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White House Releases Video Of Clinton Coffee Talks

'Clinton Fundraising' graphic

GOP: Tapes Should Have Been Turned Over Months Ago

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 5) -- The White House Sunday afternoon released videotaped footage of President Bill Clinton meeting with campaign contributors who were invited to a series of controversial White House coffees during the 1996 campaign.

Administration officials said there was nothing in the tapes that would contradict the White House's long-standing assertion that there were no direct solicitations made for campaign contributions during those coffees.

The White House says the existence of the tapes, made by White House camera crews, was uncovered just last week. They were then turned over to investigators from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which is probing campaign finance irregularities.

Watch some of the December 15, 1995 "coffee talks"
860 KB/21 sec./240x180
644 KB/21 sec./160x120
QuickTime movies

But the revelation of the existence of the tapes angered some Republicans, who contend that they should have been turned over to Senate and House investigators when subpoenas were issued months ago for materials related to White House fund-raising activities.

"With the White House not turning over evidence again and again, I think you really may have crossed the line of obstruction of justice," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., on CNN's "Late Edition with Frank Sesno." "If (the tapes are) so innocent, why didn't we have them a long time ago?"

"That's information that we should have gotten from our subpoenas in the first place. And we didn't even know about them, and that really bothers me," said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., on "Fox News Sunday."

"We're going to check very thoroughly into the logs at the White House to make sure that we get all of those videotapes," said Burton, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is also holding hearings into 1996 campaign finance irregularities.

From the videotape

CNN has learned that the videotapes surfaced after Senate investigators sent word to the White House that they had learned some of the coffees had been taped.

The White House Communications Office searched its database of tapes using the word "coffees," which turned up the tapes. Earlier searches using the names of people who attended the coffees did not turn up any tapes, a White House official told CNN.

The more than three dozen tapes do not show Clinton actually having coffee with his guests. Rather, they show him meeting and mingling with them before the coffees began.

Senate investigators confirmed to CNN that at one point in the tapes, a guest can be heard offering a check to Donald Fowler, then chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Fowler could be heard telling the guest that accepting a check then would be inappropriate and that someone would be in touch at a later time about the contribution.

While conceding that many of the people invited to these coffees had given money to the DNC or the president's re-election campaign, the White House has always maintained that no direct solicitations were made at these events and that money didn't change hands inside the White House.

On Friday, Attorney General Janet Reno said that the coffees, and a similar series of sleepovers in the White House by contributors, did not violate federal law.

However, before making her ruling, Reno and Justice Department officials did not review the tapes of the coffees unearthed last week. Republicans are citing that omission as evidence that Reno's review of Clinton's fund-raising activities has not been thorough enough.

On many of the tapes, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes can be seen hovering near the president as he greeted guests. Ickes is scheduled to testify Tuesday before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and a committee spokesman told CNN hat excerpts from those tapes will be featured during Ickes' testimony.

CNN White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.

In Other News:

Weekend Oct. 4 & 5, 1997

Poll: Gore Leads Democrats But Would Lose To Powell
Gore Challenges GOP On Campaign Finance
White House Releases Video Of Clinton Coffee Talks
Clinton To Use Line-Item Veto On Military Projects

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