The Shocking New Thompson Hearings

Print, TV Outlets Skip FBI Agents Charging Justice Department Supervisors Hindered Fundraising Probe

Readers of The Washington Times woke up Thursday morning to a shocking front-page story on a hearing of Sen. Fred Thompson's Governmental Affairs Committee, the committee so scorned by reporters when they held fundraising hearings in 1997. Four FBI agents testified that their Justice Department supervisors actively hindered the probe into illegal donations to the Democrats during the 1996 election cycle, including information that Charlie Trie had brought "duffel bags full of cash" to the Democratic Party. But Washington Post and Wall Street Journal readers couldn't locate an account of the hearing. New York Times fans found it wasn't among "all the news that's fit to print." USA Today printed a brief article.

img.gif (4876 bytes) Typically, every network missed the hearing Wednesday night, except Fox News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume. Carl Cameron showed clips of the hearing and noted "While the DOJ, the Department of Justice supervisors were denying any wrongdoing or political overtones in all of this, those FBI agents
were in the back of the room, Brit, snickering, heard in a number of cases to say 'Bull,' and a bit more." FNC's soft-newsy Fox Report ignored its own story. The networks' Thursday morning shows also were a blank.

Here's what most Americans were not told:

Bunglers in Charge? Ivian C. Smith, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Little Rock field office, wrote personally to FBI Director Louis J. Freeh on August 4, 1997 to complain about what he called an "increasing amount of frustration by the working street agents engaged in this matter....I am convinced the team at [the Justice Department] leading this investigation is, at best, simply not up to the task....The impression left is the emphasis on how not to prosecute matters, not how to aggressively conduct investigations leading to prosecutions."

No End to Shredding Parties. Washington Times reporter Jerry Seper added: "Mr. Smith, along with agents Daniel Wehr, Roberta Parker and Kevin Sheridan, told the committee that their Justice Department supervisor, Laura Ingersoll, who eventually was replaced as the campaign-finance probe's lead attorney, prevented them from executing search warrants they sought to stop the destruction of evidence. The agents said they were blocked from serving the search warrants because Miss Ingersoll did not believe they had established probable cause to show that a crime had been committed. The agents argued, however, that the probable cause standard set by Miss Ingersoll was more than was legally required."

The Missing Notebook Pages. Parker testified that "Ingersoll instructed the agents assigned to the case that the Justice Department 'would not take into consideration' evidence involving Mr. Clinton's legal defense fund and an obstruction of the Senate's investigation. She also said 27 pages from a spiral notebook recounting her disagreements with Justice Department lawyers disappeared after she turned over her notes to FBI superiors when Congress sought information about the disagreements. She said the pages, which have yet to be discovered, were torn out of the book."

Thompson said, "I do not eliminate the possibility of obstruction of justice within the Justice Department." But will the reporters who scorned Thompson and the probity of Reagan-Bush Justice officials ever notice? - Tim Graham