Related topics

House To Question Computer Expert

May 3, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ White House officials will be asked to explain to lawmakers why they abandoned plans to retrieve thousands of missing e-mails that might have been of interest to investigators examining a variety of allegations against the Clinton administration.

The House Government Reform Committee today will question a White House computer expert, Karl Heissner, who in early 1999 outlined a way to fix the problem of recovering large amounts of e-mail that had not been placed into a searchable archive. Heissner’s steps weren’t acted on at the White House.

The committee also will hear from Michael Lyle, director of the White House Office of Administration, and Robert Raben, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs.

Lyle’s office dealt with the e-mail problem beginning in June 1998 and passed on information about it to the White House counsel’s office, which was responsible for producing documents to congressional investigators, the Justice Department and Independent Counsel Ken Starr.

Raben will be questioned about committee chairman Rep. Dan Burton’s request that Attorney General Janet Reno appoint a special counsel to investigate the e-mail controversy. Reno has not responded.

White House Counsel Charles Ruff will testify Thursday.

On the eve of today’s hearing, the White House dropped a potential executive privilege claim and turned over to Congress several handwritten notes from lawyers that were being sought by investigators in the controversy over missing e-mails.

``We are making these seven documents available today to your committee,″ White House counsel Beth Nolan wrote Burton. ``We are not waiving the right to assert executive privilege or attorney-client privilege with respect to future requests.″

At issue were handwritten notes by White House lawyers involving discussions they had with computer experts about the missing e-mail since the controversy first erupted earlier this year.

The White House initially declined to turn over the memos, saying they included the ``mental impressions″ of presidential lawyers and may be protected by the president’s right to keep confidential the advice he receives.

The White House did not formally invoke the executive privilege, instead listing the documents and saying they were subject to such a claim. Burton, R-Ind., criticized the maneuver as ``legal mumbo-jumbo.″

The congressional committee as well as federal prosecutors are investigating why the White House, after discovering a glitch in 1998 that kept e-mails from being properly archived, did not immediately retrieve the missing messages to determine if they should have been turned over to investigators under subpoenas issued in investigations from Whitewater and impeachment to political fund-raising.

Update hourly