PARTNERS IN CRIME

A Clinton Scandals Primer

           Dirty trickster Livingstone's role in obtaining the files has been well publicized. Less well-known, however, is that Livingstone was seen by a Secret Security agent on the morning after Vince Foster's suicide carrying boxes of documents from the vicinity of Foster's office--and that he later tried to learn the name of the agent who'd spotted him. Dennis Martin, a 21-year veteran of the Secret Service and a former White House deputy branch commander, swore last summer in an affidavit to Senate Whitewater investigators that he had received a phone call at his home from Livingstone in February 1994, soon after a Whitewater special prosecutor was first named. According to Martin, Livingstone told him that "some officer IDed [Livingstone] coming out of the West Wing [where Foster's office was located] and it was a concern of his... [Livingstone] went on to ask me who I think the officer is and I said, 'I can't discuss anything about this.'"

           Now we've learned that nearly a year before the Filegate affair gave the hitherto anonymous Livingstone his 15 minutes of fame, he'd been collecting money for a legal defense fund. Wally Chalmers, a Washington lobbyist and former top Democratic National Committee staffer, sent a letter to Democrats soliciting contributions for the defense fund, and a November 16, 1995 fundraiser netted an additional $3,600, bringing the total Chalmers helped raise to some $8,000. Chalmers told a Washington Post columnist that "Livingstone needed representation in connection with investigations into Vince Foster's death and the White House travel office firings." Although the law requires filing with the Office of Government Ethics for a legal defense fund on behalf of a presidential appointee like Livingstone, that office has no record of any such filing.

           Livingstone clearly has some powerful protectors. He received a 40 percent pay hike in under three years, from $45,000 when he began to $63,750 by the time he resigned under fire--and this at a time when the White House was cutting staff by 25 percent and many others were taking pay cuts.

           It took the White House weeks to come up with an answer to the simple question: Who hired Craig Livingstone? Livingstone himself told a House panel that he was hired by William Kennedy III, a former partner in Little Rock's Rose Law Firm--in which Hillary Clinton had been a partner--who was associate White House counsel under Foster, the Rose firm's guiding eminence. Kennedy had to resign from the White House under a cloud when it became public that he'd made the calls siccing the FBI on the seven fired White House Travel Office employees to cover up the political machinations that had led to their decapitations. But the White House, after weeks of dithering, now says that Livingstone was actually hired by Foster, who understandably has had no comment.

           Kennedy may have technically signed off on the hiring of Livingstone, but as he testified to House investigators, Livingstone had already been slotted for the job by the time Kennedy took up his White House post. Former FBI agent Gary Aldrich, in a seriously flawed book flecked with unsubstantiated rumors and skewed by reactionary prejudices against the lifestyles of younger Clinton aides, says that when he protested the hiring of the unqualified Livingstone to Kennedy, Kennedy replied that nothing could prevent it because "Hillary wants it." On this precise point, Aldrich's version is confirmed in sworn testimony to Congressional investigators by FBI agent Dennis Schulimbrene, then Aldrich's partner, who was present for the conversation.

          

           The atmosphere of paranoia that reigned in the White House when the Clintons took over radiated outward from the president and his wife. It was epitomized in the unprecedented ukase from Hillary's longtime friend, White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, ordering nonpolitical career employees--chefs, gardeners, secretaries, and the like, many of whom had served for decades--to fill out new questionnaires detailing their political affiliations and membership in civic organizations. Even the Nixon administration never went that far.

           The scandal over the White House's illegal acquisition of FBI files would never have been uncovered but for that prime example of Clintonoid paranoia: the Travelgate affair. It was, after all, the discovery of former Travel Office Director Billy Dale's FBI file in papers obtained by House Travelgate investigators that finally forced the White House to admit that it had obtained at least 700 other FBI files.

           Dale and the six other fired Travel Office staffers were victims of that paranoia and of a naked patronage grab. Even during the Clinton transition, the Travel Office staffers began hearing from the press corps that Clinton operatives were taking soundings as to what would happen if staffers were replaced. Unless it was for just cause, newsies warned the Clintonoids, there'd be trouble.

           Only nine days after Bill Clinton took office, his close friend Harry Thomason received a memo from Thomason's business partner in TRM, an Arkansas-based aviation consulting firm, urging Thomason to use his Clinton connection to get business for TRM. Thomason and his wife, Linda, were close friends of the Clintons, especially of Hillary, and as the producers of several hugely popular TV sitcoms, they provided the Clintons with entrée to Hollywood, helping them raise millions in campaign contributions from the entertainment industry.

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