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Mar 18, 1998
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Judicial Watch deposes Clinton advisors and allies in Filegate class action suit

Is there an 'Ellen Rometsch strategy' to misuse FBI files to smear those who question the actions of the Clintons?

Judicial Watch has deposed some of President Clinton's closest advisers in recent weeks as part of its clients' class action suit on behalf of the more than 900 Bush and Reagan appointees and possibly others whose FBI files were unlawfully obtained by the Clinton White House. Louis Freeh, Director of the FBI, has admitted that there was an "egregious violation of privacy without justification."

Judicial Watch, after deposing four top Clinton advisers and allies, has uncovered evidence that the Clinton Administration and its allies may be trying to blackmail, intimidate, and smear perceived Clinton adversaries, in part through the use of FBI files. Judicial Watch general counsel and chairman Larry Klayman deposed four such officials or allies - Paul Begala, George Stephanopoulos, Terry Lenzner, and James Carville.

On February 8, George Stephanopoulos, a top adviser to President Clinton during his first term, told a national television audience on ABC's This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts that there is an "Ellen Rometsch strategy" by "White House allies" to "bring down" perceived adversaries of the Clinton Administration - which may include everyone from reporters to attorney investigators to members of Congress. Stephanopoulos confirmed, under oath, the existence of this "deterrent strategy." Historically, the "Ellen Rometsch strategy" refers to late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover 's successful efforts to use FBI files to blackmail members of Congress to prevent an investigation into President John Kennedy's affair with East German spy Ellen Rometsch.

"It is clear that 'White House allies' are perhaps now ready to use or are using the more than 900 files obtained from the FBI on staffers from the Bush and Reagan administration and perhaps others, as a last line of defense to protect President Clinton," warned Larry Klayman, Judicial Watch's general counsel and chairman.

Judicial Watch deposed Stephanopoulos on March 9. As Mr. Stephanopoulos worked in the White House with the defendants in the Filegate suit (which include Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bernard Nussbaum, Craig Livingstone, and Anthony Marceca), Stephanopoulos is in an unique position to know the purposes the FBI background files were obtained by the Clinton White House.

Stephanopoulos had "lapses of memory" about his activities and meetings in the White House. And, rather than divulge who exactly the "White House allies" are, Stephanopoulos refused to provide the information, citing an alleged "journalist privilege." When asked if Terry Lenzner, the President and Mrs. Clinton's private investigator, could be construed generally as a "White House ally," Stephanopoulos said, "Sure." Stephanopoulos also confirmed that James Carville, who has threatened to break the kneecaps of and wage war on Ken Starr, could be construed as a "White House ally." Judicial Watch will challenge Stephanopoulos' assertion of privilege.

Paul Begala, a senior adviser to President Clinton, was deposed on March 3 by Judicial Watch's Larry Klayman. Angry and fearful that he would be linked to Stephanopoulos's statement about the "Ellen Rometsch strategy," Begala called Stephanopoulos on the phone to demand an explanation. Begala said that he was relieved when Stephanopoulos told him he was referring only to "White House allies." Begala said that he never found out from Stephanopoulos or anyone else who these "White House allies" were. Is it because Begala already knew?

Judicial Watch general counsel and chairman Larry Klayman ran into the stonewall of executive privilege during Begala's deposition. Saying, incredibly, that "potentially" anything President Clinton says to anyone is covered by presidential executive privilege, a Clinton Justice Department lawyer ordered Begala not to respond to a question asking for the details of a phone conversation between then-private citizen Begala and President Clinton.

Another "White House ally," James Carville, was deposed by Judicial Watch on March 16. Carville said he called Stephanopoulos almost immediately after the "Ellen Rometsch strategy" was discussed. Carville asked George, "What the hell was that about?" Like his former business partner, Begala, Carville expressed little interest in finding out who the "White House allies" were. Like Begala, it is a good bet Carville already knew the answer. Carville admitted to discussing this deterrent strategy with other key White House staffers, including Begala, Rahm Emmanuel, and Sidney Blumenthal.

Terry Lenzner, a private investigator whose international firm IGI is working for the Clintons, was deposed on March 13 by Klayman. Lenzner refused to divulge who and what exactly he was investigating on the Clintons' behalf, but conceded he was hired by the Clintons' lawyers. Nor would he say why he went to the White House in 1996 to meet with Harold Ickes, who was then the president's top political operative at the White House.

Lenzner's "co-equal partner" at IGI is ex-FBI official Larry Potts, who was accused by former FBI colleagues of issuing "shoot on sight" orders that led to the infamous Ruby Ridge shooting. In his deposition, Lenzner said he thought Potts is the "finest law enforcement officer" he has ever known. Lenzner's ex-employees are placed throughout the Clinton Administration, including in the Clinton Justice Department (Ricki Seitman) and Secret Service (Raymond Kelly). Lenzner even hired Howard Shapiro as his lawyer. Shapiro resigned as FBI general counsel in the wake of allegations about his conduct in Filegate.

While at the FBI, Potts and Shapiro were surely in a position to see any FBI background file they wanted. Lenzner testified that Potts is now helping him to"run" IGI - which has been termed in the press as the Clintons' "private CIA." This explosive disclosure is sure to be of grave concern to those persons whose FBI's files were sent over to the Clinton White House (on Potts' and Shapiro's watch).

Next week, Judicial Watch is scheduled to depose White House staffers Rahm Emmanuel, Ann Lewis, and Sidney Blumenthal in its Filegate suit. They spoke with Begala, Stephanopoulos, Carville and others about the "Ellen Rometsch strategy." They could identify the "White House allies" involved, as well as provide other relevant information. In light of recent leaks from the Clinton Pentagon about confidential information concerning Linda Tripp and the White House smear campaign now underway against Kathleen Willey, the Filegate/"Ellen Rometsch" case takes on even greater significance.

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