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Hillary’s Own Watergate Scandal – Part One

A nine year old article from the general counsel and chief of staff of the Watergate era House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Zeifman, via the New York Post:

HILLARY’S WATERGATE SCANDAL

August 16. 1999

By Jerry Zeifman

IN December 1974, as general counsel and chief of staff of the House Judiciary Committee, I made a personal evaluation of Hillary Rodham (now Mrs. Clinton), a member of the staff we had gathered for our impeachment inquiry on President Richard Nixon. I decided that I could not recommend her for any future position of public or private trust.

Why? Hillary’s main duty on our staff has been described by as "establishing the legal procedures to be followed in the course of the inquiry and impeachment." A number of the procedures she recommended were ethically flawed. And I also concluded that she had violated House and committee rules by disclosing confidential information to unauthorized persons.

Hillary had conferred personally with me regarding procedural rules. I advised her that Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino, House Speaker Carl Albert, Majority Leader Tip O’Neill and I had previously agreed not to advocate anything contrary to the rules already adopted and published for that Congress. I quoted Mr. O’Neill’s statement that: "To try to change the rules now would be politically divisive. It would be like trying to change the traditional rules of baseball before a World Series."

Hillary assured me that she had not drafted and would not advocate any such rules changes. I soon learned that she had lied: She had already drafted changes, and continued to advocate them.

In one written legal memorandum, she advocated denying President Nixon representation by counsel. This, though in our then-most-recent prior impeachment proceeding, the committee had afforded the right to counsel to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.

I also informed Hillary that the Douglas impeachment files were available for public inspection in our offices. I later learned that the Douglas files were then removed from our general files without my permission, transferred to the offices of the impeachment inquiry staff, and were no longer accessible to the public.

The young Ms. Rodham had other bad advice about procedures, arguing that the Judiciary Committee should neither 1) hold any hearings with or take the depositions of any live witnesses, nor 2) conduct any original investigation of atergate, bribery, tax evasion, or any other possible impeachable offense of President Nixon – but to rely instead on prior investigations conducted by other committees and agencies.

The committee rejected Ms. Rodham’s recommendations: It agreed to allow President Nixon to be represented by counsel and to hold hearings with live witnesses. Hillary then advocated that the official rules of the House be amended to deny members of the committee the right to question witnesses. This unfair recommendation was rejected by the full House. (The committee also vetoed her suggestion that it leave the drafting of the articles of impeachment to her and her fellow special staffers.)

The recommendations advocated by Hillary were apparently initiated or approved by Yale Law School professor Burke Marshall – in violation of committee and House rules on confidentiality. They were also advocated by her immediate supervisors, Special Counsel John Doar and Senior Associate Special Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, both of whom had worked under Marshall in the Kennedy Justice Department.

It was not until two months after Nixon’s resignation that I first learned of still another questionable role of Ms. Rodham. On Sept. 26, 1974, Rep. Charles Wiggins, a Republican member of the committee, wrote to ask Chairman Rodino to look into a troubling set of events. That spring, Wiggins and other committee members had asked "that research should be undertaken so as to furnish a standard against which to test the alleged abusive conduct of Richard Nixon." And, while "no such staff study was made available to the members at any time for their use," Wiggins had just learned that such a study had been conducted – at committee expense – by a team of professors who completed and filed their reports with the impeachment-inquiry staff well in advance of our public hearings.

The report was not made available to members of Congress. But after the impeachment-inquiry staff was disbanded, it was published commercially and sold in book stores. Wiggins wrote that he was "especially troubled by the possibility that information deemed essential by some of the members in their discharge of their responsibilities may have been intentionally suppressed by the staff during the course our investigation."

On Oct. 3, Rodino wrote back: "Hillary Rodham of the impeachment-inquiry staff coordinated the work. … After the staff received the report it was reviewed by Ms. Rodham, briefly by Mr. Labovitz and Mr. Sack, and by Mr. Doar. The staff did not think the manuscript was useful in its present form."

On the charge of willful suppression, he wrote: "That was not the case … The staff did not think the material was usable by the committee in its existing form and had not had time to modify it so it would have practical utility for the members of the committee. I was informed and agreed with the judgment."

During my 14-year tenure with the House Judiciary Committee, I had supervisory authority over several hundred staff members. With the exception of Ms. Rodham, Doar and Nussbaum, I recommend all of them for future positions of public and private trust.

Jerry Zeifman is the author of "Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon and the Crimes of Camelot," which describes the above matters in more detail.

Please see part two and part three.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Monday, March 31st, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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