Senate Republicans raised a new charge Wednesday in their inquiry into White House use of FBI background files, claiming that they have found a six-month gap in a daily log showing who had examined the sensitive materials.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called the gap troubling and asked former White House aide D. Craig Livingstone to explain missing entries in the log between March 29, 1994, and Sept. 21, 1994.
Livingstone, who resigned under fire earlier this year as chief of the White House Office of Personnel Security, denied that any pages of the document were removed before it was furnished under subpoena to Senate investigators recently.
“There was a period of time evidently that the log wasn’t kept,” Livingstone testified.
Hatch and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said that the gap raises questions about whether unidentified White House political aides had checked out some FBI background files from Livingstone’s office to find adverse information on officials of past Republican administrations. But Livingstone said that he was never asked to furnish such opposition research on anyone and does not believe that the files ever were used for that purpose.
He blamed the gap on failure by a former assistant, Mari Anderson, to keep the log current. Hatch said that Anderson cannot be located by federal marshals seeking to serve her with a subpoena for Senate testimony.
Explaining the log, Livingstone said that files often were checked out by the White House counsel’s office in connection with routine security questions.
Congressional committees have been investigating why Livingstone and Anthony Marceca, a former political operative and Pentagon detailee, obtained more than 900 FBI files on past employees of mainly Republican administrations. The White House has called the operation “a bureaucratic snafu” that stemmed from using out-of-date Secret Service lists of administration employees in an effort to update security clearances on government employees.
Shortly before Wednesday’s hearing, White House special counsel Mark D. Fabiani told reporters that a newly discovered Secret Service access list compiled on June 10, 1993--five months after President Clinton took office--still contained the names of many past GOP White House officials, including John H. Sununu, Brent Scowcroft, Samuel Skinner and Margaret Tutwiler.
Fabiani said that the list was furnished to the White House only this week by the office of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, which had obtained it from the FBI as part of his inquiry into the files matter.
According to Fabiani, the document is further proof of “what the White House has said all along: the files were mistakenly sought as the result of a bureaucratic blunder.”
Hatch, however, insisted that “what list Anthony Marceca was using is irrelevant.”
“Marceca knew at the time he ordered FBI files that the lists he was using were over-inclusive,” Hatch said. “What use were the files put to?”
Hatch acknowledged that Congress has “not uncovered conclusive evidence” that any FBI files were used for political purposes. But circumstantial evidence has resulted in “a very heavy shadow of suspicion” hanging over the White House, he said.
With Congress planning to wrap up its current session shortly, the future of its FBI files investigation remains uncertain. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) charged that the only reason for Wednesday’s hearing was “the political silly season” of the presidential election campaign.