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White House, Congress Strike Deal On Documents

[Travelgate Investigation]

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 25) -- Averting a contempt of Congress vote for the second time, the White House agreed to turn over 2,000 remaining documents related to the travel office firings scandal, with certain conditions attached.

Having argued the documents are protected by executive privilege, the administration insisted that only a restricted congressional group may view the documents, and that copies may not be made. White House counsel Jack Quinn said President Bill Clinton's privilege had not been relinquished.

"We have found a way today to accommodate both the Congress' need" for the documents and to "continue to protect the president's interest in the confidentiality of these documents," Quinn told reporters, after meeting for 20 minutes with House Government Reform and Oversight Committee chairman Rep. William Clinger (R-Penn.).

[Quinn & Clinger]

Clinger told reporters at a press conference later that his committee would begin studying the documents for signs of wrongdoing this Thursday. Under the deal reached with Quinn, committee members can only take general notes, but if certain documents are related to the recently-surfaced FBI files flap, they would be "handed over immediately," Clinger said.

In the wake of revelations the White House improperly collected FBI background reports, and possibly tax information as well, on some 400 individuals, Republicans in Congress had turned up the heat. They had threatened a contempt of Congress vote by Thursday unless the administration delivered the remaining papers related to the firing of seven longtime travel office workers.

Having demanded all Travelgate documents for months, Clinger's committee brought a contempt of Congress resolution to the House floor last month. Avoiding the vote, the White House agreed to provide 1,000 documents, but had held onto the other 2,000.

Quinn was named in the contempt citation along with former aide David Watkins, which carries up to $1,000 in fines and one year in prison. Today, Quinn said the documents were being made available "to make the American people understand that there's nothing being hidden here."

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