By Charles R. Babcock
Congressional Republicans spent much of last year seeking to uncover that information as part of their investigations of whether the Clinton White House gave unprecedented access to Democratic contributors.
Now, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr is seeking similarly detailed records about Clinton and is subpoenaing some of the same witnesses, such as deputy assistant to the president Nancy Hernreich, presidential secretary Betty Currie and the president's former personal aide, Stephen Goodin.
But while congressional investigators were asking about foreign donors and White House fund-raising phone calls, Starr's probe centers on more personal questions: Did former intern Monica S. Lewinsky visit Clinton alone in the Oval Office? Did she speak with him on the phone late at night? Did he counsel her to return gifts he had given her? All are allegations that surfaced in secret tape-recordings of Lewinsky.
It is not clear how much success Starr has had in collecting information from the White House that would shed light on those questions. But several of the witnesses before the federal grand jury here in the last few weeks have said Starr's prosecutors spent a lot of time questioning them about the layout of the West Wing offices and who would be in a position to see Oval Office comings and goings.
A draft copy of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's final report on its fund-raising investigation, while complaining that the White House tried to "obstruct" the panel's efforts by withholding documents, details how extensive the Clinton record-keeping process is.
The most complete record, the report by the committee's GOP majority says, is the chronological log compiled by Ellen McCathran, an employee of the National Archives who is called the "presidential diarist."
To make the diary, she uses annotated records of who meets with the president in the Oval Office, movement logs kept by the Secret Service, trip books if he is overseas, usher's logs for who is visiting the White House residence, two sets of phone logs, and the WAVES logs of who enters the White House. (WAVES stands for Workers and Visitors Entrance System.)
McCathran said last night in a telephone interview she does not recall having seen Lewinsky's name on any of the logs.
The Senate GOP report notes that a second "diary-type document" is kept by White House aide Janis Kearney. The existence of Kearney's "chronicles," which she started keeping in late 1995 -- the same time Lewinsky was hired as a White House legislative affairs aide -- was not disclosed to the committee until December, a few weeks before the investigation ended.
Hernreich, Clinton's longtime personal aide from his days as governor in Arkansas and self-described "gatekeeper" to the Oval Office, works closely with McCathran and Kearney, according to Senate committee records. McCathran said in a deposition to the panel that Hernreich forwarded to her office phone logs prepared by White House operators and the White House Communications Agency. The logs are not generated from a computer, but are typed manually, the diarist said. Kearney works directly for Hernreich.
Hernreich has been subpoenaed to testify before the Starr grand jury, but has not yet appeared. McCathran said she has not been subpoenaed.
Michael Madigan, chief counsel of the Governmental Affairs Committee, said yesterday that Starr should have more luck than Congress in getting documentary evidence out of the White House. "It's highly likely that there are extensive records that have never yet seen the light of day," said Madigan. "A grand jury subpoena and the means to enforce it quickly could yield a lot of information which has not yet been produced to Congress."
Jim Kennedy, a spokesman for White House counsel Charles F.C. Ruff,said the counsel's office turned over some 120,000 pages of documents to the Senate committee in response to nearly 300 requests. "I don't think a White House in history has been so open with an investigating committee and provided so much information," Kennedy said.
Kennedy declined to discuss what document requests Starr's office has made about meeting and phone logs or to explain whether the White House phone system creates a record of local as well as long distance calls.
In some past investigations of the White House, documents were key to detailing officials' actions. In the Iran-contra inquiry during the second Reagan administration, for example, National Security Council aides thought they had deleted incriminating e-mail messages from their computers. But an expert was able to recreate the so-called PROF-notes from a mainframe computer. This gave investigators a contemporaneous account of Oliver L. North's reports to his boss, national security adviser John Poindexter.
Starr's investigators are likely to be seeking records that would document reports that Lewinsky visited the White House 37 times after she moved to a Pentagon job in April 1996, often cleared in by Currie. In a deposition, Currie told Senate investigators that she "rarely" cleared anyone in to see the president.
Also of interest to Starr would be any records documenting Lewinsky visits to the Oval Office, phone calls between her and the president, or other phone calls Clinton may have made at key moments, such as on the evening of Jan. 17 after he reportedly was asked detailed questions about Lewinsky during a deposition in Paula Jones's sexual harassment civil suit. Clinton reportedly called Currie at home and asked her to come in the next day to discuss his recollection of Lewinsky's visits.
While WHCA destroys its records of the president's White House phone calls after 60 days, McCathran told the Senate investigators that she keeps her copies of the phone records. The "core of the diary," she said, consists of Oval Office logs of the president's meetings, which are annotated to record changes in his schedule by the president's personal aide. The current aide, Kris Engskov, has testified before the grand jury; the former aide, Goodin, was subpoenaed this week.
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