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.|
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."
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