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Clinton: Delayed Release Of Tapes Was Accidental

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WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 6) -- President Bill Clinton said today the discovery and delayed release of dozens of White House videotapes of controversial coffees for Democratic party contributors was a simple and innocent accident.

"All I can tell you is that as soon as I found about it late last week, I said, 'Get this out and let's go on.' And you can view the tapes and draw your own conclusions," Clinton said. (544K wav sound)

The White House on Sunday afternoon released videotaped footage of Clinton meeting with campaign contributors who were invited to a series of White House coffees during the 1996 campaign. Administration officials said there was nothing in the tapes that would suggest the president or vice president did anything illegal or wrong.

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Still, it's an embarrassment for the White House, and could get worse as furious Republicans throw around terms like "obstruction of justice." Attorney General Janet Reno and her embattled Justice Department investigators are also reportedly angry and embarrassed that the White House waited so long to give them the tapes.

Aides are worried that the disclosure will put added pressure on Reno to call for an independent counsel. Only Friday, she said that the coffees needed no further investigation.

For months, congressional and Justice Department investigators have been asking whether any tapes existed. They were told none did. But last Wednesday, the White House says it found 44 tapes, and officials now say there may be a lot more. They say they are going through them now.

The president defended his administration's cooperation with all fund-raising investigations, saying that more than 100,000 documents alone have been turned over to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

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Clinton said, "My guess is the White House Communications Agency just took some footage that the rest of the staff was unaware of and didn't think about it either."

The man responsible for organizing the fund-raisers, former Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, insists that's very possible. "I do know there are a lot of things going on in the White House," he told CNN this morning. "I can't help but think this is totally inadvertent.

"The left hand probably didn't know what the right had was doing on some of the subpoenas and also they've had so many subpoenas in the White House and so many document requests, and they've had to go through so many documents it's not unusual to have overlooked something," Ickes said.

But Republicans aren't buying that.

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Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said, "The fact is this looks like they are skating on pretty thin ice and whether they are going to be suspected of obstructing justice will have to be decided."

Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson said in a statement, "What we may have here is a deliberate cover-up, and a stonewalling not just of the Justice Department but of congressional committees as well."

Nicholson singled out a 60-second audio gap in one of the scenes, suggesting it may have shown controversial fund-raiser John Huang making a campaign contribution solicitation. But the White House said it was an editing error, and the full version would be released later today.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.

In Other News:

Monday Oct. 6, 1997

Clinton: Delayed Release Of Tapes Was Accidental
The Coffee Tapes
Ickes Could Be A Tough Witness
Clinton Uses Line-Item Veto On Military Projects
Clinton Says Climate Change Risk Is Real
Supreme Court Hears Credit Union Case





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