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The White House lies

It was a pretty straightforward document request from the Paula Jones team:

“Please produce all documents concerning Kathleen Willey, including but not limited to: all documents concerning any federal governmental employment, appointments, occupations, or duties of or by Mrs. Willey (including such employment within the White House Office of Social Affairs and Office of the General Counsel); all federal governmental appointments to attend overseas or international conferences or meetings (including all remuneration, salary or payment documents and all travel documents, expenses, and vouchers); all appointments to any government-related entities or agencies (including the United Service Organization or USO); and all documents (such as logs, telephone records, security videotapes, or lists) reflecting any communications, meetings, or visits involving Defendant Clinton and Mrs. Willey, especially within the White House.”

On Jan. 15, President Clinton responded:

“President Clinton objects to this Request for Production as it is intended solely to harass, embarrass, and humiliate the President and the Office he occupies. President Clinton also objects to this Request for Production in that it pertains to subject matter beyond the reasonable scope of discovery in this proceeding and is not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Notwithstanding the above objections, President Clinton has no documents responsive to this Request. Also notwithstanding the above objections, the Clinton Campaign has no documents responsive to this Request.”

Of course, a day after Kathleen Willey told her story of being sexually accosted by President Clinton on “60 Minutes,” the White House released a series of letters Mrs. Willey had written to the president. The spinmeisters try to explain away what looks like a prima facie case of obstruction of justice, perjury and withholding evidence by suggesting the documents were not in Clinton’s possession, they belonged to the White House.

It all sounds very familiar to me. In 1996, I learned the White House was keeping tabs on my organization, the Western Journalism Center. A December 1994 memo written by Associate Counsel Jane Sherburne listed my group as the only news organization in the country warranting attention for its involvement in breaking a series of scandal stories about the administration. The task memo was released to congressional investigators who failed to see it for what it was — a White House enemies list, prepared and maintained at taxpayer expense.

When I found out about it, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any and all documents and files the White House maintained on me and my organization. The official response was strikingly similar to the one the Jones legal team received (as was the politically motivated audit that followed shortly).

The White House, I was told, was not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. And, even if it were, no such documents existed, the FOIA coordinator stated. I found it interesting that the White House employed a full-time FOIA coordinator while maintaining it was not subject to any of the law’s requirements. But it was even more incredible that the White House denied having in its possession any documents about my group when we knew of at least one.

Shortly thereafter, I learned that the White House was freely disseminating to select reporters a 331-page document called “The Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce” alleging that I and my group were responsible for breaking most, if not all, of the administration scandal stories. The report included a five-page biography on me which would have required a voluminous dossier on my activities of the previous 10 years or so — including my church affiliations, speeches, writings, etc.

Nevertheless, without a blush or a hint of guilt, the White House had lied and broken the law by denying that it maintained such files and documents.

There’s a pattern emerging here — a pattern of official deceit, obstruction of justice, abuse of power unparalleled in the history of the American republic.

No man is above the law — not even the president of the United States. I hope the judge in the Paula Jones case throws the book at Clinton and his legal team for this blatant act of flouting the courts. More importantly, I hope Congress is finally waking up from its public opinion poll-induced daze and gets on with doing its business — holding the president accountable to the law and the American people.