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D'Amato Accepts Condition on Clinton Notes


WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Whitewater investigating committee took a step Saturday that could eventually help resolve a dispute over presidential notes the committee has subpoenaed.

But Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) said his committee still intends for the moment to proceed with plans to go to court to challenge President Clinton's refusal to turn over the notes.

"There'll be no more delays," he said.

D'Amato, in a television interview, said he would write a letter to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr urging him to agree that the release of the notes would not constitute a waiver of the president's right to assert attorney-client privilege in the future--a condition D'Amato himself has accepted.

"I would be willing to send a letter saying we do not feel that there would be any waiver of any privilege, that the administration's turning over the notes would not be deemed a waiver in our eyes. And we would urge that he would accept the same position," D'Amato said.


But D'Amato insisted that he would not accede to a White House demand that he wait for Starr's agreement before proceeding with plans to seek court enforcement of his committee's subpoena.

"I'm not going to go along with the idea that we need his [Starr's] or anybody else's approval. We are entitled to the truth. . . . We are not going to slow down on moving ahead" with plans to seek a court challenge, D'Amato said.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the committee's request to seek a court order to compel the president to comply with the subpoena.

At the White House, D'Amato's offer was greeted cautiously. White House special counsel Mark D. Fabiani, the president's chief spokesman on Whitewater matters, would describe it only as "a step in the right direction."

But later, White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said in a televised interview that if all parties to the Whitewater matter agreed the submission of notes would not constitute a waiver of Clinton's attorney-client privilege, "those notes will be in the possession of the committee in a nanosecond."

At issue in the dispute are notes made by then-White House counsel William Kennedy during a Nov. 5, 1993, meeting attended by seven private and government attorneys working for the president and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Republicans suspect that the attorneys plotted during that meeting to impede several government investigations of matters related to Whitewater, the Clintons' Arkansas land deal.

But White House officials insist that the notes contain no incriminating evidence. They say they are simply protecting them to preserve the president's right to communicate privately with his lawyers. If that right is waived now, White House lawyers say, the president would not be able to claim it in other instances in this case.

In interviews with the Associated Press and CNN, D'Amato said he was optimistic--but could not guarantee--that Starr would accept the condition.

"I think there might be a good chance," he said.


D'Amato said he had only recently learned that Starr also had subpoenaed the notes.

Starr is investigating issues similar to those the committee is studying, including whether presidential aides broke any laws by obtaining confidential investigative information or whether they tried to impede the investigation into the Whitewater venture.

Fabiani noted that the White House wants the agreement on the attorney-client issue to be accepted not only by Starr, but also by the House Banking Committee, which has also been investigating Whitewater.

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