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President Clinton to Hold News Conference Amid Controversy About Willey Letters, Missing E-Mails

Aired March 29, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: There's a presidential news conference this hour. Mr. Clinton will be in the East Room of the White House in just a moments, and he will have a statement and be taking questions from reporters.

With just 10 months left in the Oval Office, look for the president to press Congress on a handful of issues Mr. Clinton considers critical. CNN White House correspondent John King joins us to tell us a little bit about we're about to hear -- what we're about to hear -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the president hoping to make his case for what he wants the Congress to do in the months ahead. Look for it to sound quite familiar: calling for passage of what the president will call common-sense gun control legislation, a health care patients' bill of right. We're told the president will also applaud the Congress for acting in a bipartisan manner to pass that lifting of the so-called "Social Security earnings test." He will promise to sign that legislation.

And he will also applaud the OPEC oil cartel for deciding to increase production. Mr. Clinton will make the case that it was U.S. diplomacy that led to that decision and that down the road a bit U.S. consumers will get a bit of a break at the gas pump.

Some ghosts, if you will, haunting the president as he speaks to reporters today, a federal judge earlier today suggesting that perhaps the president had committed a violation of the Privacy Act when he released some correspondence from Kathleen Willey. You might remember from the Monica Lewinsky investigation, Ms. Willey, a former White House worker who had accused the president of sexual advances against her, Mr. Clinton released some letters that he thought undermined her credibility. In one of the lawsuits against the administration, the judge saying the president should not have done that and knew better when he did that.

The White House has not responded to that ruling this morning. We're certain that will be one of the questions to come up here as the president tries to outline his agenda for this final congressional of his term in office -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, John King, along with us waiting for the president to appear in the East Room. The president also may be facing questions about missing White House e-mail, communications that may relate to the Monica Lewinsky matter and campaign finance irregularities.

CNN's Bob Franken is up on Capitol Hill. He joins us now with more about that -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, this is a story that has really come to the surface in the last couple of weeks, and what the story is, is that a computer glitch really stopped a lot of e-mail from being in fact reported from the White House computers. And it has raised suspicions that the White House in fact was aware of it and decided not to let anybody know that perhaps it was not fully compliant with subpoenas in the variety of investigations that have consumed this administration, including the Monica Lewinsky matter.

Now, there is another development, and that is that it was disclosed in a court hearing that one of the private contractors who was brought in had recorded some of these e-mails that had been lost on what's called a zip drive. The question now is whether the committee should have been told about that. And we've reviewed some of the testimony from that hearing. It seems to be inconclusive.

But all this raises suspicion among the president's adversaries that this is just another case of the White House trying to not comply with various subpoenas that it lawfully should have. The charge among the more extreme people is that there may have been obstruction of justice. The White House says it was all unintentional -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Bob Franken, up on Capitol Hill. Now you have a general idea of the fodder for reporters' questions at the presidential news conference just moments away. When it happens, we'll bring it to you live.

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