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Morris Denies Linking FBI Files to First Lady

Congress: He discussed the issue with a prostitute but had 'no personal knowledge' that Mrs. Clinton requested the data, ex-advisor tells panel.

September 10, 1996|ROBERT L. JACKSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Dick Morris, the former presidential advisor who resigned in disgrace last month, told congressional investigators Monday he had "no personal knowledge" that First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was linked to White House requests for FBI files.

Responding to claims attributed to the diary of a prostitute with whom he had a relationship, Morris said in a sworn statement that he had discussed the FBI files matter with Sherry Rowlands, but told her in substance only that "everyone thinks it's Hillary."

"I have no personal knowledge or information from any source whatsoever as to who was responsible for ordering the FBI files, or the use to which such files were put on receipt by White House personnel," Morris said in his statement.

The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee has been investigating why Clinton aides in 1993 and 1994 obtained more than 700 FBI background files on employees of past administrations, most of whom were Republicans. The White House has insisted that its office of security was working from inaccurate lists of holdover employees who required security clearances and that the effort inadvertently went awry.

Morris said Monday that he was relating to Rowlands only "who the public believed was responsible . . . based on polling data I had recently analyzed."

His response was demanded by Rep. William F. Clinger (R-Pa.), head of the committee, after the Star, a supermarket tabloid, reported that Rowlands' diary alleged Morris had told her in June that Mrs. Clinton had ordered the files delivered to the White House early in the Clinton presidency.

Morris resigned Aug. 29 as President Clinton's top political strategist when he learned the tabloid was about to disclose his relationship with Rowlands, whom the Star paid for her story.

Clinger, in releasing Morris' statement, said: "None of the excuses or denials offered by the White House have explained why hundreds of FBI files were requisitioned, and Dick Morris' statement doesn't get us any closer to finding out the truth.

"In fact, this is just another in a long line of denials of involvement by the president or the first lady in the investigations of the travel office and FBI files matters," Clinger said. His committee also is looking into the firing of seven employees of the White House travel office in the early days of the Clinton presidency.

Clinton's reelection committee had said earlier Monday that Morris was denying Rowlands' claim that he had made the comments she attributed to him. Joe Lockhart, a campaign spokesman, told reporters that Morris had phoned Peter Knight, the Clinton-Gore campaign manager, "and specifically denied that he ever told anyone that Mrs. Clinton was involved in the FBI files."

A spokesman for the first lady also denied the truthfulness of the account and denounced the tabloid for publishing it.

"Mrs. Clinton has been asked about this [FBI files controversy] many times and has always said she knew nothing about that," spokesman Neel Lattimore said.

White House Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta added over the weekend that Morris has indicated "there was no truth to this story." Panetta said it was up to Morris to decide how to deal with Clinger's request, but "I would hope he would cooperate the same way we cooperated."

He was referring to White House statements that it has fully cooperated with Clinger's investigations into the FBI files and the 1993 firings of the travel office employees. Presidential aides have turned over thousands of pages of internal memorandums. In addition, several aides have testified.

But Clinger has contended the documents were furnished only after congressional threats of a contempt citation.

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