White House Got Dale’s FBI Records Months After He Was Fired
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Seven months after presidential aides fired travel office chief Billy Dale, someone at the White House obtained Dale’s FBI background file by claiming he was being considered for renewed access.
Wednesday’s disclosure by Rep. William Clinger prompted FBI Director Louis Freeh to announce he’ll launch ``a thorough inquiry″ _ with the results to be turned over to Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr. He is investigating possible perjury in the statements presidential aides made in the travel office affair.
Clinger, R-Pa., disclosed a written request on Dec. 20, 1993, with the name of then-White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum typed on it _ but no signature _ addressed to ``FBI, liaison.″
The request for Dale’s file was made on a White House form which states ``The person named above is being considered for:″ followed by the typed-in word ``access (s).″
Nussbaum denied seeking or reviewing the FBI file _ a development that left the White House speechless as to who might have made the request or viewed the material once it arrived. Spokesman Mark Fabiani had no immediate comment on the matter.
The file on Dale consisted of 11 letters and 11 memos. It apparently arrived at the White House on Jan. 6, 1994. FBI background material typically includes interviews about a prospective government employee with neighbors and acquaintances.
The FBI said it released the records solely in response to receiving the White House form and ``not in response to any personal request from any official of the White House to any executive in the FBI.″
Dale’s FBI background file turned up in 1,000 pages of documents that the White House reluctantly supplied to Clinger’s Government Reform and Oversight Committee last week. The president had tried to withhold the documents, contending they were subject to executive privilege, and 2,000 other pages are still being withheld.
Dale said Wednesday that he had never sought access to the White House after he was fired and that he had been ``red-flagged″ _ meaning barred _ when he and the rest of the White House travel office workers were dismissed. His lawyer, Steve Tabackman, said the incident ``very easily could be″ added to the Whitewater criminal investigation of prosecutor Kenneth Starr.
The travel office purge embarrassed the White House in 1993, and the controversy flared again this January when a White House memo surfaced saying Hillary Rodham Clinton was the force behind the firings. She denies any role.
At a news conference, Clinger contended that ``the president and his current counsel invoked executive privilege to cover up the fact that the White House was digging through the FBI background files of a private citizen.″
Clinger told reporters he assumed the White House wanted the material ``to see if there was anything to Billy Dale’s past that could be exploited for political advantage.″
At the same time the White House was getting Dale’s background file, Nussbaum had custody of a handwritten notebook by the late Vincent Foster outlining Foster’s concerns about the travel office firings.
It wasn’t until a year after Foster’s death that the White House notified the Justice Department’s public integrity office and the Whitewater prosecutor’s office of the notebook’s existence.
Foster’s notebook is a chronology of events in anticipation of lawsuits alleging that the travel office firings were unjustified. In the purge of the travel office, the White House called in the FBI to investigate alleged financial irregularities.
Dale was acquitted of criminal charges last year in regard to the travel office, and Republicans say he was the victim of a political squeeze aimed at bringing in a Little Rock travel agency and giving business to a company co-owned by a friend of the Clintons, Hollywood producer Harry Thomason.
The notebook _ which Nussbaum pulled out of Foster’s briefcase two days after his July 20, 1993, death _ outlines Thomason’s role in passing along to the White House an unproven allegation of kickbacks in the White House travel office.
Nussbaum has said he notified law enforcement officials present during the July 22, 1993, search of Foster’s office that a travel office file was located there.