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Mr. X, a private investigator who served both Presidents Bush and Clinton, gives a fascinating insider's view of the day-to-day workings of the White House. From the Chief of staff to the kitchen chef, from the Drug Czar to the custodians, Mr. X met and talked with them all and here reveals, in detail, how the Clinton administration turned the White House into "Animal House."
MEETING THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION
Rules for Radicals: "The ninth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical."
George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour: "Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company."
I returned to the White House on Monday, 25 January. I didn't attend the inauguration on the twentieth because I wasn't required to, and I knew it would be a traffic nightmare. The inauguration was on a Wednesday. I watched it on TV and took a few days off to get ready for the enormous workload I knew was ahead.
Driving in on I-66, I was thinking of the changes I might see at the White House: different faces, new friends, a whole new administration to get to know.
For more than three decades the FBI, the Secret Service, and the president's counsels had worked as a team to "clear" the hundreds of new staff members who come with a new president. It is a comprehensive and effective security system that has been perfected by six different presidents to protect national security, the president, thetaxpayer, and the White House itself.
This clearance process is accomplished through a lengthy FBIbackground investigation to document the good character of eachand every White House staff member, from the chief of staff rightŠdown to themost obscure messenger located far from the OvalOffice. In addition, the FBI clears all of the cabinet secretary positions,working with the U.S. Senate in the confirmation process.
As part of the permanent two-man FBI post in the White House,I was a key player in the SPIN Unit (or Special Inquiry Unit) teamresponsible for investigating the backgrounds of executive branchemployees and federal judges. My partner in the White Housepost, Special Agent Dennis Sculimbrene, and I were particularlyresponsible for anyone who would work in the White Housecomplex. That meant for anyone who might harm or embarrassthe president or compromise White House—indeed, national—security.
Our work was all about access. In order to get our job done weneeded unlimited access to the White House grounds, buildings, andoffice space, and to its several thousand permanent and politicalemployees.
Every one of the staff in the White House Office would be new,which meant hundreds of background investigations. There was alsothe Executive Office of the President, a collection of semipermanentagencies within the White House, including the Office of Managementand Budget (OMB) and the National Security Council (NSC).And though most of the civil servants in the permanent White Housestaff would remain in place, they too had to be re-cleared every fiveyears.
I spent more than two years in the Bush White House. Each monthmy partner and I were responsible for up to fifty investigations apiece.Each investigation was thorough, requiring at least seven interviews atthe White House, two record checks, and a letter-perfect ten-pagereport for the White House counsel.
We could never anticipate how long an interview would last. Manyof these people were meeting an FBI agent for the first time. Manywere being asked questions that nobody had ever asked them before.People going through an FBI investigation might be very afraid, andmany had good reason to fear us.
That's because many a hopeful staffer had made it all the way to the FBI interview, only to be discovered as a liar. Some lies—or some behavior openly confessed—justified barring a staffer from the White House.
An FBI background investigation is more extensive than any other—saveperhaps one conducted by the CIA. For lower level employees, we investigate the past fifteen years of their lives. For more senior employees, we investigate their entire adult lives—including all former employers and employment records. We also review college transcripts, interview representative professors, and investigate other material related to education. We also investigate any accusation or record of criminal wrongdoing and interview neighbors, friends, and associates of a potential employee.
There were very few limits—though some have lately, and wrongly, been imposed—on what we could, or were even obligated, to investigate. If we found character problems, we would often go beyond investigating the basics—like credit reports—to looking into phone logs, medical records, and other detailed reports that would help us decide whether a character problem would "wash out" or whether it was an indelible stain that the White House counsel needed to be aware of in order to protect the president and the presidency.
Up to one hundred agents could be assigned to a case, and interviews could be conducted worldwide. An FBI background investigation is no small undertaking. That's because it's so important.
The standards to which White House employees were held were certainly not unreasonable. The standards were well thought out and legal.
There are four key elements to a background investigation: character, associates, reputation, and loyalty, or CARL.
* Character—Good traits include honesty, integrity, work ethic, attitude, demeanor, and bearing. A bad character would be determined by finding that someone is dishonest, lacks integrity, is lazy, has been found guilty of criminal conduct, and so forth.
* Associates—An individual is assessed by the company he keeps. If a person is a doctor by day, he shouldn't hang out with drug traffickers by night. If a person is an FBI agent by day, he shouldn't socialize with criminals at night. If a man is married, he shouldn't spend his social time with single women. * Reputation—Most people make an enemy or two in the course of their lives, but if the overall impression of those who know a candidate is negative, additional investigation is needed to determine why. * Loyalty—When I first became an FBI agent, this meant loyalty to the United States, to the flag, and to the Constitution. Today, staffers often misinterpret it as loyalty to the president.
The FBI also investigates an applicant's dangerousness end suitability. * Dangerousness—The Secret Service is haunted by memories of the Kennedy assassination and other assassination attempts, and they take every precaution—not just with the outside world, but also with White House staff—to protect the president. The only way to predict human behavior—including possible dangerous behavior—is to know past behavior. Background investigations have always been the best available tool. Although FBI background investigations may be imperfect, they're the best means we have. Š * Suitability—Suitability includes verifying U.S. citizenship, education, skills, experience, and other factors that help predict whether a particular individual has the "right stuff" to be a government employee—paid out of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Finding evidence of an applicant's "suitability" was another part of our job.
The end result of all our work was the protection of the reputation and credibility of the president. With the arrival of a new administration, my assignment was to discover and document character flaws present in the new staff, if any, and to report them to the president—actually to the president's counsel through the SPIN Unit—though I knew from my days working in the Bush administration that the president often already knew the findings of the SPIN reports.
In the past I had been aware of the careful way new people were selected. Nobody wanted to recommend the wrong people, because if they "crashed and burned" it would reflect badly not only on them, but on the president as well.
But we were already off to a bad start. There were about seventy days between the election and the inauguration—sufficient time to complete a large number of SPIN cases. But for some reason, there weren't many cases coming in.
The only big influx of cases had been at Christmas, when numerous cabinet-level and other appointments were dumped into the system after these appointments had already been made public—the reverse of normal procedure. Some of these cases—which included cabinet choices such as Zoe Baird, Les Aspin, Warren Christopher, Bruce Babbitt, Alice Rivlin, Mike Espy, and Robert Woolsey—required the completion of a hundred or more items of investigation, including anywhere from thirty-five to fifty complex personal interviews each (more than six hundred total). We were ordered to complete these investigations and type our reports letter-perfect in an average of only four calendar days!
A fairly routine process became a crisis. Our first problem was that these people needed to be located so they could be interviewed. But it was Christmastime and, having received their invitation to the ball, many of the new big players were off to their ski chalet or to the islands. FBI investigation? Oh, yeah, I forgot.
And persons who knew them well—character witnesses—had to be found and interviewed. Where were these people during the holidays?
All of this chaos was so unnecessary and it eventually caused the administration so much trouble that there seemed to be only three possible explanations, all very disturbing.
The administration was being managed by people so disorganized that they could not conform to basic procedures essential to the administration's own effectiveness.Š Or key people in the administration had simply decided that the security procedures were not important and were taking a "so what" attitude toward possible scandal, embarrassment, or worse.
Or key people in the administration were so actively hostile to the background investigation process that they wanted to guarantee we wouldn't have enough time to perform adequate checks and follow up on allegations. This might be because some people in the administration had serious matters to hide. Or it might simply be because people in the administration were instinctively hostile to authority figures of all types and to all those regular procedures, customs, and standards by which high-level organizations, whether in the White House or the corporate board room, avoid even the appearance of impropriety, scandal, or just loose practices. Like the Clintons, I'd lived through the 1960s and I knew there were a lot of people whostill thought like that—who thought it was oppressive to have to weara tie, show up to work on time, restrain their bad language or rawemotions, or even obey the law. As an FBI agent, I knew that oftenspelled trouble. People who were hostile to the normal, law-abidingworld and its standards were often also hostile to normal, law-abidingmorality and ethics. And those were the sort of people who mightbring embarrassment to the White House.
But whatever the reason, this sudden dumping of names into theSPIN process put us investigators in an impossible situation, and theunavoidable aftermath was not long in coming. Clinton's inaugurationcoincided with his withdrawal of Zoe Baird as his nominee forthe slot of attorney general (AG). It seemed she'd employed an illegalalien as a nanny and had not paid the appropriate taxes.
Needless to say, that was not an auspicious beginning.
Looking back on it now, there were other warning signs. Somewere comical. I remember a funny story told to me by Tony Benedi,former deputy director of Scheduling for the Bush administration.Mel Lukins, deputy director of the Bush Advance Office, confirmedthe story.
Just before the inauguration in January 1993, Tony and Mel wentto the Capitol to meet with personal representatives of President-electClinton to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities afterthe Oath of Office was administered. Dressed in their usual impeccablesuits, Tony and Mel waited and waited. They began to get a littlenervous, because three rough-looking characters had arrived andwere hanging around, eyeballing them. Were they about to bemugged? The trio looked like bikers, with earrings and ponytails,jeans that were torn or dirty, and faded sweatshirts or Levi jackets.Tony thought they might be there to erect bleachers or do someother construction. He walked over to them.
"Guys," Tony began, "we're supposed to meet a few folks fromthe Clinton administration. Have you run into any guys who mightbe the Clinton Advance Team?"
One of them gave Tony a dirty look. "We're the Clinton AdvanceŠTeam."
(Later, another friend of mine remarked how the Secret Service'sattention was captured by a Clinton Advance Team member wearinga red Lenin lapel pin.)
Other warning signs were more ominous. The Clintons, for instance,had been late for their own inauguration. A case of jitters orunderstandable last-minute fussing?
No, not according to extremely reliable sources who have spoken tome and who, for obvious reasons, must remain anonymous. One ofthe reasons the Clintons were late was because Vice President Gorehad just found out that the West Wing office usually reserved for thevice president was instead going to be occupied by the first lady.
Network news cameras, trained on Blair House the morning of theinauguration, recorded a glimpse of the president and first lady screamingat each other. Sources I consider very reliable affirm that Clintontold Hillary that if she didn't back off from her plans to unseat Gore,Gore would go public with his anger and perhaps resign. Hillaryshouted at him that as far as she was concerned, they had a deal—a dealthat dated back to the campaign, when Lloyd Cutler had convincedher to stand by Clinton despite the allegations that he'd had an affairwith Gennifer Flowers. The matter had already been decided, she said,and she had no intention of backing off; Gore was bluffing.
The Clintons arrived a half hour late at the White House Residenceto join President and Barbara Bush. They also established an oddprecedent. No first couple-elect had ever brought friends with themfor the traditional tea with the retiring president and first lady in theBlue Room before the motorcade journey to the Capitol for theswearing-in ceremony. But for some indiscernible reason, the Clintonsbrought along their friends Harry Thomason and his wife.
After taking the oath, Bill and Hillary Clinton were taken to aholding room in the Capitol building. Minutes passed while everyonewaited for Bill and Hillary to emerge to commence the inauguralfestivities. A Capitol Hill police officer was ordered to inform theClintons that everyone was ready and waiting.
The policeman knocked and opened the door of the holdingroom. He immediately shut it, beating a hasty retreat. Hillary Clintonwas screaming at her husband in what was described as "uncontrolledand unbridled fury." Apparently, the matter of office spacewas not settled.
The Capitol Hill police and the Secret Service quickly conferredabout intervening if it appeared the president's life might be threatenedby the first lady! The question before them was, "How muchphysical abuse is too much physical abuse?"
I reached the intersection of 17th Street and F and angled my FBI carinto the government parking area. A parking space near the WhiteŠHouse was a major perk, and I knew it. I looked up at the west sideof the Old Executive Office Building (OEOB). It looked the same asthe last time I saw it, days ago, just before the Bush administrationended.
The same uniformed Secret Service guard was still standing in thesame guard shack, and I watched a few permanent staff members hurryingin and out of the gate. Everything looked the same to me, butthen, why would I expect anything to be different? Except for a changeof political party and a new president, this was the White House.
I checked over the visor for my blue White House pass and slippedthe chain with the pass around my neck. I needed the pass to getthrough the electronic gate, and although everyone knew me, wearingthe pass at all times set a good example to those who were not soconcerned about security.
As I approached the uniformed, armed Secret Service guard, hesmiled and waved a greeting. Then he rolled his eyes and pointedbehind him, shaking his head. There wasn't anyone there, so I had toassume he was referring to the new Clinton people inside.
What was he trying to tell me? The Secret Service has a blood oathto never, ever criticize a president or his staff. I didn't stop to ask, butturned up the drive and headed to the canteen for my usual morningcoffee-to-go. I passed through the electrically operated double doorsand walked down the hallway to the northwest corner of the buildingand looked around. Still, there was nothing that caught my attention.Everything seemed the same.
But when I entered the canteen, things changed—dramatically. Allmy sensors went up, like a police officer's at a crime scene. It almostlooked like one. It was my first glimpse of the Clinton administrationand, boy, was it different from the buttoned-down Bush administration.The canteen, which was usually spotless, was a mess. Napkinswere scattered like windblown Kleenex, and somebody had spilledcoffee on the floor. Instead of wiping it up, people had simply trackedthrough it, making a muddy trail. I took some napkins and tried tomop up the mess before someone fell and got hurt.
I looked around. I saw a shaggy-haired, middle-aged guy over inthe corner in a loud, checkered, polyester, double-knit suit and badlyscuffed shoes. The woman next to me was dressed like a cocktail waitress. Her shirt was tight and ended at her midriff; her skirt was short, and she wasn't wearing any hose. Between the two of them, I almost wondered if I'd walked into Hooters by mistake.
I looked around some more. There was a girl wearing a peasant blouse and a guy dressed in jeans. I remember thinking, "Is this how they dress at offices in Arkansas?" Having friends and family in the South, I found that hard to believe.
I shook my head and gave the cashier fifty-five cents for my large coffee. "Good morning, Bernice. How are you feeling?" Bernice was an older black woman suffering from an illness that had forced her to miss Ša lot of work.
"I'm fine, Mr. Aldrich, I'm fine." I was glad to hear it. She was a nice woman. Besides, if she left I would have another investigation on my hands to help "clear" a new cashier.
I grabbed my coffee and headed for the elevator, a few steps down from the canteen. I hoped that what I'd just seen was an anomaly, but when I got to the elevator my day didn't get any better.
There was a small crowd of Clinton people waiting right up against the elevator door, like kids crowding the window of a candy shop. They had the same "unfinished" look as the crowd in the canteen, but then I noticed they were staring at me. I guess I looked out of place in their group.
The elevator arrived, and the Clinton crowd rushed it like animals at feeding time, without giving people a chance to get off. People pushed, shoved, grunted, bumped, and swore, trying to sort it out. The men didn't give any deference at all to the women, who were giving as good as they got. It looked like a sale day at Macy's—or worse. I held back until the dust settled, and then I got on.
On the way up, two Clinton staffers loudly shared their deepest, most personal, and, frankly, intensely negative thoughts about their new supervisor. I wondered how they knew that I, or someone else in the elevator, wasn't a good friend of the supervisor. Someone behind me sneezed a big wet one. I made a mental note to check the back of my coat.
I got off the elevator at the fifth floor and unlocked the door to room 532, the FBI Liaison Office. I was the first in. I flicked on the lights and walked over to my desk.
The FBI Liaison Office had become comfortable to me over the past two-and-a-half years, and I always felt good about coming to work. After all, who wouldn't want to work at the White House? Itmight not be as exciting as chasing the mafia, but I'd wiretappedthe mob and chased drug dealers and all the rest. Been there, donethat.
Dennis and I had furnished the office with some old, heavy, refinishedoak desks, leather chairs, a couch, and a coffee table. It wasnice, but not as nice as the offices over in the West Wing. On ourwalls were framed "jumbo" prints taken during the Reagan and Bushadministrations. Dennis and I had received these pictures as a tokenof thanks for our good work. But they weren't ours to keep. Thejumbos were the property of the White House, and I expected theClinton administration would make us take them down.
We had three windows facing north, south, and west. I could lookdown 17th Street to Constitution Avenue. I would often hear thesirens and see the motorcycles as the president's or vice president'smotorcade passed by. Sometimes it was a king or a queen visiting thepresident.Š As a rule, FBI agents didn't get office space with inspiring views.My last view, from our office at Buzzard's Point in southwest Washington,looked down on the Anacostia River. We saw old tires andother garbage floating by. Sometimes dead bodies would surface nearthe docks, and we would watch as the police pulled them out. It wasa grim location, and catching federal felons was grim work.
In 1985, I had arrived in Washington full of ambition and optimism,and then I saw the FBI office at Buzzard's Point. My specialagent in charge (SAC), Douglas Gow, was fresh from Houston andhad also been looking forward to something less shabby. He put mein charge of an office survey to recommend ways to make our workenvironment better.
My report concluded that, basically, such an effort was hopeless.The place was a dump, located in a dumpy neighborhood. Gow'ssubordinate, Assistant SAC Dave Binney, read my conclusions, initiatedmy report, and sent it to the "no-action" file. Binney might aswell have thrown it in the wastebasket. Dave said, "You should seeNew York. This is much better! "
Maybe I'd had my fill of roughing it, and I didn't apologize forfeeling that I wanted something a little nicer in my last years with thebureau. You couldn't get much better than the White House. I consideredmyself especially lucky to be selected for the assignment.
There was always an enormous amount of work for us to complete,but I didn't mind the extra work since it meant spending my lastyears away from criminals, victims, and defense attorneys . . . andBuzzard's Point.
As I sat drinking my coffee, I wondered whether the people downstairswere temporary volunteers. There were always volunteersworking at the White House. That had to be it.
I went through my messages. One was from the new assistant tothe president for Management and Administration, David Watkins, apersonal friend of President Clinton's who had held a top spot on thecampaign. I needed to reach Watkins for two reasons. The first wasthat I had to interview him. I also needed to meet him to establish aliaison between his office and ours.
During the Bush administration two key offices were involved inthe FBI's operations at the White House. One was the Counsel'sOffice, and the other was the Office of Administration, or OA. TheCounsel's Office was the heart of our SPIN investigations conductedfor the president. The Counsel's Office ordered the investigationsand reviewed the results. They were in daily contact with our officeand the bureau. For thirty years this system had been used to clearWhite House personnel.
The other important contact for us was in Watkins's office. FBIagents normally had a liaison relationship with the OA's director. TheOA ran the Personnel Office and supplied logistical support for FBIŠoperations at the White House. In fact, Bush's director, Paul Bateman,had assigned us our office space. So Dennis and I would beharshly criticized if we did not establish a good relationship withDavid Watkins.
I called the OA front office in the West Wing and spoke to ClarissaCerda, who answered the secretary's phone. Her voice had an edgeto it; she was quick to point out that she was a deputy to Mr. Watkins,not a secretary, and while it was not her job to take messages, shewould try to get him to call me. She sounded hostile. It was a littleearly, it seemed to me, to be so upset, but a lot of Clinton staffersappeared to be suffering from irrational gloom at the outset of theadministration.
Watkins returned my call promptly, and he was friendly. Actually,overly friendly. The exact opposite of Cerda. I thought, "What is thisguy up to?" He was too nice, too cooperative, too friendly.
Sure, it was a quick first impression. I did not make much of it then,and, except for my experiences of the next two and a half years, Iwouldn't mention it now. But remember, I had been in the bureau formore than twenty years. And though it might sound funny, any goodagent will tell you that one of our basic investigative tools is observinghow people we deal with react to dealing with an FBI agent. Exceptfor longtime friends or fellow law enforcement investigators, very fewpeople talk or act normal around agents. Even good, honest citizensare apt to be a little nervous. Crooks are apt to get violent or toshamelessly deny everything, figuring a well-paid attorney will setthem free. And then there are guys like Watkins who are just so "damnglad to see ye." Well, nobody is just "damn glad to see" the FBI. I'dbeen in the office only an hour, had talked to Watkins for just a coupleminutes, and already I was getting—in a small way—the same sortof signals I'd picked up while chasing professional con men, white-collarcriminals, and even some rougher types.
As I hung up the phone, the General Services Administration(GSA) cleaning lady came in. She looked worried, not her usual self.A problem at home? Perhaps a child who didn't return last night?Crime touched these women more than most others. They'd told mestories that would make the average yuppie's hair stand on end.
When she finished her work, I followed her out and closed andlocked the door behind me. I took the quick way to Watkins's office,which was located about one hundred yards east, over in the prestigiousWest Wing.
There were several routes to the West Wing, but no matter whichway I went, the walk took about five minutes. I could use the elevatoror walk down the steps. I could go by the Indian Treaty Room orby the Vice President's Office. I could go around the building andpass by the Executive Clerk's Office and the Travel Office. I couldfind variety in routine, if I wanted to.
While I walked, I noticed other oddly dressed new personnel. Bytheir numbers, I was beginning to realize that I was not looking atŠvolunteers at all. These people were the new Clinton administration.I saw jeans, T-shirts, and sweatshirts; men with earrings and pony-tails;and every manner of footwear except normal dress shoes.
One young lady was dressed entirely in black—black pants, blackT-shirt, black shoes, even black lipstick. She was the only one I saw wearingbusiness shoes. But they were men's shoes—big, black wingtips.
As I left the OEOB and crossed the West Executive parking lot, Iglanced at the cars. Same cars, same drivers. That was something of arelief. One constant in a sea of change. During the campaign theClintons had criticized the "limousines" used by the "preppie" Bushadministration. Clinton's people had said they intended to get ridof the limos, which weren't limos at all, just dark-colored, full-sizeAmerican sedans. Later, the Clintons did get rid of them. Theybought new ones to replace the year-old models.
I passed under the canopy of the West Wing basement entranceand went through the double doors. The Secret Service guard wasthe same man I had said goodbye to the previous week. The WestWing walls were bare. Where a dozen jumbos of George and BarbaraBush had hung on the walls, there were only darkened spots and nailholes. The hallways looked stark and barren.
I stepped through the doors of the West Wing and entered theouter office of the OA. I saw two young women at desks. One of thewomen was Cerda, the not-a-secretary. She didn't look like she washaving a good day. I introduced myself and told her why I was there.She motioned me in the direction of Watkins's office. Thanks. I knewwhere it was.
On my way to his office I passed the other not-a-secretary andintroduced myself. She was Catherine Cornelius. I found out that sheand Cerda were deputies to David Watkins.
Watkins was a tall, slender man in his early forties. I noticed he wasnot wearing his jacket. Not a big deal, but in the Bush administration,if you were about to meet someone for the first time, you woreyour coat. It was a sign of respect, a touch of class I appreciated afterBuzzard's Point.
The first thing that struck me about Watkins was his blinding, fluorescentpink tie with a complex geometric design. Later, as I got toknow Watkins better, I realized that the loud ties, which neverseemed to match anything he wore, were his trademark.
Watkins was oppressively friendly, like a used car salesman hot tomake a sale. I half-expected him to hug me.
Before I met Watkins, I had interviewed thousands of people,and every so often I came across someone who would set off alarmbells. It didn't happen often, and it hadn't happened for a longtime. But when the old alarm went off, I paid attention. I was payingattention now.Š I began my interview of Watkins. I can't tell you the substance ofthe interview because of Privacy Act restrictions, but I can say thatinstead of answering my questions directly, Watkins used words orphrases that could have a double meaning. He acted as though I weretrying to trap him or trick him. In short, he was behaving as if hewere guilty—but guilty of what?
I was trained to "turn up the heat" when an individual was tryingto hide something. I shifted my style, bearing down a bit more, andasking more pointed questions, ones that could not be dodged soeasily. I needed to establish the good character of someone Watkinsknew well. He became more and more evasive. I turned up the heateven higher. And then, I reached the limit.
He felt I crossed the line. I knew the mentality; I had seen itbefore. I thought, "Here it comes," and sure enough, Watkinsreminded me that he was a close personal friend of Bill and HillaryClinton, and I had better back off! He looked as though he wereabout to explode, and I learned later that Watkins had a hair-triggertemper. I excused myself and said I'd be back. He calmed down a little,and I made my exit.
The White House staff had an obligation to cooperate with theFBI, and it was clearly to their advantage to do so. If an individualrefused to answer my questions, I would simply report their failure tocooperate to the bureau, who would in turn call the Counsel'sOffice. To maintain the security program and the FBI's credibility,the Counsel's Office would then order the individual to cooperate—atleast it did in the Bush administration.
If a staff member still refused to cooperate with the FBI, it wouldbe grounds for dismissal. This seemingly harsh approach was the onlyway the SPIN investigations could have any credibility. It wouldn'ttake too many refused interviews before the word would get aroundto the rest of the staff, and then we would have little or no effectiveness.Reporting staffers for failure to cooperate was rarely necessarysince, in the Bush administration, they had been so well screened andhad little to hide. The Bush people, including the president, understoodthat the purpose of the SPIN investigations was not to disrupt,impede, or embarrass the administration, but was just the opposite—tohelp the president do his job effectively.
I thought Dennis might get along better with Watkins than I had.I made a mental note to suggest that Dennis meet him and perhapsbecome our liaison contact. I didn't want to repeat my risk of beinghugged.
Back in my office, I placed a few phone calls, made some notes of myWatkins interview, and waited for Dennis to arrive. He walkedthrough the door shortly before noon. He had stopped by the SPINoffice at Tyson's Corner, Virginia, before coming down.
Dennis was a White House veteran. He'd spent most of his FBIcareer assigned to Washington, where he became a friend to senators,congressmen, and chiefs of staff, and was an expert on White HouseŠpolitics and protocol. His reputation had been forged first on CapitolHill, then at the White House over the course of nearly fifteenyears. He had worked under three administrations—Carter, Reagan,and Bush.
By the time I ended my partnership with Scully (Dennis's nickname),I had handled more than two thousand White House staffinvestigations in the Bush and Clinton administrations and had conductedas many as ten thousand interviews.
Dennis looked agitated. "I tell you, Gary, this is going to be a challenge.I don't know about you, but I'm having a heck of a time gettingthese Clinton people to grant interviews. I call people up, tellthem who I am and what I need to do, and they tell me they're toobusy to talk to the FBI!"
Too busy to talk to the FBI? How did they expect to get permanentpasses to the White House or security clearances so they couldread classified material? Even during the Gulf War, people in theBush administration worked us into their schedule.
Our SPIN cases had short deadlines, and there were hundreds ofcases to complete. The temporary passes that were issued by theSecret Service ran out in ninety days. By my calculations, we wouldhave to complete several cases every day if we were to avoid a problemwith the Secret Service and Counsel's Office. There wasn't anytime to chase staff who considered themselves "too busy."
"Gary, I think we're in for some real trouble," Dennis warned."With Bush, we were dealing with straight arrows. I don't thinkthat's going to be the case here. Just look at Zoe Baird and her husband-tworich yuppies screwing over two ignorant illegal aliens,while she's making over $500,000 a year. And they wanted her to bethe AG [attorney general]—an AG who doesn't know or doesn't carethat she's violating federal law. These are the sort of people we'redealing with, Gary. And if that's true for the AG, just think of the restof the administration."
Dennis was right, that was a bad sign. But I was optimistic thatthings would get straightened out.
The day wound down, and Dennis went out to try to conduct someinterviews over in the West Wing. I finished my paperwork andstarted to clear my desk. I turned on the radio to listen for the trafficreport. Instead, I heard that the president had made his wife, Hillary,director of the Clinton administration Health Care Task Force.
Copyright © 1995 Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton.All rights reserved.
|About the Quotes||ix|
|Chapter One Meeting the Clinton Administration||5|
|Chapter Two SPIN||21|
|Chapter Three So What? (Part One)||33|
|Chapter Four Rose Law-North||52|
|Chapter Five The Unraveling of Vince Foster||69|
|Chapter Six "Good Morning, Mrs. President!"||86|
|Chapter Seven Drugs||108|
|Chapter Eight Travel Office Tragedy||129|
|Chapter Nine The President's Gone Missing||135|
|Chapter Ten So What? (Part Two)||146|
|Chapter Eleven And the Beat Goes On||162|
|Epilogue: The SPIN Background Investigation of Bill and Hillary|