To feather the nest of her friends, Harry and Susan Thomason, both Hollywood “beautiful people,” Hillary Clinton had the head of the White House Travel Office, Billy Dale, who had faithfully served in his position under 7 previous presidents beginning with JFK, fired on trumped-up claims of tax irregularities and then put the Thomason’s in charge to personally reap the profits of this government travel business. Dale was ultimately cleared, but not before his life and career were virtually ruined.
In an interview, former White House staffer gives detail on Filegate:
The White House FBI files controversy, also known as “Filegate,” revolved around the West Wing wrongly accessing FBI security-clearance documents on hundreds of current and former government employees, including Republican figures such as former top Republican presidential advisors.
During our interview, Tripp discussed what she observed with regard to Filegate and the scandal’s pivotal actor, Craig Livingstone, director of the White House’s Office of Personnel Security. Livingstone ultimately resigned from his position amid rumours he was not qualified for the position; that Hillary Clinton personally requested and read the files; and that Livingstone was put in charge of personal security at Clinton’s behest.
Tripp viewed Hillary Clinton’s alleged involvement in accessing the secretive files as “a great example of how she perceives life in general. There’s a huge sense of them-versus-us. A huge sense of paranoia. A huge hatred of Republicans. And it’s mind-boggling.”
Tripp knew Livingstone fairly well from her position inside the West Wing. She questioned Livingstone’s qualifications, explaining he was “known as someone during the ‘92 campaign who had dressed up as a chicken and heckled the first President Bush at his campaign stops.”
“And he was also known as an intricate part of their opposition research,” Tripp continued. “So essentially coming up with negative information about the first President Bush during that campaign.”
“The reason that I had anything to do with him was that the chief of White House security in a loose way reported to the counsel to the president (Bernie Nussbaum), who was my boss. But Craig Livingstone was a former bar bouncer. That was his claim to fame. So the notion that this former bar bouncer was the chief of White House security was beyond chilling to anyone who knew how that office functioned in the previous administration.
“It just defied comprehension. And worse, his claim was that he was hired by Hillary. And Bernie (Nussbaum) knew nothing about that. Bernie had no idea how he was hired. He just knew that that was his job.”
…And these were all files of perceived Clinton enemies. They were all Republicans. And what was so chilling about that was Craig Livingstone himself having essentially ownership of these raw data FBI Files.”
Tripp says Filegate, especially the mistreatment of sensitive information, was a sampling of a larger pattern that continues to this day.
“I don’t think sensitive material – or classified information, for that matter – was something they considered at all. And I know that is a strong statement to make,” Tripp said. “But I believe that what was more important to Mrs. Clinton was control. Control of the information flow. The ability to smear those who would speak against them. And the ability to control the message. So classification wasn’t a big deal and I think you can see that and what has happened just this past year. With what happened at the state Department. It is really just a continuation of a pattern.”
Vince Foster Death Episode: Hillary oversaw document sifting
The death of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster on July 20, 1993 shocked the nation.
His untimely death came as Bill and Hillary Clinton were being investigated for the White House travel office controversy, also known as Travelgate, the first major public controversy for the Clinton administration.
Foster was found dead in Virginia’s Fort Marcy Park with an autopsy concluding the cause of death was a “perforating gunshot wound mouth-head.”
Five official or governmental investigations concluded that he committed suicide. The nature of Foster’s work, as well as the six days it took before Foster’s suicide note was found, led to speculation and conspiracies about his death.
“He was the one who was to oversee everything from Whitewater to Travelgate, to Filegate, to everything that had anything to do with any of these scandals,” recalled Tripp. “Regardless of whether these scandals had occurred before they got to the White House or after.”
Tripp recalled receiving a phone call from Bill Clinton’s secretary at around midnight the night that Foster died, and “it was just a complete tragedy.”
“My first question to the president’s secretary when she called and said, ‘Vince is dead. He killed himself’ — my first question was, how did you know he killed himself? This was midnight. I was in bed. It was just so surreal.”
Things became “unusual and noteworthy from that point on,” she said.
Tripp says she was shocked to show up for work the next day to find Foster’s office not only unsecured, but with a White House staffer inside, handling documents.
She said the office should have been secured because “at that point, there was no definitive conclusion as to how he had died. At that point one would have assumed it was still an investigation.”
Regarding the sifting of documents, Tripp stated: “When I arrived, Bernie’s other assistant was literally in Vince’s office going through papers… And I just couldn’t understand how she couldn’t understand that this had to be a secured scene.”
I asked whether she saw the assistant remove any documents.
“I didn’t,” she replied. “I asked the question and she said she was straightening his office and then later I think it was said that she may have been looking for a suicide note. I don’t know. I don’t attribute any nefarious intent to her. I just felt at the time and strongly felt and believed that this was inappropriate and that we had a duty and an obligation to preserve whatever evidence might be there.”
“But you know, again, it’s just another sort of example of a systemic problem that existed in the Clinton White House. The rules don’t apply. Ever,” she added.
Tripp says she was the one who called Secret Service to finally secure Foster’s workspace:
“I just couldn’t understand how she (Bernie Nussbaum’s assistant) couldn’t understand that this had to be a secured scene. For many reasons but certainly because this was a suspicious death at that point. Of a senior adviser to the President of the United States. So in the midst of all the closed-door sessions and the back and forth, finally I called the Secret Service and said, could you send someone up to cordon off the office and to post a guard.”
The real “scandal” of Foster’s death was the removal of documents from the Counsel’s offices following the suicide, Tripp continued, adding that it was Hillary Clinton who was personally leading those efforts:
“Hillary oversaw everything that followed in the aftermath of Vince Foster’s death. Hardly mourning, she sprang into action like a field commander. The very night he died, her aides were packing up and moving boxes of files to the residence. Some never surfaced for years, including the Rose Law Firm Billing records which were under subpoena. They mysteriously surfaced years later in the Residence of the White House, at a time where it made little difference. What should have made a difference is that these law firm billing records showed definitively how extensive her involvement was in the Whitewater mess, something she had denied under oath.”
Foster’s death was a watershed moment for the Clinton West Wing, Tripp explained. “From then on in everything changed,” she said.
“I mean literally from one minute to the next. Bernie’s office had been an open-door policy. After that, his door was always closed. And the most trusted soldiers in the counsel’s office would huddle in there for days on end. And one of those was Cheryl Mills, who long ago swore a blood oath to the Clintons. And to this day, I am sure people may have heard her name as being involved in the email scandal.”
Tripp singled out Mills as being “extremely instrumental in the days that followed” Foster’s passing.
She mused at how Mills is continually involved in allegedly helping to scrub Clinton scandals, from the Clinton Foundation to Emailgate.
“The interesting thing about Cheryl Mills — and again this is getting down in the weeds where most people are just probably not aware of it — but you will recall the Justice Department allowed Cheryl Mills, who was a witness, if not a subject to the email investigation, to invoke attorney-client privilege in order to thwart the attempt to gain information about Clinton’s emails.
“And she was literally a participant in that procedure. She oversaw the destruction by bleaching of the emails. She was a critical player and still is. But it’s interesting because when she was at the State Department, she was Hillary’s chief of staff but she was not acting in the capacity of a lawyer.
“And with her involvement personally with Clinton’s private email setup, it’s amazing that she was an actor in the facts that are literally under criminal investigation by the FBI. And yet she was allowed to sit in on Hillary’s FBI investigation as a lawyer. She should never have been allowed to be a participant as a lawyer. A few years after they both left the state department. But she was allowed to do that.”
Mills was also offered limited immunity in the email probe.
Memo Confirms Hillary at Center of Travelgate
(NY Times) The 1996 released draft memorandum, written by David Watkins, the former top administrative aide at the White House, also sharply contradicts the White House’s official account of Mrs. Clinton as merely an interested observer in the events that led to the dismissal of the White House travel staff and their replacement with Clinton associates from Arkansas.
In the memorandum, apparently intended for Thomas F. McLarty, who was the White House chief of staff, Mr. Watkins wrote that “we both know that there would be hell to pay” if “we failed to take swift and decisive action in conformity with the First Lady’s wishes.”
Mr. Watkins, a close Clinton associate from Arkansas, wrote the memorandum to respond to criticism of his role in the dismissal of all seven employees of the travel office in May 1993. He was dismissed himself in 1994 after using a Government helicopter for a golf outing, and White House officials said today that his description of Mrs. Clinton’s role was inaccurate.
In the memorandum, Mr. Watkins gives a detailed account that says the pressure for action came directly from Mrs. Clinton and indirectly through two close Clinton friends: Harry Thomason, a Hollywood producer and part-owner of an air-charter consulting firm, and Vincent W. Foster Jr., the deputy White House counsel who committed suicide in July 1993.
“Once this made it onto the First Lady’s agenda,” Mr. Watkins wrote, “Vince Foster became involved, and he and Harry Thomason regularly informed me of her attention to the travel office situation — as well as her insistence that the situation be resolved immediately by replacing the travel office staff.
“Foster regularly informed me that the First Lady was concerned and desired action — the action desired was the firing of the travel office staff. On Friday, when I was in Memphis, Foster told me that it was important that I speak directly with the First Lady that day.”
He wrote that he had called Mrs. Clinton that evening and that she had conveyed “her desire for swift and clear action to resolve the situation.”
A White House report on the affair, issued in July 1993, said Mrs. Clinton had been informed of problems at the travel office and had asked questions but had done little more.
By contrast, in Mr. Watkins’s account, written in fall 1993, the dismissals were precipitously pushed through almost entirely at Mrs. Clinton’s insistence, despite his preference for a gradual reorganization.
He would have resisted, he said, but he was afraid of dismissal.
In explaining that fear, Mr. Watkins referred to an earlier incident in which he said Mrs. Clinton had become furious over his failure to transfer Secret Service agents whom she blamed for disclosing an unflattering story to a news magazine.
“If I thought I could have resisted those pressures, undertaken more considered action, and remained in the White House, I certainly would have done so,” he wrote. “But after the Secret Service incident, it was made clear that I must more forcefully and immediately follow the direction of the First Family.”
Mr. Watkins said he had spoken directly with Mrs. Clinton about the matter once, five days before the travel office dismissals, after Mr. Foster told him he should speak directly with her. During that conversation, according to the memorandum, Mrs. Clinton told him that “she thought immediate action was in order” because the company that had handled the Clinton campaign’s charters could pick up the work.
In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, Mr. Watkins said he had talked directly to Mrs. Clinton about the travel office only once.
Mr. Watkins also hinted in the draft memorandum that he might not have told the full story to investigators who reviewed the dismissals. He referred to his memorandum as a “soul cleansing” and “a first attempt to set the record straight, something I have not done in previous conversations with investigators — where I have been as protective and vague as possible.”
The memorandum was released by the White House to The Associated Press on Wednesday night after Administration officials turned it over to the Republican-led Congressional committee that has been investigating the travel office affair. White House officials said the document was found on Friday in the stored files of Patsy Thomasson, an aide to Mr. Watkins.
This afternoon, the Whitewater independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr, who has also examined the the travel office incident, criticized the White House for failing to give the memorandum to prosecutors promptly. In a letter to the White House counsel, John Quinn, Mr. Starr complained that he had got the document after reporters had.
White House officials tried to play down the significance of the memorandum today, saying that it dealt with events that had been fully investigated and that it added little.
“We have always said that the First Lady was concerned about financial mismanagement in the travel office and that she told people that they should look into it and, if necessary, deal with it,” said Mark Fabiani, a White House spokesman.
Mr. Fabiani said Mrs. Clinton had left with subordinates the issue of how to correct any problems.
For their part, Republicans seized on the memorandum to renew charges of impropriety.
“There was a cover-up here,” Representative William F. Clinger, the Pennsylvania Republican who heads the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, said at a news conference today. While no crime was committed, Mr. Clinger said, “there seems to be a convenient lapse of memory” by Mrs. Clinton and White House aides.
Mr. Clinger said his panel would hold hearings on the affair and send written questions to the First Lady, subpoena documents from Mr. Thomason and Mr. Watkins, and seek to question Mr. Watkins.
Aides to Mr. Clinger also released other documents today that they said showed a fear among White House staff members that their report might be seen as a cover-up.
Those documents are notes written by Todd Stern, a White House aide who worked on the initial review of the affair. They refer obliquely to potential problems that might be raised if the report failed to answer the question of who had pushed for the dismissals and who had approved them.
Mr. Stern wrote: “The problem is that if we do any kind of report & fail to address these Qs, press jumps on you wanting to know answers; while if you give answers that that aren’t fully honest (e.g. nothing re Hillary) you risk hugely compounding the problem by getting caught in half-truths. You run risk of turning this into ‘cover-up.’ “
Tonight, Mr. Fabiani, the White House spokesman, said Mr. Stern’s notes were preliminary jottings, written on May 27, as the work on the White House report was getting under way. He said they were meant to guide the authors on how they should prepare the review to avoid the appearance of a cover-up.
Mr. Watkins’s undated memorandum is stamped as a “DRAFT” and as “confidential,” and it does not indicate to whom it was sent. But White House officials said today that its language suggested that the intended recipient had been Mr. McClarty, Mr. Watkins’s superior.
Mr. McLarty issued a statement tonight disputing the memorandum’s veracity and saying he had never received it.
After the travel office dismissals, White House officials acknowledged that they had acted rashly, and they rehired some employees.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry on the travel office resulted in the indictment of Billy R. Dale, the office’s director, in December 1994, on charges of embezzling $68,000 paid by news organizations for Presidential trips. In November, a jury acquitted Mr. Dale.
Independent counsel Robert Ray concluded in June 2000 that although there was “substantial evidence” the first lady played a role in the controversial travel office firings, contrary to her denials, there was not enough evidence to warrant bringing perjury charges against her. In a statement Ray said he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that “any of Mrs. Clinton’s statements and testimony regarding her involvement in the travel office firings were knowingly false.”