The White House agreed Thursday to turn over to Whitewater special counsel Robert B. Fiske Jr. all of its documents connected to Vincent Foster, the deputy White House counsel whose death last July has been ruled a suicide.
Deputy White House Counsel Joel Klein said that he believes Fiske now is investigating the actions of White House officials, including then-White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, in the aftermath of Foster's death.
Klein told reporters that he believes Fiske, who has a broad mandate to investigate the Whitewater scandal and related incidents, already has completed his investigation into Foster's death and has agreed with the U.S. Park Police that it was, in fact, a suicide.
A comprehensive subpoena received by the White House on Thursday covers all documents, memos, computer disks and any paging device or beeper used by Foster or related materials held by his assistant, Deborah Gorham. It also asks for documents relating to Foster that may have been kept in a safe in Nussbaum's office.
Klein made it clear that he believes Fiske wants the documents as part of a review that "deals with the distribution of Mr. Foster's files by Nussbaum."
Controversy has swirled around the actions of Nussbaum and other White House officials since it was revealed that White House officials had removed files from Foster's office shortly after his death.
Investigators have raised questions about a search of Foster's office on the night of his death conducted by Nussbaum and White House officials Margaret A. William, the First Lady's chief of staff, and Patsy Thomasson, a longtime Clinton associate. Secret Service officials secured Foster's office the next day.
A 2 1/2-hour session that took place two days after the death raised concerns as well. At that time, Nussbaum sorted through his deputy's papers in the presence of officials from the U.S. Park Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department. Nussbaum sorted the documents into three piles--files related to official government business, Foster's private papers and the Clintons' personal documents.
The White House later turned over Foster's personal materials to his family attorney, Jim Hamilton, and the Clintons' papers, including documents related to Whitewater, to the Clintons' attorney, David Kendall.
Kendall has since turned over Whitewater-related documents to Fiske's office but has not yet received a broader order covering all the Clinton personal papers given to him after Foster's death. Hamilton refused to comment Thursday when asked if he had received a new subpoena.
Nussbaum's actions during the investigation of Foster's death brought allegations that the White House was trying to hold back relevant information from law enforcement investigators, charges that the White House denied.
Nussbaum resigned under fire in March. Klein said that all of Nussbaum's files are still at the White House and that relevant materials from them would be turned over to Fiske. It is not known, however, if Nussbaum will receive a separate subpoena.
Foster was a close friend of President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. He handled some of their personal legal affairs, including the sale of their interest in Whitewater Development Corp., the failed Ozarks real estate venture that is at the heart of the Whitewater controversy.
Klein said that "there is nothing in the subpoena suggesting that (Fiske) is looking at the question of Foster's suicide." He added that "I believe the forensic evidence on Foster's suicide has been dealt with separately."
The Park Police conducted the initial investigation after Foster's body was found in a park in Virginia outside Washington. The White House has strenuously denied unsubstantiated, but widely circulated, rumors that Foster may have been murdered.