To help us sort through the silliness from Bush flacks Congressman Waxman wrote a letter to Leahy and Conyers with an attached report detailing just how often Clinton White House officials testified before Congress, either with or without subpoenas. The letter fully debunks the White House claim that their offer of unsworn, private, unrecorded conversations would provide "unprecedented" access to White House officials
It contains good reference material for "water cooler" discussions and letters to the editor. Here are a few big points.
First, we have Clinton White House Counsels testifying -
ln 1994, White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum testified before the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs regarding the "Whitewater" matter. In l996,he was deposed under oath on two separate days by the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight as part of the White Travel Office investigation.
In 1994, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler testified before the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs regarding the "'Whitewater" matter.
ln 1997, White House Counsel Jack Quinn was deposed under oath by the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight as part of an investigation into campaign finance activities.
In 1997, White House Counsel Charles Ruff testified before the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight as part of an investigation into campaign finance activities. Mr. Ruff testified again before the Committee in 2000 as part of an investigation into the White House email system. Mr. Ruff also testified before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs as part of the Committee's 1997-1998 investigation into campaign finance activities.
In 2000, White House Counsel Beth Nolan testified before the House Committee on Government Reform as part of an investigation into the White House email system. Ms. Nolan testified again before the Committee in 2001 as part of an investigation into President Clinton's pardon decisions.
Next we have Clinton's Chiefs of Staff -
In 1997 ,White House Chief of Staff Thomas F. Mclarty was deposed by the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight as part of an investigation into campaign finance activities.
In 1998, White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles was deposed by the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight as part of an investigation into the use of the President's holiday card list.
In 2001, White House Chief of Staff John Podesta testified before the House Committee on Government Reform as part of an investigation into President Clinton's pardon decisions.
And lest anyone try to obfuscate the significance of these examples by saying they involved "criminal' matters, baloney. In most of these cases there were no credible allegations of underlying crimes and in some, such as the exercise of the President's pardon power, it involved a matter committed to the President's absolute discretion.
The letter goes on to discuss the voluminous record of documents that the Clinton Administration provided to the Congress.
Attached to the letter is a report with all the gory details. Here are some highlights. On the question of subpoenas,
Before the Republicans took control of Congress in 1995, congressional authority to issue subpoenas was viewed as a serious power to be exercised judiciously. From at least as far back as the McCarthy era in the 1950s to the Republican takeover in 1995, no Democratic committee chairman issued a subpoena without either consent from the minority or a committee vote. This long-standing tradition of restraint was abandoned, however, during the congressional investigations of the Clinton Administration.
The Government Reform Committee is the primary investigative committee in the House of Representatives. During the Clinton Administration, the chairman of this Committee unilaterally issued over 1,000 subpoenas to investigate allegations of misconduct involving the Clinton Administration and the Democratic Party. The Committee issued 1,089 subpoenas during the six years that Dan Burton served as chairman from 1997 through 2002. During this period, 1,052 of the Committee's subpoenas - 97% - targeted officials of the Clinton Administration and the Democratic Party; only l l subpoenas related to allegations of Republican abuses.
Regarding the production of documents,
The Government Accountability Office examined White House efforts to provide documents to Congress over an 18-month period from October 1996 to March 1998. GAO found that during this period alone, White House staff spent over 55,000 hours responding to over 300 congressional requests, producing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and hundreds of video and audio tapes to Congress.
And here are just three examples of the types of information provided to Congress.
Discussions Between the President and His Advisors. President Clinton waived executive privilege to allow his advisors to testify before the Committee about their discussions with him regarding the exercise of the presidential pardon power. Attorney General Janet Reno informed the Committee about her discussions with the President during the confrontation at Waco.
Internal White House E-Mails. The White House spent over $12 million to reconstruct internal White House e-mails for Committee review. Thousands of pages of these White House emails were provided to the Committee, including e-mails between the Vice President and his staff.
Confidential Communications from the White House Counsel's Office. The White House Counsel's Office turned over to the Committee many documents containing sensitive legal advice or communications, In a private-sector context, these documents would be covered by the attorney-client privilege and the work-product privilege. For example, during its campaign finance investigation, the Committee received notes taken by White House counsel reflecting attorney-client communications, and during its investigation into the White House email system, the Committee received a memorandum containing legal advice from the Vice President's counsel to the Vice President.
Though most of us lived through all this it still boggles the mind. But what's done is done. This White House has no standing now to deny Congress access to the information and testimony currently being sought. They know history is not on their side. And If they persist by fighting this in court, they will be hoisted on their own petards.