RNC questions timing of Clinton document release
March 7th, 2014
06:24 PM ET
8 years ago

RNC questions timing of Clinton document release

(CNN) - The Republican National Committee alleged Friday that previously confidential papers from the Clinton White House were improperly withheld from the public for over a year and requested the National Archives provide its correspondence with the offices of Bill and Hillary Clinton regarding the review and release of the material.

David Powers, the RNC's senior counsel, requested in a letter Friday to the Archives that the agency turn over "any documents, correspondence, and e-mails" it exchanged with representative of the Clintons regarding the "review, consideration, or withholding" of the documents, which he says includes "some communications with Hillary Clinton."

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In response to the request, which was filed under the Freedom of Information Act, Archives spokesman Chris Isleib said in an email to CNN the agency "will process this FOIA request like we do all others."

A source close to President Clinton told CNN, "We have nothing to do with when (the Archives) puts them on the website or makes them available in the Clinton Library Reading Room."

Huge trove of documents

At issue are approximately 33,000 pages of documents from Bill Clinton's eight years in office that became eligible for public release in January 2013 under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, pending a review of by Archives staff and The White House.

Of particular interest to Republicans is information pertaining to Hillary Clinton, first lady from 1993-2001 and a potential presidential candidate in 2016.

The law established the public ownership of White House records starting with the Reagan administration, but it carved out several restrictions where certain documents could be withheld for 12 years after a President leaves office.

The restricted material includes confidential documents relating to appointments for federal office and correspondence between the President and his advisers as well as correspondence between advisers.

January 20, 2013, marked 12 years since Clinton left office, but the documents in question remained outside public reach for an additional 13 months.

A sitting President may assert executive privilege to withhold documents. Currently, approximately 8,000 of the 33,000 pages of documents at issue are still under review by the White House until March 26.

Former Presidents may request that executive privilege be asserted to withhold particular documents, but the ultimate authority lies with the current president.

Few headlines so far

The first batch of files that were released last week made few headlines.

Powers called the partial release "a positive development" but added that "the question of why these documents were not released in January 2013 remains unanswered."

Clinton is only the third former President and the first Democrat to fall under the disclosure requirements of the Presidential Records Act. The others were former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Prior to the Act, White House papers became the personal property of the former President once he left office.

The George W. Bush administration also came under fire in 2001 for delays in the release of restricted records from the Reagan White House.

The first restricted documents from those files were not released for more than 11 months after the 12-year mark since Ronald Reagan left office. Once the initial batch was released on January 3, 2002, all remaining documents were made available to the public within seven months.

In February 2005, the George Bush Presidential Library began releasing previously confidential documents from the first Bush White House within one month of the expiration of the 12-month period.

However, it took more than four years to release all 68,000-plus pages of records comparable to those the Clinton library began releasing last week.

Hillary adds different element

Asked whether the delays in the release of Reagan and Bush documents were also improper, Kirsten Kukowski, an RNC spokeswoman, told CNN that the matter pertaining to Hillary Clinton was unprecedented.

"A former first lady ran for President where the release of these documents was an issue. She then became the secretary of state and is likely running for President again. They have known for six years that these documents were in high demand and only when this became a press story did they act," she said.

The initial release last week of approximately 3,500 pages of documents included records on health care reform, women's initiatives of the Office of the First Lady, and various records from a number of White House speechwriters.

Clinton documents: Much has changed, but much still the same

The release of the first batch of confidential documents last week on the heels of media reports have raised questions about the timing of the release and causes of the initial year-long delay.

"The Clintons have a history of trying to keep their past secret from the American people. Americans deserve to know who was responsible for keeping on lockdown documents that should have been released over a year ago," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a written statement Friday.

Although document releases of this size require a significant amount of processing and review from Archives and library staff, it remains unclear how long that processing took, exactly when the White House and Bill Clinton's office were first notified of the intent to release documents, and how many, if any, extensions the White House requested to review the material.

Confidential Clinton White House documents nearing release

Isleib said in a statement last week that the National Archives notified The White House and President Clinton's office that the 12-year period had expired, although he did not indicate exactly when that notification was given.

"When those restrictions expired, NARA then provided notification of our intent to disclose these Presidential records to the representatives of President Obama and former President Clinton in accordance with Executive Order 13489, so that they may conduct a privilege review of the records," Isleib said.

Reagan White House documents

Despite repeated inquiries from CNN, no official from the National Archives would speak on the record about the chronology of communication between the Archives and the White House and President Clinton's office regarding the review and release of records, except that the White House would be reviewing the additional 8,000 documents until March 26.

Archives officials in the past have been more forthcoming with information regarding previous releases of confidential presidential papers. In August 2001, then-Archivist of the United States John Carlin released a detailed statement regarding the delay in releasing records from President Reagan's restricted White House files.

A White House official told CNN last week that attorneys in the White House Counsel's office have been reviewing the Clinton documents "page by page" and that The White House authorized the release of many of these documents at some point in 2014.

According to the source close to Bill Clinton, "Within an hour of our being informed that the incumbent President had signed off, we notified NARA that we had no objection to their release."

Under the Presidential Records Act, documents pertaining to national security, trade secrets, and unwarranted invasions of personal privacy, such as Social Security numbers, can be withheld beyond the initial 12-year period.

As of Friday, the neither the National Archives nor the Clinton Library have indicated when the next release of documents will take place.

CNN's Jim Acosta and Dan Merica contributed to this report.

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • RNC
soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Why won't she show us her birth certificate ?

    Maybe she was born in Banghazi ?

    The GOP has every right to ask stupid questions and wast tax payers money !

    March 8, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  2. yerkiddinright

    Translation: we didn't find anything to nail her with so we're going to criticize the fact they released the papers after a short delay. Now they'll insist that Darrell Issa form an investigating committee.

    March 8, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. Concerned citizen

    Be afraid GOP, as you are now! She is going to be your worst dream coming true! Women as POTUS!

    March 8, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  4. just me

    They don't have time to read a bill, but now they want 33k pages? When will they find the time to get to 100 votes to repeal Obamacare?

    March 8, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  5. Truthaboveall

    Hillary has actual skeletons in her closet.

    March 8, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  6. chrissy

    These clowns know no bounds! Would be more beneficial to them if they were to do some actual work on REAL problems in this country instead of trying to manufacture some!!! Straight jackets indeed! And electric shock collers!!!

    March 8, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  7. hellsyeahs

    I love the Tea Party. They are insuring a viable future for America with their insanity. They have driven an entire generation away from the GOP. They have driven an entire gender away. They have driven minorities away. GOP is dead.

    March 8, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  8. jerrylax

    why not release everything on clinton going back to her hiding files during the Nixon hearings? Let American and the world meet the real clinton.

    March 8, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. J anthony

    I can't get over this pettiness,day in day out.. Is this enough for us yet? These people and the mainstream media that covers them are useless in the face of abuse of power-they're intertwined in the ongoing power-games and political farce. Real problems are.not real to them, they're abstract obstacles in the way of victory. When will we citizens form a national coalition with our own chosen leaders with the strength resume control over the resources and systems on which our lives depend? The current system of scarcity in a world of plenty for the benefit of a parasitic ruling class is unsustainable. It is not for a lack of funding or resources that keep us from solving problems, it is lack of will and imagination.

    March 8, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  10. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    On relate news, rational minds question the point of the very existence of the RNC.

    March 8, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  11. 7saturdays

    I wonder how many of the above comments are from actual people. Come on, the deadline is up. No one is above the law. This isn't about the GOP. It's about Hillary. The GOP is just the only party interested in following the letter of the law.

    March 8, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Keep slamming the GOP all you want, the only group left in America that actually expects for people to be responsible with their own lives.

    March 8, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  13. ironman59

    Since when does the rnc have any authority to demand any information? The release of the information is between the owners & the archives – nobody else. It is more of the "show me everything, I will show you nothing" mentality of the gop.

    March 8, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  14. Randal

    Vince Foster

    March 8, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  15. Randal

    V_ince F_oster

    March 8, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  16. Silence DoGood

    why not release everything on clinton going back to her hiding files during the Nixon hearings? Let American and the world meet the real clinton.
    Well that is a new conspiracy theory on me. Yes the Truth is hidden away in Area 51 by Aliens.
    Don't tell us what is this is about so all our fears can run wild.
    This is what the conservative movement has become.

    March 8, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  17. Randal

    Dont mention a certain imdividuals name who mysteriously committed suicide during the Clinton administration. It will not be allowed by CNN. Democratic lackeys

    March 8, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  18. kcyankee

    J. Anthony's got it. Pogo said it best: We have met the enemy & he is us. By the way, Hillary 2016.

    March 8, 2014 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  19. tom l

    Tim CA

    Totally agree. The repubs and the dems are just gangs pitting us against each other so they can gain more money and power. Crips vs. Bloods...

    March 8, 2014 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  20. DH

    Gee tommy g, never saw romney's taxes now did we?????????

    March 8, 2014 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  21. Kim

    I WANT updates... your a NEWS company.... where is the REAL news??? Benghazi and the IRS mess???

    March 8, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  22. guest007

    this country is already a joke from other world leaders imagine having the WORST SECRETARY OF STATE becoming the next president.... putin and assad are already laughing at obama imagine what these to leaders think IF cilinton is the next pres

    March 9, 2014 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  23. CryBabies

    What all you libs need is a box of Kleenex...or some cheese with your "whine" ( Corny but approriate in this universe) Send me your addresses and I'll have you all over for a good 'cry"

    March 9, 2014 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  24. Nameswisschese

    I am a Christian conservative. For us, it was clear abortion was our single most important political issue every year. We also had other issues dear to us. Over the decades, the GOP 100% of the time failed to meet any of our political goals. 100% failure is remarkable. I thought a lot about it. It seemed i could assume the GOP is entirely incompetent, but the GOP was able to meet many objectives specific to business that had high and low priorities. That led me to conclude the GOP was not inherently and completely incompetent, but the GOP was successfully beguiling Christian conservatives since the late 1970s. I don't vote GOP anymore. As a Christian, you know i can't vote Libertarian or Democrat either. I will not vote for anyone in the GOP ever again. I am ashamed they blatantly tricked me for so ling. If the Tea Party breaks free from the GOP, and field its own canidates, i would vote for a Christian Tea Party canidate.

    March 9, 2014 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  25. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    The Republican Party is a NATIONAL JOKE and will come back to haunt them in November . Won't be a suprise to anyone but the party of stupid, the GOP !!!!

    March 9, 2014 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
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