THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
LETTER FROM WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO HOUSE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT
REFORM AND OVERSIGHT
THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON February 7, 1996
William F. Clinger, Chairman
House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6143
Dear Chairman Clinger:
I have received your letter of February 6, 1996. For the reasons detailed below, the assertion that we are "withholding" documents is simply false. And, making that claim to the press, as your staff did when it released your letter, before receiving this response was highly unfair. I continue to be available to take your telephone calls or meet with you to respond to any question about our handling of your committee's document requests. Having said that, I respond to the specifics of your letter as follows:
First, as Ms. Sherburne informed Ms. Bracher by letter dated February 2, 1996, we provided to the Committee copies of a privilege log that the White House had earlier provided to the Department of Justice in connection with an October 1994 document production. That log identified attorney work product and attorney-client materials otherwise responsive to a Justice Department, Public Integrity section subpoena for documents. We are not withholding those documents from the Committee. Many of the items identified on that privilege log -- which, by the way, lists as separate entries multiple copies of single documents -- either already have been provided to, or reviewed by, the Committee staff. And, as your staff is well aware, we did not provide material relating to the Public Integrity investigation prior to the conclusion of the Justice Department's criminal trial against Mr. Dale precisely because we wished to avoid even the appearance of interfering with those proceedings. We have since that time provided the committee with literally thousands of pages of material -- attorney work product and otherwise -- relating to that investigation, and we are continuing to provide responsive documents as quickly as we are able.
Beyond this, the fact is that the committee's June 14 request simply did not call for a number of the materials identified on the log. To the extent that it did, and the documents in question did not relate to the public Integrity Section's then-pending criminal investigation, the documents either were made available to the Committee or identified on our September 5, 1995 log of items subject to claims of privilege. As of early November 1995, all of the items on our September log were either provided to or reviewed by committee staff.
We do not dispute that the committee's subsequent requests and recent subpoenas call for the attorney-client and work product materials identified on the privilege log. And, as I made clear in our January 12, 1996 conversation, we have provided, and are willing to continue to provide attorney-client and attorney work product materials of the office of Counsel to the President (which, as such, are subject to entirely valid and, indeed important, claims of executive privilege) in circumstances where the committee makes a good faith showing that it has a compelling investigative need for the material. We understand your need for the materials identified on the Public Integrity Section privilege log and, accordingly, will make those documents available for your staff to review in camera. However, as I also informed you in our phone conversation, we will not damage irreparably the ability of this Office to function in years to come (in Republican as well as Democratic administrations) by allowing unfounded invasions of our confidential materials that, more often than not, seem to provoke a political/media "event," rather than assist the Committee fact-finding process. As I stated in my January 17, 1996 letter to you, it is absolutely essential that we meet to discuss ways to resolve the treatment of other attorney-client and attorney work product materials so that we may complete our document production.
Second, with respect to the illustrative list of items that have not yet been produced, let me remind you once again that I told you on January 12 that full compliance with the committee's breathtakingly broad and burdensome subpoenas, which require over 1,000 offices to be searched, could not be achieved in ten days (five of which were over weekends and a holiday) but would occur through a "rolling" production. And, as I told you would be the case, to accomplish this task, we have had to recruit new attorneys and reassign existing staff. But there are limits to our ability to do this: I cannot in good conscience allow our lawyers to ignore their important work, all of which is in the national interest, in order to respond overnight to the committee's unreasonably broad and burdensome requests. Over the past weeks, we have reviewed and provided over 12,000 pages of material (in addition to the more than 14,000 pages previously produced to the committee). As I have told you repeatedly, we are doing the best we can to do a thorough and complete search and production of responsive documents, but we can do no more than that.
Third, with respect to the January 29, 1993 memorandum apparently sent to Ms. Dee Dee Myers, my staff informs me that that document has not been located among Ms. Myers' White House records or any other White House records stored in the complex. Ms. Williams informs me that she told Ms. Comstock that she had asked Ms. Myers' attorney whether Ms. Myers remembered or had a copy of the memorandum, and he replied in the negative. Ms. Williams further explained to Ms. Comstock that, with respect to former employees such as Ms. Myers, it is our practice to require a search of any White House records they stored in the Office of Records Management. We do not have authority to search their homes or places of business for responsive records.
Fourth, the material identified in our January 22 production as having been "redacted as of 1/21/96" consists of multiple copies of two documents bearing the President's handwriting. One of those documents -- a note attached to Mr. Martens' February 17, 1993 memorandum -- has already been made available for your review. In accordance with our past practice we would be willing to make the documents bearing the President's handwriting available for your personal review.
Once again, Mr. Chairman, I urge you to resist the efforts of your staff to level these recent accusations for headline purposes only. I think you know that we are trying to assist you in the committee's legitimate fact-finding work in this investigation. We can all best spend our energies on bringing the committee's investigation to a close.
John M. Quinn
cc: Hon. Cardiss Collins
/U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/