WASHINGTON — After 10 months on the case, Independent Counsel Robert Ray has closed his criminal investigation into whether the White House withheld subpoenaed e-mails and threatened workers to keep quiet about it.
“All matters within the Lewinsky jurisdiction are now closed, including the e-mail matter,” said Keith Ausbrook, senior counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel, in a statement to WorldNetDaily.
Ray decided not to seek an indictment against former President Clinton for lying under oath in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment lawsuit against him, which named as a witness Clinton’s White House mistress Monica Lewinsky.
He dismissed a federal grand jury that was hearing the perjury case after cutting a deal with Clinton’s personal lawyer that required Clinton to confess to making false statements and give up his law license for five years.
Ausbrook declined to give a reason why Ray also closed the e-mail case, which was known inside the White House as “Project X.”
“It was the judgment of our office that, in concluding the Lewinsky matter, that matter should be included as well,” he said.
Ausbrook says Ray took the e-mail case because it potentially touched on other investigations under his jurisdiction.
The 1996-1998 gap in Executive Office of the President (EOP) e-mails includes messages sent by Lewinsky. Computer contractors and former White House workers have testified the trove also includes e-mails related to Filegate and other Clinton scandals, such as Chinagate.
“If they [White House officials] withheld e-mail from us, it cut across our other investigations,” Ausbrook explained.
Last year, Ray impaneled a criminal grand jury to hear the case.
In April, the grand jury subpoenaed the National Archives for any information that could shed light on the records-keeping practices of the EOP. Jurors also heard from White House witnesses such as Terry Misich,
the military detailee tasked with recovering the lost e-mail.
Since March, the Justice Department also has been investigating Project X, as part of its special campaign-finance probe, which encompasses Chinagate.
Justice spokesman John Russell on Thursday said the campaign-finance task force is still actively investigating the missing e-mails and threats.
Sheryl Hall, the former White House computer manager who blew the whistle on Project X, said she is “outraged” that Ray folded his probe. She called it “cowardly.”
“Government workers came forward at great career risk and personal risk,” she said, “and now we’re being told it was all for naught?”
She and former Northrop Grumman contractor Betty Lambuth both told their stories to Ray’s investigators last year.
“People were threatened — and there was good reason why they were threatened,” she added. “They [White House officials] were trying to hide evidence of criminal wrongdoing.”
Hall said it looks to her like Ray’s decision was based on political considerations rather than legal ones. She speculates that he likely didn’t want to cause further embarrassment for an outgoing president and undue burden for an incoming president.
Judicial Watch General Counsel Larry Klayman, who’s trying to recover the missing e-mails as part of his Filegate lawsuit against the White House, was more blunt.
“Ray took a dive,” said Klayman, who also represents Hall.
“He shut down Filegate. He shut down Travelgate. He shut down Lewinsky,” he said. “He doesn’t want to uncover any e-mails that would prove him wrong in clearing Clinton in these scandals.”