subpoena, and she placed them in a box in her office. In January 1996,23 Mrs. Huber identified these records, and personal counsel for the President and Mrs. Clinton turned them over investigators. Mr. Hubbell testified that he last saw the records during the 1992 presidential campaign in the possession of Mr. Foster.24
By July 1993, the Clintons and their associates had established a pattern of concealment with respect to the Clintons' involvement with Whitewater and the Madison S&L. Because of the complexity of the allegations of misdeeds involving these institutions, documents and files are critical to any inquiries into the matter. Yet, at every important turn, crucial files and documents "disappeared" or were withheld from scrutiny whenever questions were raised. 2.
The Clintons and their associates were aware, at the time of Mr. Foster's death, that the Clintons' involvement with Whitewater and the Madison Guaranty S&L might subject them to liability.
In late fall 1992, Betsey Wright, the coordinator of "damage control" efforts during the presidential campaign and a former chief of staff to Governor Clinton, learned of a "criminal referral regarding a savings and loan official in Arkansas and . . . involv[ing] the Clintons."25 Ms. Wright testified that she learned this information from a Clinton supporter from California who had a friend who heard it at a cocktail party in Kansas City.26 At the cocktail party, an RTC official informed someone, whose friend reported it to Ms. Wright, that the RTC had just sent a "criminal referral up to the prosecutor in Little Rock."27 Upon hearing the news, Ms. Wright tried to gather more information about the referral.28 She then told Mrs. Clinton about the referral directly. Ms. Wright testified: "I remember I asked Hillary if she was aware of any friend of theirs who was in a savings and loan business who might be under criminal investigation, and we couldn't think of anybody."29
It is with this knowledge that the Clintons and their advisers came to Washington, taking with them the important documents relating to Whitewater and Madison. The documents (including documents improperly taken from the law firm) were entrusted only to close associates of the Clintons, chiefly Messrs. Foster and Hubbell.
By March 1993, senior Clinton Administration officials confirmed that the RTC had sent a criminal referral mentioning the Clintons to the Justice Department.30 Specifically, RTC Senior Vice President William H. Roelle testified that, after taking office, Roger Altman, then Deputy Treasury Secretary, directed the staff to inform him of all important or potentially high-visibility issues.31 According to Mr. Roelle, on or about March 23, 1993, he told Mr. Altman of an RTC referral involving the Clintons.32
Powerful documentary evidence strongly indicates that Mr. Altman immediately passed this important information on to White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum. On March 23, Mr. Altman sent Mr. Nussbaum a facsimile with a handwritten cover sheet, forwarding an "RTC Clip Sheet" of a March 9, 1992 New York Times article with the headline, "Clinton Defends Real-Estate Deal."33 This article reported the responses of presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, to an earlier Times report on the Clintons' Whitewater investment. The next day, Mr. Altman faxed to Mr. Nussbaum the same article that he sent the day before and portions of the earlier Times report on Whitewater, dated March 8, 1992, entitled "Clintons Joined S&L Operator in an Ozark Real-Estate Venture."34
In addition, SBA Associate Administrator Wayne Foren testified that, in early May 1993, he briefed Erskine Bowles, the new SBA Administrator about the agency's ongoing investigation of David Hale's Capital Management Services because the case involved President Clinton.35 Shortly thereafter, Mr. Bowles told Mr. Foren that he had briefed White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty about the case.36 Although Mr. Bowles did not recall being briefed by Mr. Foren about Capital Management37 or talking to Mr. McLarty about the case,38 Mr. Foren's account was corroborated by his deputy, Charles Shepperson.39 Mr. McLarty's calendar indicated that Mr. Bowles had two meetings with Mr. McLarty at the White House in early May 1993.40
As of July 1993, therefore, Mrs. Clinton and others in the Administration were on notice that there was an ongoing federal investigation to which Madison-related documents could be relevant. 3.
At the time of his death, Mr. Foster's office contained damaging evidence about the Whitewater and Travelgate affairs.
After he became Deputy White House Counsel, Mr. Foster continued to play a key role in controlling potential damage to the Clintons from Whitewater. He was given the responsibility for overseeing the preparation of Clintons' tax returns for 1992 to reflect properly the sale of their shares in Whitewater.41 Mr. Foster worked with other White House officials in the Spring of 1993 in preparing a response to expected Whitewater questions.42 And, most interestingly, Mr. McDougal had left a message for Mr. Foster on June 16, 1993, "re tax returns of HRC, VWF and McDougal."43 The documents in Mr. Foster's office at the time of death included a file on Whitewater and his notes of conversations with the Clintons' accountant, Yoly Redden, concerning the tax treatment of the sale of Whitewater.44 The notes identified the tax problem as a "can of worms you shouldn't open"45 and further warned: "Don't want to go back into that box Was McD trying to circumvent bank loss -- why HRC getting loan from other."46
Mr. Foster also played a central role in both the firing of seven career employees of the Travel Office on May 19, 1993 and subsequent attempts to conceal Mrs. Clinton's true role in the controversial firings. Harry Thomason, a close Clinton confidant, reportedly instigated the firings after the career employees rejected his plan to obtain the White House's charter business for a company he partly owned.47 With public criticism growing, the White House circumvented normal procedures and directly asked the FBI (not the Department of Justice) to investigate allegations of possible criminal misconduct by the career employees of the Travel Office.48 Although Mr. Foster was not formally reprimanded for his role in the firings, he felt personally responsible.49
Other senior White House officials implicated in Travelgate included David Watkins and Patsy Thomasson. The Special Committee belatedly obtained a memorandum of Mr. Watkins outlining Mr. Foster's extensive involvement as Mrs. Clinton's conduit to the firings.50 Indeed, Mr. Watkins fingered Mr. Foster as the person who directly communicated to him Mrs. Clinton's order that the Travel Office staff be fired: "Foster regularly informed me that the First Lady was concerned and desired action -- the action desired was the firing of the Travel Office staff."51 Notwithstanding Mrs. Clinton's clear involvement in the firing of the staff, Mr. Foster and other White House officials did not disclose her true role to investigators probing the affair.
Significantly, at the time of his death, Mr. Foster's briefcase contained files, a personal notebook and a torn-up note, all concerning the controversial Travel Office matter.
Thus, when Mr. Foster committed suicide in July 1993, White House officials were aware that a danger existed that the law enforcement officials might discover documents concerning Whitewater or Travelgate in his office. In fact, David Margolis, one of the Justice Department officials who attended the search of Mr. Foster's office two days after his death, was aware of an RTC criminal referral concerning Madison that mentioned the Clintons.52 This risk of discovery provides the backdrop against which the story of Mr. Foster's death and the White House's subsequent scramble must be viewed. 4.
White House officials engaged in highly improper conduct in handling documents in Vincent Foster's office following his death.
The evidence before the Special Committee established that White House officials engaged in a pattern of deliberate obstruction of, and interference with, efforts by law enforcement authorities to conduct their several investigations into Mr. Foster's death.
This White House interference began immediately following Mr. Foster's death on the night of July 20. Senior White House officials ignored specific requests by the Park Police to seal Mr. Foster's office on the night of his death.53 Instead, White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, Chief of Staff to the First Lady Margaret Williams and Deputy Assistant to the President Patsy Thomasson entered Mr. Foster's office purportedly to search for a suicide note.
According to career Secret Service Officer Henry O'Neill, and corroborated by Secret Service records, Ms. Williams removed file folders from Mr. Foster's office that night. Even assuming, contrary to the testimony of Officer O'Neill, that no files were removed from the office that night, the multiple entries into Mr. Foster's office plainly compromised the integrity of evidence the Park Police considered to be valuable.54 Beyond this, Mr. Nussbaum not only ignored instructions to seal Mr. Foster's office, but also allowed Ms. Thomasson, a staffer without a security clearance who was involved in the Travel Office matter, to conduct an improper search of Mr. Foster's office. For reasons unknown -- but to a large extent illuminated by Officer O'Neill's testimony -- Margaret Williams also participated in the late night foray through Mr. Foster's office.
The next morning, on July 21, Mr. Nussbaum's personal secretary, Betsy Pond, also rummaged through Mr. Foster's office -- ostensibly to straighten it up -- thereby disturbing important evidence.55 Stephen Neuwirth, Mr. Nussbaum's associate, immediately recognized the impropriety: "I didn't think it was appropriate for an assistant to Mr. Nussbaum to be in the office at that time."56 Thomas Castleton, a staff assistant, also entered Mr. Foster's office in the morning of July 21.57 Only the Park Police investigators were impeded in their attempt to enter Mr. Foster's office to search for evidence. They waited in vain all day "for approval from Mr. Nussbaum" to conduct their investigation.58
In addition, members of the White House Counsel's office participated in the Park Police interviews of White House staffers, not to protect the legal interests of the staffers but, in the words of Park Police Detective Peter Markland, to "report back to Mr. Nussbaum what was being said in the interviews."59 The White House Counsel's office coached the staffers about their testimony during a meeting on "comportment and interrogation."60 The Park Police left with the impression that their interviews had been rehearsed.61
The pattern of obstruction continued with the White House dealings with the Justice Department. Mr. Nussbaum agreed with Deputy Attorney General Heymann on the procedures for reviewing documents in Mr. Foster's office.62 The next day, when Susan Thomases, a close advisor to Mrs. Clinton and a member of the Whitewater defense team during the 1992 presidential campaign,63 complained about the review procedures after a conversation with Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Nussbaum broke the agreement and changed the procedures.64 In explaining this about-face, Mr. Nussbaum told his associate, Stephen Neuwirth, that Ms. Thomases and Mrs. Clinton were "concerned about anyone having unfettered access to Mr. Foster's office."65 Contrary to his promise to the Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Nussbaum proceeded to review the documents by himself and did not afford Mr. Heymann an opportunity to decide whether Justice Department officials should be present for the review.66
The Special Committee concludes that Mr. Nussbaum engaged in highly improper conduct in braking the White House agreement with the Justice Department. Mr. Nussbaum, in effect, interposed himself between the investigators and the matters under investigation. Prompted by Mrs. Clinton, Susan Thomases, and senior White House officials, he made a conscious decision to interfere with a federal investigation.
Beyond this, the Special Committee concludes that the "review" of documents in Mr. Foster's office on July 22 was a sham. Law enforcement authorities did not review any documents; Mr. Nussbaum relied on their presence simply to "dress up" the review.67 Mr. Nussbaum ignored repeated complaints by Justice Department officials that they had no meaningful role in the review, and that Mr. Nussbaum was providing only a "generic description"68 of the files in the office.69 He carefully glossed over sensitive documents that he knew could embarrass the President and the Administration, including those relating to Whitewater and Travelgate.
Almost immediately after law enforcement officers left Mr. Foster's office, Mr. Nussbaum went to work to conduct the real search in secret. Michael Spafford, an attorney for the Foster family, testified that he overheard Mr. Nussbaum tell Mr. Sloan at the end of the meeting that they would look through the materials again later.70 Associate White House Counsel Clifford Sloan's notes of the meeting ended with the following: "get Maggie--go through office--get HRC, WJC stuff."71
Ms. Williams and Mr. Nussbaum collected the files, including at least one marked Whitewater. Ms. Williams then consulted with Mrs. Clinton, and transferred one or two boxes of documents to the White House Residence for further review by the President and Mrs. Clinton. In the case of Mr. Foster's highly sensitive Travelgate files, Mr. Nussbaum took the records to his office.72 There is also evidence that indices of files in Mr. Foster's office were altered or destroyed after his death.73 These indices were the only means of securing a chain of custody for Mr. Foster's documents.
In short, senior White House officials deliberately disrupted the critical chain of custody of Mr. Foster's documents and may have lost or destroyed evidence now highly relevant to ongoing criminal investigations of Whitewater and Travelgate.
During the July 22 search, Mr. Nussbaum also failed to inform law enforcement officials that scraps of paper were at the bottom of Mr. Foster's briefcase. He was told by both Clifford Sloan74 and Deborah Gorham75 that papers remained in Mr. Foster's briefcase after his search, but did not inform law enforcement. When Mr. Neuwirth finally "discovered" Mr. Foster's torn-up note on July 26, the White House waited a further 26 hours before notifying the authorities. Although the ostensible reason for the delay was to permit the President and Mrs. Foster to review the note, White House officials conducted a series of meetings during this period to discuss the consequences of turning the note over to the authorities.
Even without the benefit of all the facts uncovered by the Special Committee within the last year, Deputy Attorney General Philip Heymann aptly summed up the pattern of troubling behavior by the White House as it appeared to him on July 27, when he finally saw the note:
I'm trying to describe a collection of little things, each of which I'm prepared to believe is just a difference of opinion, and in my view, a clumsy and foolish way to handle the matter on the part of the White House staff and Mr. Nussbaum.
But they're starting to collect, and as they're collecting too much, and the last one's quite dramatic.
I mean, first of all, we had a sensible system for reviewing the documents, and that's changed to a system that doesn't have any law enforcement input into it at all. It's changed without notifying me.
I'm vaguely worried about the Park Police feeling that they're not wholly able to investigate; those messages are not too clear.
And then along comes a note that should have been found on the 22nd, if they really went through all the documents. I never looked at the briefcase but it at least worries me that perhaps it should have been found, and we learn about it 27 hours later.76 Mr. Heymann then ordered the Justice Department to investigate the discovery of the note and Mr. Foster's assertions made therein.
Amazingly, the White House did not cooperate fully even with the new investigations ordered by Mr. Heymann. During official FBI interviews, where they were under an obligation to tell the truth, senior White House officials did not tell the FBI that Mrs. Clinton saw the note, and that Susan Thomases was told about it by Mr. Nussbaum, before it was disclosed to the authorities. At Mr. Heymann's request, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility investigated Mr. Foster's assertion that the FBI lied in their report to the Attorney General on the Travelgate controversy. Mr. Foster's notebook on that matter, which Mr. Nussbaum found in Mr. Foster's briefcase, was critical evidence to that investigation. Nevertheless, instead of disclosing its existence to Justice Department officials, Mr. Nussbaum tucked away in his office Mr. Foster's notebook and other Travelgate materials.77
In July 1995, when he found out about Mr. Nussbaum's concealment of Mr. Foster's Travelgate notebook, the Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department, Michael Shaheen, wrote an angry memorandum to Associate Attorney General David Margolis. After outlining specific instances of noncooperation by the White House, Mr. Shaheen concluded: "The fact that we have just now learned of the existence of obviously relevant notes written by Mr. Foster on the subject of the FBI report is yet another example of the lack of cooperation and candor we received from the White House throughout our inquiry."78
Viewed in the aggregate, then, these numerous instances of White House interference with several ongoing law enforcement investigations amounted to far more than just aggressive lawyering or political naivete. Rather, the Special Committee concludes that the actions of these senior White House officials constitute a highly improper pattern of deliberate misconduct. 5.
Mrs. Clinton was closely involved in the handling of documents in Mr. Foster's office following his death and directed that investigators be denied "unfettered access" to his office.
From the moment that she was notified of Mr. Foster's death, Mrs. Clinton and her key agents -- Margaret Williams and Susan Thomases -- were engaged in the subsequent handling of documents in Mr. Foster's office. Telephone records indicate that upon learning the news, Mrs. Clinton first called her Chief of Staff, Margaret Williams.79 After talking with Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Williams and her assistant, Evelyn Lieberman, drove to the White House and searched Mr. Foster's office. The second call Mrs. Clinton made on the night of Mr. Foster's death was to the residence of Harry Thomason,80 a key player in the Travelgate scandal. Mrs. Clinton then called Susan Thomases, who handled Whitewater damage control during the 1992 presidential campaign, and talked for 20 minutes.81
This series of telephone calls in the hours immediately following Mr. Foster's death established a communications triangle among Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Thomases, and Ms. Williams that would surface frequently in the handling of documents in Mr. Foster's office. The evidence strongly suggests that Mrs. Clinton, upon learning of Mr. Foster's death, at least realized its connection to Mr. Thomason's Travelgate scandal, and perhaps to the Whitewater matter, and dispatched her trusted lieutenants to contain any potential embarrassment or political damage.
After speaking with Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Thomases paged Ms. Williams, while Ms. Williams was searching Mr. Foster's office at the White House,82 presumably to monitor the progress of the search. After the completion of her search, Ms. Williams returned home and called Mrs. Clinton at 12:56 a.m. on the morning of July 21.83 Upon the conclusion of her eleven minute conversation with Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Williams called Ms. Thomases at 1:10 a.m. and spoke for fourteen minutes.84
These telephone calls illustrated a pattern that would be repeated at each critical event in the handling of papers in Mr. Foster's office: discussions among Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Thomases, and Ms. Williams; subsequent implementation by Ms. Williams, monitored by Ms. Thomases; and, finally, reporting by Ms. Williams to Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Thomases.
The operation of the Clinton-Thomases-Williams triangle was best illustrated on July 22, when White House officials and Justice Department officials were scheduled to review documents in Mr. Foster's office. Ms. Williams called Mrs. Clinton at 6:44 a.m. Central Daylight Time.85 Mrs. Clinton then called Ms. Thomases in Washington,86 who immediately paged Bernard Nussbaum at the White House.87 When Mr. Nussbaum called back, Ms. Thomases asked him about the upcoming review of Mr. Foster's office and, by Mr. Nussbaum's own account, said that "people are concerned" about the procedures to be employed for conducting the review.88
Later that morning, Mr. Nussbaum told Mr. Neuwirth that the First Lady and Ms. Thomases were concerned about law enforcement officials having "unfettered access" to documents in Mr. Foster's office.89
At 10:00 a.m., when the document review was scheduled to begin, Mr. Nussbaum told Justice Department officials that he alone would review the documents, breaking a prior agreement with the law enforcement officials. Throughout the day, while White House officials were meeting with Mr. Nussbaum to discuss procedures for reviewing documents in Mr. Foster's office, Ms. Thomases made repeated phone calls to the White House, in an apparent effort to monitor, and perhaps to affect, the progress of those discussions. Telephone records indicated that, between 10:48 a.m. and 11:54 a.m., Ms. Thomases called the office of the Chief of Staff, Mack McLarty, three times and the office of the Chief of Staff to the First Lady, Margaret Williams, three times.90 At 12:55 p.m., Ms. Williams called the Rodham residence in Little Rock, apparently in response to a page from Mrs. Clinton's personal assistant.91 And records indicated that, at 1:25 p.m., approximately the time when Mr. Nussbaum told law enforcement officials that he alone would review documents in Mr. Foster's office, a telephone call was placed from the White House to the Rodham residence.92
After Mr. Nussbaum finished his review of documents in Mr. Foster's office, he and Ms. Williams conducted a second review to segregate and remove the Clintons' personal files.93 Ms. Williams called Mrs. Clinton from Mr. Foster's office to seek instructions concerning where to place the files, and Carolyn Huber recalled that Ms. Williams said that "Mrs. Clinton had asked her to call me"94 about transferring the files to the residence. Ms. Williams told Thomas Castleton that she was taking the files to the residence so that the Clintons could review them before they were handed over to Williams & Connolly.95 After the documents were transferred, Ms. Williams and Ms. Thomases again talked on the telephone at 5:13 p.m.96 At 7:12 p.m., Ms. Thomases called Mrs. Clinton in Little Rock.97
The evidence leads to the inescapable conclusion that, early in the morning of July 22, Mrs. Clinton, Susan Thomases and Margaret Williams discussed the procedures for conducting the review of documents in Mr. Foster's office. Ms. Thomases then communicated their "concern[s]"98 to Mr. Nussbaum about his prior agreement with senior Justice Department officials. In place of that agreement, which would have permitted those officials to review jointly Mr. Foster's documents with Mr. Nussbaum,99 the White House adopted a new procedure under which he alone would review the documents. Thus, as Mrs. Clinton wished, law enforcement would not have "unfettered access" to Mr. Foster's documents. Ms. Williams called Mrs. Clinton from Mr. Foster's office to ask where to take the Clintons' personal documents that she had segregated with Mr. Nussbaum. After getting instructions from Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Williams transferred the files to the White House Residence for the Clintons to review. After the new plan was fully executed, Ms. Thomases again talked to Ms. Williams and, according to telephone records, called Mrs. Clinton.
On July 27, the day after a note in Mr. Foster's hand was discovered and the day that documents from Mr. Foster's office was transferred from the White House Residence to Williams and Connolly, Mrs. Clinton summoned Susan Thomases and Webster Hubbell to the White House.100 The three were in the White House Residence alone together, and Mr. Hubbell and Ms. Thomases left at the same time.101 Ms. Thomases and Mr. Hubbell studiously avoided testifying about this meeting in early appearances before the Special Committee. However, when eventually confronted with clear documentary evidence, in the form of Secret Service logs,102 Ms. Thomases finally admitted that she recalled the three being together at the White House in the week following Mr. Foster's death.103 Ms. Thomases maintained that they did no more than exchange condolences with Mrs. Clinton,104 and that there was no discussion of the handling of documents in Mr. Foster's office. Mr. Hubbell stated that he went to the White House to give Mrs. Clinton an account of Mr. Foster's funeral after Mrs. Clinton left.105 He claimed that he did not see Ms. Thomases or discuss the Mr. Foster's note, which had been discovered but not disclosed to the authorities, with Mrs. Clinton.106
The Special Committee concludes that this testimony of Ms. Thomases and Mr. Hubbell about their simultaneous visits to the second floor of the White House residence is highly implausible. White House officials, investigators, and the media107 were all speculating about and searching for a note following Mr. Foster's death. Yet both Ms. Thomases and Mr. Hubbell persist with their unbelievable story that the note was not discussed less than one day after it was discovered in Mr. Foster's briefcase.
In sum, the Special Committee concludes senior Administration officials and Ms. Thomases have sought to conceal the true involvement of Mrs. Clinton in the handling of documents in Mr. Foster's office, an involvement that is unmistakably established by Mr. Neuwirth's admission, and by documentary records, all of which shatter the wall of denial erected by close Clinton associates. 6.
Senior White House officials and other Clinton associates provided incomplete and inaccurate testimony to the Special Committee.
The Special Committee concludes that its effort to find the truth about the events of July 20-27, 1993 was impeded by what appeared to be a disturbing pattern of incomplete and inaccurate testimony by senior White House officials and close Clinton associates. Time and again, the testimony of career law enforcement officials and others without a motive to lie, as well as documentary evidence, told one consistent story, while senior White House officials and close Clinton associates offered a contradictory version of the facts.
Three Park Police officers testified that on the night of Mr. Foster's death, July 20, they told White House officials to take steps to seal his office -- requests the White House officials denied. A Secret Service Officer testified that later that night he observed the First Lady's Chief of Staff, Margaret Williams, remove files from Mr. Foster's office;108 Ms. Williams denied that she removed anything from the office.
This pattern continued on the next day, July 21. Justice Department officials testified that they had reached an agreement with the White House concerning the procedures for searching Mr. Foster's office.109 Even though the contemporaneous documentary evidence supported the testimony of the Deputy Attorney General and career Justice Department officials,110 White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum and his associates denied the existence of any such agreement allowing law enforcement to examine the documents in Mr. Foster's office.111
The Special Committee heard more of the same concerning the events of July 22. Ignoring a peculiar pattern of early morning telephone calls involving the First Lady, Ms. Williams and Susan Thomases denied that Mrs. Clinton played any role whatsoever in the decision to bar law enforcement from looking at the documents in Mr. Foster's office. Breaking ranks somewhat, Mr. Nussbaum admitted that he was told by Ms. Thomases that unspecified "people" were concerned about the upcoming search -- presumably, the First Lady, since Ms. Thomases was widely known for speaking with Mrs. Clinton's authority. Finally, Stephen Neuwirth, a lower level counsel, admitted that Mr. Nussbaum told him that Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Thomases were concerned about giving law enforcement "unfettered access" to Mr. Foster's office.112
This pattern continued later in the day on July 22, when Ms. Williams denied that she was bringing documents from Mr. Foster's office to the White House Residence for the Clintons to review. Instead, she offered an implausible story to explain her decision to bring the documents to the Residence.113 Ms. Williams' account was contradicted by a young White House staffer, Thomas Castleton, who testified that Ms. Williams told him that "the President or the First Lady had to review the contents of the boxes to determine what was in them."114
Beyond this, there is the curious discovery of Mr. Foster's note on July 26. Thomas Spafford, a lawyer for the Foster family, testified that, on July 22, he overheard Clifford Sloan tell Mr. Nussbaum on July 22 that there were scraps at the bottom of the briefcase. Messrs. Sloan and Nussbaum denied this.115
As set forth below in the Findings of this Report, the Committee concludes that four persons -- Margaret Williams, Susan Thomases, Bernard Nussbaum and Webster Hubbell--provided incomplete and inaccurate testimony to the Committee in an apparent effort to conceal the intimate involvement of Mrs. Clinton in the events following Mr. Foster's death. 7.
The Office of the White House Counsel was misused to impede ongoing investigations and to serve the purely personal legal interests of the President, Mrs. Clinton and their associates.
Every citizen is entitled to mount a defense to civil and criminal charges. The President is no different. He is not entitled, however, to use the power of his office to gain a defense of his private legal affairs not available to other Americans. The White House Counsel's Office is supposed to serve the President in his official executive capacity. These lawyers are paid by the taxpayers to serve the public interest.
In the matter of Mr. Foster's death, the Office of the White House Counsel served, in effect, as the Clintons' personal defense law firm. This service extended beyond Mr. Foster's employment as the Clinton's personal attorney to the use of the White House Counsel's Office in the days following his death to interfere with and hinder several ongoing federal investigations into Mr. Foster's death and the handling of documents in Mr. Foster's office at the time of his death. Instead of cooperating with law enforcement officials, the Office of the White House Counsel impeded the investigations of the Park Police and the Department of Justice. The White House lawyers ignored and, in some cases, intentionally violated established procedures that would have ensured the proper handling of documents in Mr. Foster's office.
The impropriety of these and other actions -- actions that prompted the Deputy Attorney General to ask Mr. Nussbaum, "Bernie, are you hiding something?" -- is compounded when one recognizes that these actions were taken by members of the Office of the White House Counsel. These were government lawyers who were supposed to protect the public interest in proper investigations and faithful execution of the laws, not to do the private bidding of the President and First Lady.
The Special Committee concludes that the White House Counsel's Office was misused in the aftermath of Mr. Foster's death to interfere with and to obstruct various federal investigations. This pattern of abuse by the White House Counsel's Office is not limited in time or scope, but rather has recurred throughout the Special Committee's investigation into other matters authorized by Senate Resolution 120. These include efforts to obtain improperly confidential law enforcement information from the RTC and from the Small Business Administration, all while coordinating with private attorneys representing the Clintons as subjects of investigation.
The Special Committee recommends that steps be taken to insure that such misuse of the White House Counsel's Office does not recur in this, or any future, Administration.
Taken as a whole, the events described in this Report and summarized in this conclusion, reveal a concerted effort by senior White House officials to block career law enforcement investigators from conducting a thorough investigation of a unique and disturbing event -- the first suicide of a very senior U.S. official in almost fifty years. Unquestionably, the Department of Justice and Park Police were authorized to conduct this investigation, and White House officials owed them a duty to cooperate. Instead, law enforcement officials were confronted at every turn with concerted efforts to deny them access to evidence in Mr. Foster's office. Strikingly, the Counsel to the President carried out the wishes of the First Lady by breaking his earlier agreement with the Deputy Attorney General of the United States. And law enforcement officials were forced to sit still as White House lawyers conducted a charade of a search. Only after the duly appointed investigators had departed, did the White House Counsel and the First Lady's Chief of Staff begin the real search, which resulted in the transfer of documents to the White House Residence; the removal of Mr. Foster's Travel Office notebook; and the disappearance of important document indices that would have reflected the full contents of his files.
The actions of the White House are especially serious because the Special Committee has discovered that the files shielded from the Department of Justice contained evidence relevant to two investigations that touched on the Clintons' personal interests: the criminal referral into Madison S&L, and the anticipated investigation, by Congress and others, into the Travel Office firings. As demonstrated in this Report, the White House, including Mrs. Clinton, were on notice that these investigations were either ongoing or imminent. As it happens, both of these investigations were of sufficient weight to be now under the jurisdiction of an Independent Counsel.
Against this background, the actions of the White House during the week after Mr. Foster's death must be judged. These White House actions were highly improper; they were deliberate; and they adversely affected ongoing investigations by career law enforcement officials. The American people will never be sure of the contents of Vincent Foster's office at the time of his death. Their uncertainty and doubts, however, clearly are the direct result of the wrongful action by the White House.