Travel Office Firing Probe Notes Missing

From a Times Staff Writer

The Clinton administration said Saturday that officials have been unable to find notes taken by a White House lawyer while he sat in on a series of interviews conducted as part of government probes of the White House travel office controversy.

Former White House associate counsel Neil Eggleston made the notes while he monitored interviews of White House aides by both the Justice Department and the General Accounting Office, a congressional watchdog agency.

The aides were questioned about their involvement in the 1993 move by the Clinton White House to fire veteran officials of the White House office that handled travel arrangements for members of the news media covering the president.

The notes are being sought by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, which is investigating the firings of the White House travel office staff shortly after President Clinton took office. Staff members were later reinstated.

White House special counsel Mark D. Fabiani tried to minimize the issue Saturday, saying that Eggleston's notes duplicate more thorough notes that were made by the investigators who conducted the interviews.

The documentation of the interviews made by the investigators themselves have been turned over to Congress, he added. He said the House committee has known for weeks that the White House has been unable to find Eggleston's notes, and has chosen to make an issue of the missing notes now for political purposes.

"If these notes were original materials, that might be one thing," Fabiani said. "But these are notes related to how the GAO investigated the matter, and they [the House committee's investigators] have all the GAO materials. When you get down to it, the committee already has 41,000 documents and now they are manufacturing document disputes."

The White House averted a contempt-of-Congress showdown with the House over the congressional probe Thursday when it provided a batch of some 1,000 travel office documents and a log of 2,000 others that Clinton still is seeking to hold back under executive privilege.

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