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Lawmaker Suggests Obstruction in Late Delivery of Memo on White House Database

By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 31, 1997; Page A08

A key House investigator said yesterday he suspects the White House counsel's office of obstructing justice by withholding a memo suggesting that President Clinton wanted to share a taxpayer-funded database with the Democratic Party, a violation of federal law.

Rep. David M. McIntosh (R-Ind.), who has been leading an investigation into the "White House database" for more than a year, said the counsel's office had had the memo since September 1996, but that "somebody, a senior official at the White House, made a decision not to give it to us."

"This means I'm going to have to open another investigation about obstruction of justice," McIntosh said. "We will also have to reopen investigations into some areas where we had concluded there was no wrongdoing."

In a letter Tuesday to McIntosh, White House counsel Charles F.C. Ruff acknowledged tardiness in providing the memo, but blamed it on an attorney in his office who found the memo while reviewing documents that were originally deemed "not responsive" to McIntosh's investigation.

Earlier this year, the White House provided documents from longtime Clinton aide Marsha Scott suggesting ways that the White House database – used for guest lists and correspondence – might serve to track major donors to the Democratic Party or could even be turned over to the Democratic National Committee.

White House spokesman Barry Toiv insisted at the time that "every White House invites supporters and maintains lists," and that the database, completed at a cost to taxpayers of $1.7 million, had never been used for political purposes and simply served to keep track of the correspondence and visits of several hundred thousand people. Toiv said yesterday that the memo given to McIntosh this week is "perfectly consistent with what we have said earlier about the database."

The new memo, received Tuesday by McIntosh's Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee, contains a few lines of undated handwritten notes from what appears to have been a meeting among several White House staff members.

"Harold and Debra DeLee want to make sure WhoDB is integrated w/DNC database – so we can share," the top line says. "Harold" apparently refers to former White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes. Debra DeLee is the former executive director of the Democratic National Committee, and "WhoDB" refers to the White House database.

The next line says "evidently POTUS wants this to! (Makes sense)." POTUS is the White House abbreviation for "President of the United States."

McIntosh described the memo as "the strongest evidence to date about the president's intention to use the database for political purposes." Using taxpayer-funded property for partisan activity is a violation of federal law.

McIntosh's subcommittee began investigating the White House database in mid-1996, long before the full Government Reform and Oversight Committee opened its current probe into fund-raising abuses during the 1996 campaign.

Troubled by the White House's slow pace in producing requested documents, McIntosh and other subcommittee members wrote Clinton in August, threatening a subpoena.

Ruff said in his letter that his staff had begun reviewing McIntosh's earlier requests and discovered that several documents from Marsha Scott's files "had, in fact, been found in September, 1996" but "had not been produced at that time because they were not believed to be responsive to that request."

Instead, he continued, "they were placed in folders" and given to the attorney with responsibility for responding to McIntosh's probe. The attorney "did not examine the contents of those folders, however, until last week."

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post

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