After Sebelius, Vince Foster’s trash lady

By Aaron Klein

Sylvia Mathews Burwell

President Obama’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services is a former Bill Clinton deputy chief of staff who was once in the news for picking through Vince Foster’s classified office trash bin.

Foster was Clinton’s deputy White House counsel and a law partner of Hillary Clinton. His 1993 suicide was the subject of much speculation and three official investigations.

A 1995 Senate committee investigating the so-called Whitewater affair also probed Foster’s death. Whitewater refers to the Clintons’ controversial real estate investments, including investments into the Whitewater Development Corporation, a failed business venture.

Investigations by the U.S. Park Police, the Department of Justice, the FBI, Congress, Independent Counsel Robert B. Fiske and Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr concluded Foster’s death was a suicide. However, as WND reported in 2003, one of Starr’s key investigators challenged the official line, insisting the probe’s result was predetermined, only a few plotters were required to engineer the result, the crime scene was altered and that major newspaper editors killed stories by reporters pursuing the truth.

Yesterday, Obama introduced Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, as his nominee to replace Kathleen Sebelius as HHS secretary.

Burwell was founding president of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She also served as president of the Walmart Foundation, where she led the company’s Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, which focused on economic opportunity efforts in Africa. She graduated from Harvard and Oxford Universities and was a Rhodes Scholar.

Overlooked in the news media profiles of Burwell was her role in the Foster affair, particularly her possibly instrumental in disposing of the contents of Foster’s classified office trash can.

In 1993, Burwell, who then went only by her unmarried last name of Mathews, was an assistant to Clinton’s domestic policy adviser.

The night of Foster’s suicide, Burwell reportedly “inventoried Foster’s trash,” claiming in testimony two years later that she was, according to a Los Angeles Times description, “looking, in vain, for some clue to why he killed himself.”

At issue was what she may have found in Foster’s classified trash bin. She claimed to the Senate committee investigating the Whitewater affair that nothing in the trash shed light on Foster’s death or his state of mind at the time of his suicide.

Another issue was that Burwell reportedly also retrieved what the New York Times described at the time as a “special bag of garbage containing classified and sensitive papers that was usually destroyed by the Secret Service.”

The bag’s contents were reportedly never examined by anyone else.

Burwell told the Senate committee she obtained the classified trash bag from the Secret Service and started looking though it until she realized that “it contained all of the classified garbage from the West Wing,” the Times reported.

Upon that realization, Burwell said she sought the opinion of Clinton’s top attorney, Bernard W. Nussbaum, who told her Foster did not have a classified trash bin and that she should return the bag to Secret Service for disposal since it could not have contained any of Foster’s trash.

However, it later emerged that Foster had a special classified garbage bin in his office and the bag – which was reportedly destroyed – may have contained Foster’s classified trash.

With research by Brenda J. Elliott.

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