Accuracy in Media

TRAVELGATE

Hillary Clinton’s book, Living History, could be titled Lying History. It is loaded with lies, a fact that most reviewers have overlooked. This Report will focus on the lies she tells about two major scandals, Travelgate and Fostergate.

Travelgate, the first major scandal of the Clinton administration, erupted on May 19, 1993 when the White House Travel Office staff of seven were told they would be terminated on June 5. The director, Billy Dale, and his deputy had been with the Travel Office for nearly 30 years. The other five had worked there from 8 to 26 years. Except for two who were out of town, they were all escorted out of their offices and expelled from the White House grounds.

Their treatment shocked the White House reporters, who knew them well because they made the travel arrangements for the reporters to cover the President when he went on trips. The media coverage was so negative that the White House was forced to revoke the dismissals and to acknowledge that they were “insensitive and unnecessary.”

Dale and his deputy were allowed to put in for retirement and the other five were put on administrative leave while efforts were made to find other jobs for them in government agencies. Dale was subjected to an FBI investigation instigated by the White House to find an excuse for the firings.

In her book, Hillary denies any responsibility for the firings. She says, “I was stuck with the consequences of an offhand comment I made after hearing about concerns of financial mismanagement and waste in the White House Travel Office. I said to Chief of Staff Mack McLarty that if there were such problems, I hoped he would look into it.”

She alleges that Peat Marwick had found that the office’s records were in shambles, that $18,000 worth of checks had not been accounted for, and that was why McLarty and the Counsel’s office decided to fire the staff. The Clintons had put a young relative of Bill’s in the office, which she aspired to head. She had taken many records home creating disarray.

The House committee on Government Reform reached the following conclusions after a long investigation: “1. The Travel Office firings were a result of pressure by Harry Thomason (a close friend of the Clintons) and Mrs. Clinton which accelerated the week before the firings. 2. The Travel Office firings were part of a campaign payback scheme that was in place long before May 1993. 3. Harry Thomason maligned the Travel Office employees…in order to move them out of that office. 4. Thomason’s travel business interests posed an inherent conflict with his involvement in Travel Office decisions. 5. The initial press offensive against the Travel Office employees mischaracterized the Peat Marwick review and the FBI’s role in order to cover up the real reasons for the firings. 6. The White House initiated a full-scale campaign of misinformation in the aftermath of the Travel Office firings and put in place a cover-up from which it could not extricate itself.”

David Watkins, the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration, had been slow to execute Hillary’s orders to fire the Travel Office staff. In a memo dated May 17, 1993, Watkins said: “The First Lady took interest in having the Travel Office situation resolved quickly, following Harry Thomason’s bringing it to her attention. Thomason told the First Lady of his suspicion that the Travel Office was improperly funneling business to a single charter company, and told her that the functions of that office could be easily replaced and reallocated.”

Watkins wrote, “Once this made it onto the First Lady’s agenda, 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, while I was in Memphis, Foster told me that it was important that I speak directly with the First Lady that day. I called her that evening and she conveyed to me in clear terms her desire for swift and clear action to resolve the situation.

“She mentioned that Thomason had explained how the Travel Office could be run after removing the current staff-that plan included bringing in World Wide Travel (in which Thomason had an interest) and Penny Sample to handle the basic travel functions…and in light of that she thought immediate action was in order.”

Watkins said McLarty had sent him the clear message that “immediate action must be taken” and that he was relieved to learn that “we were finally going to take action (to resolve the situation in accord with the First Lady’s wishes.) We both knew there would be hell to pay if after our failure in the Secret Service situation earlier, we failed to take swift and decisive action in conformity with the First Lady’s wishes.”

The Watkins memo had been sent to McLarty and copied to Mrs. Clinton. It contradicts the written responses to five written questions posed to Mrs. Clinton by the General Accounting Office on March 21, 1994, which she later swore under oath were accurate.

She said she “did not know the origin of the decision to fire the Travel Office employees;” she “did not direct that any action be taken by anyone with regard to the Travel Office, other than expressing an interest in receiving information about the review;” and she “has no specific recollection of any particular conversation with Mr. Thomason on this issue at that time.”

She was not indicted for perjury because the independent counsel doubted that a jury would convict her. But the Justice Department charged Billy Dale with embezzlement of Travel Office funds. The FBI tried without success to find evidence that the Dales were living beyond their means. Faced with crushing legal bills if the case went to trial, Billy asked his lawyer to proffer a guilty plea in return for a very short incarceration. He said that if the judge accepted it, he would go out on the courthouse steps and tell the world he was not guilty of any wrongdoing, but he was willing to spend some time in jail to avoid losing his home. His lawyer said that if he did that he would be hauled back into court and charged with perjury. That would result in more jail time.

The proffer was not made, and the case went to trial. In her book, Hillary says, “The Justice Department found enough evidence to indict and try the former head of the Travel Office for embezzlement. According to press reports, he offered to plead guilty to a criminal charge and serve a brief prison sentence, but the prosecutor insisted on going to trial on a felony charge. After several famous journalists testified as character witnesses at his trial, he was ultimately acquitted.”

The best witness to testify for Dale was Dennis Sculimbrene, an FBI agent assigned to the White House for several years. He was effective in exposing the weakness of the government’s case, infuriating the FBI. He paid dearly for having had the courage to defend an innocent man that the First Lady wanted to jail. It took the jury only 20 minutes to find Dale not guilty. It took 6 years for the FBI to compensate Sculimbrene for the disability benefits denied him after he testified.

FOSTERGATE

The failure of the White House to insist on a thorough and professional investigation of the death of Deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr. was the second major scandal of the Clinton administration. It should have been labeled “Fostergate,” but it escaped that because the establishment news media accepted without question the Park Police report that Foster committed suicide. Everyone at the White House was shocked. Hillary is on record as having said, “Of a thousand people I know, he is the last I would expect to commit suicide.” Bill Clinton said we would never know why he did it.

Harboring such strong reservations about the likelihood that Foster would have killed himself, why didn’t the Clintons examine both the qualifications of investigators who made that judgment and the evidence on which they based it? They knew that the U.S. Park Police are not experts in investigating crimes. Sgt. John Rolla’s supervisor said she assigned him to examine Foster’s body because he was new on the job and needed the experience.

Rolla said that he disregarded the rule that an unattended violent death must be investigated as a possible homicide until there is enough evidence to rule it out. He ruled it out because there was a gun in Foster’s hand and no sign of a struggle. When he reached that conclusion, he didn’t know that the gun did not belong to Foster and that it did not fire the shot that killed him. Nor did he know that Foster’s car had not arrived at Ft. Marcy Park until 15 minutes after his body was found there.

Other Park Police officers who were at the site learned this from two eyewitnesses who were questioned in the parking lot where Foster’s light-gray 1989 Honda Accord was then parked. The same eyewitnesses told the officers that an hour earlier, at 5:30 p.m., they had seen an older brown car parked in that same space with a man sitting in it and another standing beside it.

The Park Police report written by Sgt. Cheryl Braun from notes taken by officer Julie Spetz said the brown car had left, and shortly thereafter the eyewitnesses had seen another car enter the parking lot and park alongside “the deceased vehicle.” The two eyewitnesses, when questioned later by FBI agents, said they didn’t see the brown car leave and there were no other vehicles in the parking lot at that time.

Their description of the car they had seen in that spot was confirmed on July 22 when Patrick Knowlton called to tell the police that shortly before 4:30 p.m. he had parked at Ft. Marcy alongside a brown, mid-eighties model Honda Accord with Arkansas tags. The police wrote a brief memo giving the color but not the age of the car. They didn’t follow up with Knowlton, and they altered what the other two eyewitnesses had told them, missing the point that the car these witnesses had seen was not Foster’s. They told the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that they were put in charge of this case because of its “sensitivity.” That apparently meant they could be relied upon not to embarrass the White House by finding evidence that Foster was murdered. That could be messy.

The brown Honda was probably used to take Foster’s body to Ft. Marcy at about 4:00 p.m. With Arkansas tags it served as a stand-in for Foster’s car, which arrived only 15 minutes ahead of the rescue workers and police. When they arrived in the parking lot, the rescue workers noticed a brown car without a driver that was not in a parking space and had its engine running. It was evidently leaving when those in it bailed out and hid when they heard the fire engine coming up the driveway. They left when the rescue workers dispersed to find the body.

Hillary says, “Those rumors (that Foster was murdered) should have ended with the official report ruling his death a suicide….” That report was discussed at a joint Park Police-FBI news conference on August 10, 1993, but no investigative report was released at that time.

Reporters were told to file Freedom of Information requests for it. Some did, but no copies were released until June 30, 1994, at the same time Robert B. Fiske, Jr., the independent counsel who had investigated the death, issued his report. It confirmed the Park Police findings and dominated the coverage. Most of the news media had been calling Foster’s death a suicide for nearly a year, and they paid no attention to the flaws in the reports of Fiske and the Park Police.

Mrs. Foster had told the police that the gun found in Foster’s hand was not the gun she thought it would be-“a silver six-gun with a long barrel.” That was her description of a revolver that she had brought to Washington. It was a modern, silver gun that Foster had inherited from his dad. It was kept in a closet in their home together with a semi-automatic pistol. They had no ammunition for either gun.

The gun that had been planted in Foster’s hand was “a piece of junk” according to the Park Police evidence officer. It was a black .38 Colt Army Special made up of parts from two different guns, both manufactured in 1913. It was a typical “drop gun.”

Finding a gun in the hand of a person killed by a single gunshot points to murder rather than suicide unless the deceased experienced cadaveric spasm, which freezes the grip on the gun. Normally a handgun used to commit suicide would fall to the ground when fired, often ending up several feet from the body because of the recoil. The officer who removed the gun from Foster’s hand said it was there because Foster’s thumb was stuck between the trigger and the trigger guard. He said he had to half-cock the hammer to get it past the joint. A photo of the gun in Foster’s hand shows the trigger guard circling the thumb below the joint, undermining the claim that it was stuck on his thumb.

The Park Police also had evidence from the photos they had taken of a small-caliber bullet wound in the right side of Foster’s neck under the jaw line. Sgt. Rolla had overlooked it, but Richard Arthur and George Gonzalez, two paramedics who had examined the body, saw it. Arthur believed it was made by a small-caliber bullet fired upward into the skull. He and Corey Ashford, who had helped bag the body, said the death was a homicide.

Miquel Rodriguez, a prosecutor hired by independent counsel Ken Starr to conduct a grand jury investigation, saw this wound on a Polaroid photo, which he had enlarged and enhanced. If he had been permitted to complete the grand jury investigation, he would have exposed the many lies that were told to cover up Foster’s murder. He resigned after Starr’s Washington deputy interfered with his aggressive questioning of the Park Police officers. Rodriguez has said that it was clear to him that Kenneth Starr was determined to confirm the Park Police findings.

Rodriguez would have exposed Dr. James Beyer, who performed Foster’s autopsy and lied to explain the absence of any x-rays. Beyer accept-ed the theory that Foster had fired the .38 revolver with the barrel inside his mouth. He said the entrance wound was in the back of his throat, 7-1/2 inches below the top of his head. He claimed that this bullet exited through the back of Foster’s skull, three inches below the top of his head, leaving a large hole. His report said x-rays were taken. They would show if Sgt. Rolla was right in saying there was no exit wound in the skull and if Richard Arthur was right that Foster was killed by a small-caliber bullet fired from under his jaw into his brain.

Beyer testified that he had no x-rays because the machine had mal-functioned. That was a lie. The service records show that there was no call for service on the machine until three months after Foster’s death. Ken Starr subpoenaed those records, but he didn’t use them to force Dr. Beyer to produce the x-rays that could have proven Rodriguez was right.

Hillary’s Most Outrageous Lie

Hillary lies outrageously when she says that the rumors that Foster was murdered should have ended “with the sheet of notepaper Bernie found torn into 27 pieces at the bottom of Vince’s briefcase.” She says it was “an accounting of the things that were tearing at his soul.”

There is strong evidence that she knew the note was a forgery. It was mainly about exonerating her and others involved in such White House scandals as Travelgate. It was “found” six days after Foster’s death and four days after White House Counsel Bernie Nussbaum had described everything he took from Foster’s briefcase to a group of Justice Dept. officials, FBI agents and Park Police officers. We are expected to believe that he overlooked 27 scraps of yellow paper at the bottom of the briefcase.

Hillary has apparently forgotten that those scraps of paper were not “discovered” by Bernie, but by assistant counsel Steve Neuwirth. Hillary may have made this error because there is evidence that the original plan was to say Bernie Nussbaum found the note. That was changed to Neuwirth when Hillary viewed the note in Bernie’s office on July 26, 1993. His story was proven false by tests showing that scraps of paper would not fall out of the briefcase held as he said he held it.

Bill Burton, an aide to Chief of Staff McLarty, took notes of what was said at the viewing. One read, “far happier if disc. if someone other than Bernie” with “other” underlined twice. That was why credit for discovering the note was promptly changed to Neuwirth. Hillary evidently feared the note might be exposed as a forgery and she would be implicated if her close friend Bernie “discovered” it. The fact that she was among the first to see it was kept secret for two years. David Margolis, the deputy associate attorney general, testified that her presence in the room would not be of “professional interest” to him. He said it was of interest that Nussbaum, Neuwirth and Burton when questioned by FBI agents conducting an obstruction-of-justice investigation of the note didn’t tell them she was there.

Another Burton note indicated that Hillary had made a comment that suggested that she may have helped compose the forged Foster note. It read, “if concerned about usher’s office discuss w/me.” That refers to an incident mentioned in the note in which she was involved.

There are many indications that Hillary lacked confidence in the forgery. One was the 30-hour delay in turning it over to the authorities. Another was the refusal to release photocopies, blocking for two years any possibility of independent experts exposing the forgery. The most telling is that on the day the note was found, Nussbaum, Neuwirth and Burton remained in Nussbaum’s office working late into the night. Nussbaum’s assistant, Linda Tripp, stayed to help them if needed.

She said that one of them came out to borrow one of the typewriters from the outer office shared by Nussbaum and Foster. Pointing out that the cords were taped to the floor, she offered to get one elsewhere. She was told not to bother. Nussbaum told the FBI that they wanted a typewriter to type the note. This suggests that because of Hillary’s qualms they were thinking of discarding the handwritten note and switching to forgery by typewriter. Nussbaum said he wanted to substitute a typed copy for the handwritten copy he had made, but he didn’t explain why the typewriter had to be one that Foster might have used. There is nothing in the record that indicates that the FBI asked that obvious question.

In 1995, photocopies of the note were leaked on Capitol Hill, and independent handwriting experts were able to analyze it. Three experts were given copies and ample samples of comparable notes written by Foster. Working independently, all three declared the note to be a forgery.

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