WASHINGTON — Republicans have agreed to a limited bipartisan inquiry into charges that Theodore B. Olson, President Bush's nominee to be solicitor general, was not truthful in testimony about his role in a controversial magazine investigation of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the committee, have agreed to investigate the matter, including interviewing witnesses, Leahy spokesman David Carle said Friday night.
Earlier this week, the Judiciary Committee deadlocked in a 9-9 vote on the Olson nomination, prompting Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to announce that he will try to force the nomination to the Senate floor through a "discharge" motion.
The scope of the inquiry is still being worked out, but Republicans agreed to at least a modest investigation to avoid what could prove to be a politically damaging debate over Olson. As solicitor general, he would argue on behalf of the United States before the Supreme Court.
Republicans appeared to have the votes to win approval of Olson, including at least one defector from Democratic ranks, Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, but Democrats expected to be able to mount more than 40 votes in opposition.
The Judiciary Committee became divided over Democratic complaints that Olson had not been completely forthcoming in his responses to questions about his involvement in American Spectator magazine's investigation into the Clintons' activities in Arkansas.
Olson was hired as a lawyer for the magazine in 1994 and joined its board in 1996. In his testimony to the committee, Olson said, "I was not involved in the [Arkansas] project in its origin or its management." In subsequent written answers to committee members' questions, Olson said he knew about the Spectator's stories but did "not recall giving any advice concerning the conduct of the project or its origins or management."