Committee Snubs White House Offer Senate Panel Orders Lawyer to Hand over Whitewater Notes Today

Article excerpt

The Senate Whitewater Committee rejected a last-minute White House compromise Thursday and set a deadline of today for a former presidential aide to turn over notes of a Whitewater meeting.

Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., the committee chairman, said Thursday that President Bill Clinton's offer had too many conditions attached.

The GOP-led committee then voted 10-8, along party lines, to order William Kennedy, a former White House associate counsel, to hand over by 9 a.m. today his notes from a Whitewater meeting among four presidential aides and three of Clinton's private attorneys on Nov. 5, 1993. If Kennedy refuses, the panel will vote to enforce the subpoena, essentially asking the Senate to challenge Clinton's administration in court. The full Senate could vote on the matter as early as Tuesday.

Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton argue that they have the right to keep the notes confidential because the meeting was protected by attorney-client privilege.

In its compromise offer, the White House said it would turn over Kennedy's notes and allow senators to question the four aides if the committee agreed to five conditions.

The key conditions were that the Clintons' private attorneys could not be questioned, that the committee would have to agree the meeting was privileged and that senators would have to get other investigative bodies, including Whitewater prosecutors, to agree to the terms.

"Our concern about disclosing the. . .notes has not had to do with the notes themselves, but instead the possibility that disclosure would result in an argument that there had been a waiver - in whole or in part - of the president's privileged relationship with counsel," wrote Jane C. Sherburne, a White House special counsel, in a letter faxed Thursday morning to the committee.

The offer got a chilly response from Republicans. The committee has a right to information about the meeting "with no strings attached," D'Amato said. He called the offer "an attempt to fool the public. They are stalling for time."

The White House and committee Democrats charged that the Republicans realize that the notes contain no "smoking gun" and in turning down the offer were proving that their true aim was to harm Clinton politically. …