Partisan Senate Fight
Reid Leaks Documents,
Slams Travelgate Figure

  by Del Tartikoff
  copyright 1996, Electric Nevada

Illegally leaked Justice Department documents were Nevada Senator Harry Reid's weapon of choice earlier this month during a savagely partisan two-day fight on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Electric Nevada has learned.  
Reid was operating as Clinton Administration point man in a last-ditch party-line struggle to block reimbursement of some $500,000 in legal expenses of former White House Travel Director Billy Ray Dale.
Dale, along with six co-workers, had been fired in early 1993 by the White House in the affair that later became known as 'Travelgate.' He was indicted by the Clinton Justice Department but was found not guilty, by a District of Columbia jury, after less than two hours of deliberation. The reimbursement was a tiny provision of a $23.5 billion bill financing the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies. An amendment backed by Democrats would have deleted the provision and sent the question to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The change was rejected 52-46 on a straight party-line vote.
But before the vote, Reid repeatedly quoted from sensitive Justice Department documents supposed to be confidential under both department and congressional regulations. Such actions, said Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, were 'appalling,' 'unconscionable,' and a clear effort to 'smear' Dale.
"Frankly, it really is a sin," Hatch told Reid, a fellow Mormon.
Nevada's senior senator responded that it was important to talk about 'facts.'
"There has been some talk about there should not be talk on this floor about the prosecution memo, about a plea of guilty," said Reid. "Mr. President, we are not in court. We are in the Senate of the United States, some say the greatest debating society in the history of the world. I think it is appropriate, in a great debating arena, to talk about the facts."
And it was a fact, said Reid, that it was "really too bad" that Dale had been acquitted by a jury.
"But it happens, it happens in our system of justice."
One of the confidential documents used by Reid on the Senate floor was an internal Department of Justice prosecution memo, procured by Reid from minority members of the House Oversight committee.
According to the Congressional Record, the following was part of an exchange on the Senate floor between senators Reid and Hatch:
Mr. REID. "I do not think it is my obligation to indicate where the prosecution memo was obtained, but I do know that I obtained it, and I do know it did not come from anybody in the Justice Department, did not come from anybody in the White House, directly or indirectly..."
Mr. HATCH. "Would the Senator yield on that for just a question?"
Mr. REID. "I will be happy to yield for a question."
Mr. HATCH. "I appreciate my colleague yielding. My question is this. I know the Senator did not get it from the White House directly or from the Justice Department directly, because the Senator told me where he got it. The Senator got it from the House of Representatives, which I presume, whomever they got it from, got it from the White House or the Justice Department. Those are the only two places it could have been obtained. I am not accusing the Senator from Nevada, although I question--I question--whether a document that is so one sided should be used, especially a document that is confidential. I question whether that sort of document should be used on the floor of the Senate."
Mr. REID. "I say to my friend from Utah, and he is my friend
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from the neighboring State of Utah, that the prosecution memo sets forth facts in the case. We are entitled in this body to have facts in the case. We have heard a lot of facts over these many months from the other side about this poor Billy Dale, how he has just been put upon by everybody. The fact of the matter is, he has not been. The fact of the matter is, he was indicted, properly indicted. After having been indicted, he had a letter written saying, 'I want to plead guilty.' And I think we are entitled to hear that."
That letter, a plea-bargain effort by Dale's attorney, was also supposed to be confidential under Justice Department regulations. But even before it was quoted by Nevada's Reid on the Senate floor, portions of it had been leaked by administration officials to the magazine U.S. News & World Report.
The letter offered federal prosecutors a deal in which Dale would plead guilty to a charge of "wrongful conversion," pay a fine not to exceed $69,000, and accept up to 4 months imprisonment, one-half of which was to be served in jail. Prosecutors did not accept the deal.
"There is reason why the man was indicted," said Reid, "and let us not forget that Mr. Dale plead guilty to embezzlement."
But Hatch said that was false.
"The facts are ...that Mr. Dale never agreed to admit to committing the essential elements necessary for an embezzlement prosecution."
"He simply agreed to settle the case without an admission of guilt. Any suggestion that such a strategic tactic equates to an admission of guilt is outrageous and is yet just a further attempt to smear Mr. Dale's reputation.
"Let me tell you something. I have been around courtrooms for many years of my life. I know a number of people who weren't guilty that would enter a plea to some really minor, lesser count so that they would not get bled to death with attorney's fees, court costs, ulcers, bad health, ruination of the family, and 101 other things that happen. Anybody that doesn't understand that has never been in a court of law, or at least doesn't understand, or just plain isn't telling the truth."
Reid, though, continued to argue that, notwithstanding the jury verdict, Dale had been dishonest.
"Mr. Dale is, in my opinion, an admitted crook," he said.
Reid also complained that "Dale has received public support from many notable heavyweights in the media" and that "At many Republican fundraisers around the country, Billy Dale is the poster boy."
"As it was reported in August in the media, candidate Dole had offered him a job in his Presidential campaign. He is still the subject of a plethora of sympathetic pieces in the news by his old friends in the media."
Reid contended the effort to pass the reimbursement amendment was just an attempt to embarrass Clinton.
"This has all culminated in today's effort to attempt to embarrass the President by appropriating $500,000 very quietly."
Reid also said Dale's personal motivation was to "harrass" President Clinton.
"The fact of the matter is we are being asked here to reimburse attorney's fees of $500,000 for Billy Dale, his attorneys, so he can carry on this campaign of harassment that he has been engaged in in the past 6 months or year."

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