Flashback: Hillary Purged Records, Brushed off Whitewater Scandal

New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton

Not much has changed about Hillary since the 1990s. She is still surprised that anyone has a problem with her apparent abuses of power and still acting “thrilled” when records she fought to keep secret are finally revealed.

A 1996 Washington Post story details Hillary Clinton’s connection to the Castle Grande/Whitewater real estate project in Arkansas. The long report suggests that Hillary changed elements of her story over time to keep herself out of trouble. What’s most striking about the 19-year-old article: Hillary is behaving much the same way during her private email scandal at the State Department.

The 1996 story covers Hillary’s first act as attorney for James McDougal. McDougal ran Madison Guaranty Saving and Loan which eventually went bankrupt, costing taxpayers $68 million. He hired Hillary to do legal work while she was working for the Rose Law Firm. Her first effort on McDougal’s behalf was to call a state agency, she claimed, to find out who she should be working with. But questions were raised about her influence, as the Governor’s wife, calling a state agency and also about what was discussed during the call. In an interview with NPR in 1996, Hillary admitted that perhaps the call hadn’t been wise (while maintaining that nothing of import had happened):

“Perhaps in retrospect I would never have even picked up the phone to call and say, ‘Gee, who handles S&L matters in the securities commission?’ I didn’t think that was anything that was inappropriate, and then to tell Mr. Massey who he should call and who he should deal with.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Hillary offered a similar reconsideration when discussing her decision to exclusively use private email during her tenure at the State Department:

Looking back, it would’ve been better if I’d simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn’t seem like an issue.

Back in 1988, Hillary was told her law firm would be deleting some old records, records which happened to connect her to two individuals who were then under investigation. The Post reported Hillary agreed to let the records be destroyed:

In July 1988, two years after cutting off her legal representation of McDougal, Seth Ward and Madison, Hillary Clinton received an internal Rose memo stating that the firm was undertaking a thorough housecleaning and getting rid of old files that took up needed storage space. In response, she authorized the destruction of some of her Madison files, including one concerning the “Ward Option” on the parcel at Castle Grande. She said later that the tossing of those Madison papers was a meaningless act, just routine housecleaning.

This sounds a bit like her decision to allow her aides to delete her allegedly personal emails as described during her press conference last week (emphasis added):

We went through a thorough process to identify all of my work- related emails and deliver them to the State Department. At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal emails — emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.

One of the subsidiary issues surrounding Hillary’s connection to the land deal was the disappearance and reappearance of her billing records. In 1992, in the midst of Bill Clinton’s campaign, Webb Hubbell and Vince Foster printed the records and apparently showed them to Hillary. But then they disappeared. The Rose Law Firm claimed not to have them and even after they were subpoenaed in 1994 by Robert Fiske the White House claimed they did not have them either.

The records were later discovered sitting on a table in the White House residence and put away by one of the Clinton’s associates, Carolyn Huber. They stayed in Huber’s office until 1996 when they were re-discovered. Once the records turned up, Hillary gave an interview to Diane Rehm of NPR claiming she was overjoyed:

The first lady, who had chosen not to release or summarize the billing records back in 1992 when they were readily available, now reacted as though she wished they could have been made public from the start.

“I was delighted when these documents showed up. I want everybody to know everything because frankly there’s a lot about this I don’t remember. It happened 10, 11 years ago. I’ve done the best I can,” she told Diane Rehm in the Jan. 15 interview.

“There would be no reason for anyone I know, including myself, not to have wanted them to come out years ago,” she told interviewer Harry Smith on the CBS Morning News on Jan. 19, adding: “Why on earth would I not want them out? I would have published them in the paper if I’d known.”

And again, this is from last week’s press conference:

Fourth, I took the unprecedented step of asking that the State Department make all my work-related emails public for everyone to see. I am very proud of the work that I and my colleagues and our public servants at the department did during my four years as secretary of state, and I look forward to people being able to see that for themselves.

Years have passed, but Hillary is still Hillary.


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