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Judge Calls White House Conduct 'Outrageous'

  • A federal judge has ruled White House officials "acted dishonestly" with the court. Now Clinton cronies owe nearly $300,000 in legal fees. Guess who they want to pay for the bill?
By James P. Tucker, Jr.

A federal judge denouncing the administration for "cover-up" and "outrageous conduct," has ordered the White House to pay the court costs of physicians who successfully challenged the 1993 health care task force's imposition of secrecy on its workings.

Royce Lamberth, the U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia, also accused administration officials "at the highest levels of government" of participating in a "cover-up" and pressuring the Justice Department to defend its "dishonest" actions.

"It is clear that the decisions here were made at the highest levels of government and the government itself is -- and should be -- accountable when its officials run amok,' Lamberth wrote.

The case grew out of the health care task force created by the president in 1993 and led by first lady Hillary Clinton. Its mission was to develop a plan for universal health care, which was rejected.

A group of physicians sued on grounds that the secret meetings were illegal because private citizens were involved. Federal law requires that such groups meet publicly if non-government workers are involved.

The issue later became moot when the court ordered the working papers to be made public and the task force disbanded.

Those papers showed that Mrs Clinton's "working group" included special- interest representatives who would have profited from a government-run, universal health care system.


"It seems that some government officials never learn that the cover-up can be worse that the underlying conduct," Lamberth said.

He ordered the defendants to pay the $285,864 legal fees of the physicians' trade group that sued the White House in February 1993 to force open the meetings. The white House said taxpayers would pay. The White House had no other comment.

"We're pleased at this point to have any reimbursement, but the money was never the issue,' said Kathryn Serkes, spokesman for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the group that filed the suit.

"What's important are the conclusions the judge reached," she added. "Without using the president or first lady's name, he points a finger squarely at them."

When the physicians tried to open up the meetings of the larger "working group," White hose health care policy advisor Ira Magaziner told the court on March 3, 1993, the panel included "only federal government employees."

But Magaziner's statement was "actually false," Lamberth said, expressing anger that the White House and Justice Department never attempted to correct the lie.

Lamberth sought a perjury investigation of Magaziner. But the Justice Department said it would not prosecute Magaziner, who is currently the president's top adviser on policies dealing with the Internet.

Lamberth said Magaziner's misleading statements were part of a cover-up organized by the first lady's attorneys, including deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster, whose death four months later was called suicide, and Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell.

In his new book, Hubbell writes that Foster committed suicide in part because of the pressure Mrs. Clinton put on him to defend her in the case. Hubbell later resigned and pled guilty to stealing from the Little Rock law firm where he, the first lady and Foster all once worked.


"It is clear that Mr. Magaziner relied upon the advice of White House attorneys -- including Vincent Foster ... and Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell," the judge wrote.

The "most outrageous conduct by the government" was the administration's failure to correct Magaziner's misstatement, the judge said.

"There were no rogue lawyers here misleading this court...the executive branch of the government, working in tandem, was dishonest with this court, and must now face the consequences of its misconduct," the judge said.

The judge also expressed anger that the Justice Department "succumbed to pressure from white House attorneys" from White House attorneys" to use false excuses and "strained interpretations" to defend the actions of Magaziner.

"Acting dishonestly, as the government did in this case, is ... acting in bad faith," the judge said.