White House

Documents show how Clintons tried to cope with Lewinsky, other scandals

Hillary Clinton signs her new book “Hard Choices,” at the Common Good Books store in St. Paul, Minn., Sunday, July 20, 2014. (Jerry Holt/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)
Hillary Clinton signs her new book “Hard Choices,” at the Common Good Books store in St. Paul, Minn., Sunday, July 20, 2014. (Jerry Holt/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT) MCT

The Clinton Presidential Library on Friday released 10,000 pages of previously undisclosed documents that involved a series of touchy subjects from the 42nd president’s time in the White House.

They cover the gamut of scandals – some big, some small – that dogged former President Bill Clinton’s presidency: from Monica Lewinsky to Whitewater, from the death of former White House Counsel Vince Foster to the pardon of financier Marc Rich, and the controversy over staffing of the White House Travel Office, known as Travelgate, as well.

The documents shed new light on how Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton, now a potential candidate for the 2016 presidential election, as well as their staffs tried to handle the slew of controversies in their eight years in the White House.

And there are a number of details about Hillary Clinton’s Senate run and her controversial appointment as the head of her husband’s health care task force.

The Lewinsky section details everything from tasks she was assigned at the White House (hanging a photo of Bill Clinton, in one instance) to how the president prepared for an interview on the “PBS NewsHour” about the scandal. An aide suggested Clinton might be asked: “How do you respond to people who wonder why Monica Lewinsky was cleared into the White House by (aide) Betty Currie 37 times?”

In discussing Lewinsky with an aide, Clinton said that even if he didn’t have sex with her, she would tell everyone they did.

The documents describes a 1998 letter Keith Olbermann, then an MSNBC host, sent to Clinton apologizing for “whatever part I may have played in perpetuating this ceaseless coverage.”

Olbermann said he would leave political journalism and return to his earlier career in sportscasting (which he did).

“I’ll be heading back to my previous career in sports as quickly as possible,” he wrote.

He received an email back: “Dear Keith: Thanks so much for your kind message. I’ve been touched by the many expressions of encouragement and support I have received from friends across the country. I’m grateful you got in touch with me, and I send you my very best wishes. Sincerely, POTUS.”

The new documents also include details about some of the biggest events of the Clinton presidency, including the Oklahoma City bombing, the policy debate over gays in the military and the U.S. relationship with Haiti. Also included: sections on the redesign of the Oval Office and on celebrity Oprah Winfrey.

Among the highlights:

– An aide providing advice on how to deal with Whitewater, an investigation into the Clintons’ Arkansas real estate investments that became a catchall for a host of inquiries, says, “Of course, it is strongly recommended that you not answer specific factual questions about Whitewater.”

– An aide warned in 1999 that Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee “hates” Clinton and was planning a Senate race against then-Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

– A month after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Clinton considered saying he would provide more openness about “the true nature of terrorist groups in our nation,” but it was taken out of his remarks.

– White House aides were angry about former President Jimmy Carter’s comments in 1998 asking for an investigation of the U.S. decision to bomb a Sudan factory in retaliation for attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa.

– Health policy aide Ira Magaziner explained in 1995 where negative articles about the failed health care proposal was coming from, mentioning aides David Gergen and George Stephanopoulos.

– Clinton came close to nominating Richard S. Arnold, a federal appeals court judge from Arkansas, to the Supreme Court, but he decided against it because Arnold had recently been diagnosed with lymphoma. He nominated Stephen Breyer instead, who was confirmed and sits on the high court.

The documents are the seventh batch of records to be released by the library in Little Rock since February. They had been exempt from public records requests because they involved appointments to federal office or dealt with confidential advice between the president and his advisers. Still, some pieces are redacted.

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