White House turns over notes of presidential diarist

WASHINGTON - The White House on Monday belatedly turned over to Congress a new round of documents that detail President Clinton's meetings with figures in the fund-raising controversy and discussions about the investigation with aides.

The White House said the notes were written by an Oval Office aide who began keeping such records in 1995 and 1996 as an "informal supplement" to the official records kept by the presidential diarist.

The notes describe Clinton's discussions about news reports on the fund-raising probe, staff meetings in which the investigation was discussed, and several fund-raising events such as White House coffees with donors, White House special counsel Lanny Davis said.

Earlier this year, Congress subpoenaed all White House documents that might be relevant to the fund-raising investigation.

Despite the long delay in producing the records, Davis argued they shed little light on the fund-raising matter, mostly providing records of events that have long since been known by investigators.

"The information we provided to the congressional committees contains nothing new, has generally already been reported and contains little of substantive value," Davis said.

"Our production of this information is the result of our ongoing effort to continue to look for and find all the information the committees have requested in order to complete the inquiries on campaign finance," he said.

Davis said the Senate and House committees investigating allegations of fund-raising abuses in the 1996 election were given the notes Monday.

He said the Justice Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation, had the material before Attorney General Janet Reno made her decision last week not to name an independent prosecutor to investigate Clinton's fund-raising activities.

The belated delivery of the notes comes on the eve of a congressional hearing in which Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh are to be grilled about their differences over her decision not to seek an independent prosecutor.

Officials have said Freeh argued for an outside investigation of a broad range of allegations as part of a possible conspiracy and that top Justice officials had the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The notes are the latest round of evidence turned over to investigators long after it had been demanded by subpoena.

Earlier this fall, the White House belated turned over numerous videotapes of fund-raising events attended by Clinton both inside and outside the White House. Republican angrily denounced the delay in producing the tapes, which came as the Senate was nearly finished with its investigation. Presidential aides blamed bureaucratic bungling for the delay.

Last month, presidential aides acknowledged withholding from investigators for more than a year documents that stated flatly that the president wanted a White House database created with taxpayer money to include information about his political contributors and shared with the Democratic Party.

The White House said lawyers mistakenly decided the documents weren't relevant to a congressional investigation of the database.

In another instance, Hillary Rodham Clinton's law firm billing records were turned over to Whitewater prosecutors two years after they had been first subpoenaed.

And well after the investigation began into the controversial White House travel office firings, presidential aides belatedly produced a memo from a top aide suggesting Mrs. Clinton had a role in the firings.

By The Associated Press



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