White House Guards Records
By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 3, 1998; Page A07
Throughout last year's controversy over Democratic campaign fund-raising, the White House strategically released entry logs, telephone records, notes and other internal documents that may not have provided a flattering portrait of its activities but at least preempted congressional critics from putting the information out first.
In the two weeks since the furor erupted over whether President Clinton had a sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky and coached her to deny it under oath, the White House has assembled many of the same types of records and turned them over to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.
But information about White House visits and presidential phone calls that was made public last year is now being guarded with fierce protectiveness.
The change in strategy reflects the different nature of the perceived threat, according to White House officials. With the campaign finance imbroglio last year, Clinton aides viewed the matter largely in political terms. The idea was to release documents themselves to preempt congressional Republicans who likely would have leaked them the next day with their own spin on them, the president's advisers reasoned. With Lewinsky, they believe, the danger is legal and thus far more serious.
"They've been much more circumspect," White House press secretary Michael McCurry said of the lawyers who have controlled the flow of information.
Yet McCurry also said that White House officials are reluctant to provide specific information about Lewinsky unless they can then deal with the new inquiries it would generate. Releasing entry logs, for example, would only prompt questions about each visit and what it was about, he said.
"We have some of it [but] I don't know that we have all the follow-up questions," McCurry said. "That's the problem. It's not that we can't answer the first set of questions. It's the second, third, fourth and 10th set of questions that we can't answer. And then we'd be accused of being less than thorough and complete. And so not having a complete story, it's better to just lay back and wait."
As a result, though, other White House aides who have argued for greater disclosure fear that Clinton has suffered because he has not put out any version of the facts at all, leaving the public confused by reports without the full context in which to evaluate them. Key questions that presumably could be answered by White House documents have been left unaddressed in the public arena. Among them:
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