A draft summary of a confidential House Judiciary Committee report on the 1982 confrontation over Environmental Protection Agency documents charges that senior administration officials gave "false and misleading" documents and testimony to Congress and the federal courts, withheld critical information and misrepresented "key facts" of the controversy to the president.
The 1,200-page report on the 2 1/2-year congressional investigation of the fight between Congress and the Reagan administration over executive privilege has led some members of Congress to believe that an independent counsel is needed to look into the officials' conduct.
Many of the officials singled out for criticism in the summary have left the administration. One still in place is Deputy White House Counsel Richard A. Hauser.
The Judiciary Committee study was undertaken to determine whether the administration's claim of executive privilege during the controversy -- used to justify withholding documents on the $1.6 billion Superfund cleanup program from Congress -- was made in good faith.
A summary of the report, obtained by The Washington Post, concludes that Hauser "falsely certified . . . on Dec. 14, 1982, that he had reviewed all the identified documents withheld under executive privilege from the subcommittee. Hauser had not in fact reviewed -- or even received -- many of the withheld documents." Hauser did not respond yesterday to requests for comment but has denied any wrongdoing.
The summary concluded that former Assistant Attorney General Theodore B. Olson "gave false and misleading testimony at a Judiciary subcommittee hearing on March 10, 1983." In addition, it found that Olson urged President Reagan to invoke executive privilege in the case, saying that then-EPA Administrator Anne M. Burford agreed with the decision. In fact, she had not been consulted, the summary said.
Olson did not respond to a request for comment but previously denied any wrongdoing.
The summary also found that high-level Justice Department officials:
*"Gathered campaign contributor information on members of Congress in an attempt to insinuate -- possibly through leaks to the press -- that the members were misusing a congressional investigation to obtain enforcement-sensitive documents for the benefit of their constituents or political contributors."
*"Filed false and misleading documents with the U.S. District Court" considering issues in the controversy.
*Discussed opening a criminal investigation against Rita M. Lavelle, an assistant EPA administrator, as a justification for denying documents to Congress. Lavelle, convicted of perjury, was recently released from prison. There is no allegation that her investigation was actually initiated as a result of the earlier discussions.
*Deliberately blocked the current Judiciary Committee investigation into the executive privilege controversy. "The department deliberately, and without advising the committee, withheld a massive volume of handwritten notes and chronologies for more than a year."
According to the summary, those withheld notes were "extremely damaging to the department and some of its senior officials and there is evidence that senior officials reviewed the notes before they were withheld."
The executive privilege controversy led to widespread resignations and firings at the EPA while it was headed by Burford.
Judiciary Chairman Peter W. Rodino Jr. (D-N.J.), who conducted the investigation in extraordinary secrecy, has refused to comment on the report.
Rep. Mike Synar (D-Okla.), the only Judiciary member willing to speak on the record, would not discuss the report's content. But he said, "This is a serious report, a serious condemnation of the Justice Department."
One person familiar with the report said the administration should have realized from the start that the withheld documents were not subject to executive privilege: "They the administration were looking for a fight, looking for a confrontation, looking for a way to keep the legislative committees from getting information . . . Neither the president nor the attorney general nor the deputy attorney general had read the documents when they exercised executive privilege."
The report found that Carol E. Dinkins, who headed Justice's lands and natural resources division before being named deputy attorney general, certified that certain documents were being withheld because they contained sensitive criminal enforcement information, when in fact she knew there were "political references in the withheld documents" that were the subject of the congressional inquiry.
Dinkins, who resigned earlier this year, said yesterday, "I haven't seen the report. I don't see how I can comment."
Hauser, Dinkins, and Olson were among those representing Burford in late 1982 and early 1983 in the dispute over access to the documents by congressional subcommittees investigating management of the Superfund program for cleaning up hazardous waste dumps.
Burford was cited for contempt of Congress but resigned in March 1983, before she could be prosecuted. Another 21 EPA officials also resigned during the controversy.