Burton Pushed toward New Vote on Immunity

By Akers, Mary Ann | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 6, 1998 | Go to article overview

Burton Pushed toward New Vote on Immunity


Akers, Mary Ann, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


GOP leaders late yesterday pressured Rep. Dan Burton to continue his battle with the White House to win immunity for four crucial witnesses in his campaign-finance probe, hours after he announced plans to give up his fight.

Publicly, leaders accused the White House of hiding the truth and attacking the messenger - in this case, Mr. Burton.

"There's been a routine process by this White House to cover up the truth by attacking people looking into illegality," said House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

But privately, Republican leaders criticized Mr. Burton for his handling of the probe, an investigation that has been plagued by embarrassing missteps along the way - from mistaken identities of key witnesses to the latest problem of releasing edited transcripts of the jailhouse conversations of Webster L. Hubbell, a former top Justice Department official and friend of the Clintons.

Early yesterday, Mr. Burton said he would give up on a plan to vote today on immunity for the four witnesses, instead asking another committee to take over. But GOP leaders persuaded him to try again next week.

Even though they know the plan will fail, aides said the second vote would give Republicans an opportunity to try to embarrass congressional Democrats and attack the president.

On the other side, Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the senior Democrat on Mr. Burton's panel, renewed his attacks on the chairman of the House Goverment Reform and Oversight Committee.

"Things shouldn't be taken out of context. They shouldn't be censored and cut, doctored really," Mr. Waxman told reporters. He said he is planning to introduce a resolution today calling on Mr. Burton to recuse himself from the campaign-finance investigation.

Committee Democrats have vowed they will not go along with grants of immunity to the four witnesses as long as Mr. Burton is chairman.

Mr. Burton, still reeling from criticism over calling Mr. Clinton a "scumbag" in a newspaper interview, is on increasingly shaky ground since the release of the Hubbell tapes, with some Republicans anonymously criticizing him.

In a letter to other House Republicans, obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mr. Burton apologized for the Hubbell tape release. "Although the vast majority of the material was completely accurate, some mistakes and omissions were made. . . . I take responsibility for those mistakes. …

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