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Independent counsel: No evidence to warrant prosecution against first lady in 'filegate'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The final report on the so-called "filegate" scandal was unsealed Friday by a federal appeals court, and Whitewater Independent Counsel Robert Ray said the report shows no evidence of misconduct by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton or former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum.

Nussbaum, President Clinton and the first lady had been the subject of an investigation looking into whether they had sought confidential FBI background checks of former GOP White House personnel.

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In March, CNN reported that Ray's final report, then under seal, concluded there was no credible evidence of wrongdoing by the first lady or President Clinton in the "filegate" investigation.

In Friday's statement, Ray says, "The Final Report in the FBI files matter concludes that there was no substantial and credible evidence that any senior White House official, or First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, was involved in seeking confidential Federal Bureau of Investigation background reports of former White House staff from prior administrations of President Bush and President Reagan."

In a separate report, Ray says there was no credible evidence to contradict Nussbaum's testimony to Congress that he had not discussed hiring Craig Livingstone as director of the White House Office of Personnel Security with the first lady.

Ray concluded that there was no personal relationship between the first lady and Livingstone that might have formed the basis for her involvement in the hiring of Livingstone. He found no evidence to corroborate an FBI document that said Nussbaum had told the FBI that Livingstone came highly recommended by the first lady and that she knew Livingstone's mother.

Livingstone and the first lady had denied any such relationship under oath.

In a second report, Ray concludes there is insufficient evidence to prove that Anthony Marceca, who worked at the White House Office of Personnel Security, knowingly made any false statements to Congress with regard to why the files were requested.

1996 House probe

In 1996, a House Government Oversight and Reform Committee investigation reached a similar conclusion, although it blasted the Clinton White House for its "cavalier approach" to security.

The scandal, dubbed 'filegate' by some, grabbed the nation's attention when it was revealed that White House security officials had acquired about 900 FBI files -- including those of several prominent Republicans who served in the Bush and Reagan administrations.

The files reportedly spent a significant amount of time at the White House security office, and foes of the Clinton administration accused both the president and the first lady of ordering acquisition of the documents for political purposes.

Rep. William Clinger, R-Pennsylvania, then-chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, accused the administration of taking vital information from the files and entering it into a "political enemies" computer database.

Sworn statement

In July 1999, the first lady signed a sworn statement that said she never ordered anyone to request any files from the FBI, nor did she order any background checks on any operatives from previous administrations.

She also denied having anything to do with Livingstone's White House hiring.

Ray took over as independent counsel in the fall of 1999 after the resignation of Kenneth Starr, who held the post during President Clinton's House impeachment and subsequent trial in the Senate.

CNN National Correspondent Bob Franken and CNN Producer Tom Dunleavey contributed to this report.

 
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