Wash. Post's Kornblut claimed that at debate, Hillary Clinton "seemed to contradict" Bill Clinton letter on presidential records -- but it was Russert who misrepresented letter

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

Washington Post reporter Anne E. Kornblut claimed that during the October 30 Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Hillary Clinton "seemed to contradict a directive from her husband [former President Bill Clinton], who in 2002 wrote a letter suggesting archivists consider correspondence between him and his wife for withholding." Kornblut did not note that, in fact, it was moderator Tim Russert who misrepresented Bill Clinton's 2002 letter by characterizing it as a "ban" on the release of the correspondence; the letter did not ask that such communications "not be made available" but, rather, as Kornblut reported, listed them as documents to be "considered for withholding." Further, Clinton adviser Bruce Lindsey has stated that "Bill Clinton has not asked that records related to communications with Senator Clinton be withheld."

Washington Post reporter Anne E. Kornblut claimed in a November 8 article that during the October 30 Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) "seemed to contradict a directive from her husband [former President Bill Clinton], who in 2002 wrote a letter suggesting archivists consider correspondence between him and his wife for withholding." Kornblut did not note that, in fact, it was moderator Tim Russert who misrepresented Bill Clinton's 2002 letter by characterizing it as a "ban" on the release of the correspondence.

Russert falsely claimed that a 2002 letter written by President Clinton to the National Archives "specifically ask[ed] that any communication between [then-first lady Hillary Clinton] and the president not be made available to the public until 2012" before asking Sen. Clinton, "Would you lift that ban?"

The exchange went as follows:

RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I'd like to follow up because, in terms of your experience as first lady, in order to give the American people an opportunity to make a judgment about your experience, would you allow the National Archives to release the documents about your communications with the president, the advice you gave, because, as you well know, President Clinton has asked the National Archives not to do anything until 2012?

CLINTON: Well, actually, Tim, the Archives is moving as rapidly as the Archives moves. There's about 20 million pieces of paper there and they are moving, and they are releasing as they do their process. And I am fully in favor of that. Now, all of the records, as far as I know, about what we did with health care, those are already available. Others are becoming available. And I think that, you know, the Archives will continue to move as rapidly as the circumstances and processes demand.

RUSSERT: But there was a letter written by President Clinton specifically asking that any communication between you and the president not be made available to the public until 2012. Would you lift that ban?

CLINTON: Well, that's not my decision to make. And I don't believe that any president or first lady ever has. But certainly we'll move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the National Archives permits.

In fact, President Clinton's letter did not ask that such communications "not be made available" but, rather, listed them as documents to be "considered for withholding" [emphasis added], as Kornblut reported. Clinton Records representative Bruce Lindsey said that Clinton asked in the letter that such communications be designated as part of a "subset" of presidential records "that should be reviewed prior to release." Contrary to Russert's assertion, Clinton did not impose a "ban" on the public release of "any communication between you [Sen. Clinton] and the president."

In addition, Kornblut's article, which was about the federal lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch -- a conservative group that has filed multiple lawsuits against the Clintons -- to, as Kornblut wrote, "require the National Archives to release thousands of pages of papers from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's years as First Lady," stated, "The group had filed a Freedom of Information request in 2006, and so far the archives has failed to respond to the request, Judicial Watch said." The article continued: " 'We're asking the court to ensure that the law is followed and that these records are released without improper interference from the Clintons,' Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in filing suit. 'There's no reason we should not see these records in early 2008.' "

In fact, as Media Matters has noted, according to the defendant's status report and processing schedule filed by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in a lawsuit by Judicial Watch seeking Hillary Clinton's "calendar to include but not limited to her daily office diary, schedule, day planner, telephone log book, and chronological files," NARA "estimates that it will complete processing approximately 10,000 pages of daily schedule records potentially responsive to the request by the end of January 2008 to provide to Presidential representatives for their review." Additionally, "NARA also represents that it intends to process the approximately 20,000 pages of telephone log books potentially responsive to the request as it arises under the current FOIA queue matrix system." Indeed, contrary to Kornblut's assertion that "so far the archives has failed to respond to the request," this document is posted on Judicial Watch's website. In addition to the document itself, which was filed in federal court, the status report references three prior letters federal court, it references three prior letters (dated April 13, 2006, August 9, 2006, and February 9, 2007) from NARA to Judicial Watch regarding the request and subsequent inquiries.

Politico senior political writer Ben Smith reported in a November 2 article that "according to a Clinton aide," Bruce Lindsey, whom Clinton has designated to review presidential documents for him, has so far not "challenge[d] the release" of any documents designated for release by NARA.

In addition to the Politico article, a post on the blog MyDD quotes Lindsey saying on November 2 that "Bill Clinton has not blocked the release of a single document from his Library." According to the blog post, Lindsey also said: "The Archives is in the process of making records available as quickly as they can -- over 1 million pages of the Clinton Administration records have already been released, including Health Care Task Force records," adding, "Contrary to recent reports, Bill Clinton has not asked that records related to communications with Senator Clinton be withheld."

From Kornblut's November 8 Washington Post article:

With the return of the Clintons, so too comes the return of the Clinton-watchers -- in particular Judicial Watch, the oversight group that has made badgering the couple one if its central badges of honor.

Judicial Watch has filed suit in federal court to require the National Archives to release thousands of pages of papers from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's years as First Lady. The group had filed a Freedom of Information request in 2006, and so far the archives has failed to respond to the request, Judicial Watch said. The organization has asked for records that include Clinton's telephone logs and daily schedules.

Clinton's papers have become the subject of heated debate in recent weeks, as the candidate faced a question about her material -- and seemed to contradict a directive from her husband, who in 2002 wrote a letter suggesting archivists consider correspondence between him and his wife for withholding. Thousands of documents from Clinton's time in the White House -- an era she points to when discussing her experience to be president -- remain under lock and key.

"We're asking the court to ensure that the law is followed and that these records are released without improper interference from the Clintons," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in filing suit. "There's no reason we should not see these records in early 2008."

Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
Anne Kornblut
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, 2008 Elections
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