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DID THE GOP DOCTOR TAPES? HUBBELL'S LAWYER SAYS EDITS TARGET CLINTON.

Byline: Mary Leonard The Boston Globe

Parts of Webster Hubbell's telephone tapes from prison were selectively edited by Republicans on a House panel to distort their meaning and omit words, Hubbell's lawyer said Sunday. Among them is a tape that, heard in full, seems to support White House assertions that Hillary Rodham Clinton engaged in no wrongdoing while she and Hubbell were partners in the Rose Law Firm.

Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Reform and Oversight Committee, which released a 27-page transcript of tape excerpts Thursday, acknowledged on NBC's ``Meet the Press'' that the tapes had been edited or condensed, but only to protect the privacy of Hubbell and his family. Burton said he would release all the tapes - 150 hours total - if Hubbell's lawyer did not object.

John Nields, who represents Hubbell, vehemently objected, saying the tapes were confidential conversations between Hubbell and his wife, or Hubbell and him, and they had no business being disclosed in the first place.

``None of it should be released. Absolutely none of it,'' said Nields, who asserted Burton's committee had edited those already made public to ``change their meanings.''

``This is very, very wrong,'' said Nields, who appeared on ABC's ``This Week with Sam and Cokie.''

Burton later announced he would release full transcripts of the 54 conversations he has already excerpted.

``I believe this will once and for all put the lie to any accusations of editing, doctoring or out-of-context quotation,'' Burton said in a written statement.

On ``Meet the Press,'' moderator Tim Russert played Burton the tape of a conversation Hubbell had with his wife, Suzanna, in 1996, while he was serving a federal prison term for embezzling from his clients and partners at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Ark.

The only portion made public before Sunday had been of Hubbell seeming to suggest wrongdoing by the first lady when he said, ``I will not raise those allegations that might open it up to Hillary.''

But on the tape Russert played Sunday, Webster Hubbell also said this: ``Hillary - the only thing is, people say, Why didn't she know what was going on? And I wish she'd never paid any attention to what was going on at the firm. That's the gospel truth. She just had no idea what was going on. She didn't participate in any of this.''

To that, Suzanna Hubbell said: ``They wouldn't have let her if she'd tried.''

``Of course not,'' Webster Hubbell responded on the tape allegedly made on March 15, 1996. Hubbell and his wife knew their long-distance conversations were being taped.

Defenders of the Clintons disputed Burton, saying the purpose of the selective editing was to paint President and Hillary Clinton in the worst light, not to protect the Hubbells' privacy.

``If anybody believes'' Burton, ``I have a bridge to sell them,'' former White House counsel Jack Quinn said on ``Meet the Press.'' ``How he can possibly pretend to conduct an impartial and fair set of hearings in this matter is beyond belief.''

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Sunday called Burton ``incompetent, abusive, out of control, the worst kind of McCarthyite.''

Appearing on ``Fox News Sunday,'' Frank said Burton said in a recent interview that he was ``out to get the president'' and is therefore incapable of conducting an objective investigation through his oversight committee.

Burton, asked by Russert if he was ``after the president,'' said he wasn't sure he had been accurately quoted and could not ``remember exactly what I said. But my intention has been all along that we have to get at the truth. The American people have a right to know if crimes were committed by this president and this administration.''

The Republican majority on Burton's committee released the excerpts the day independent counsel Kenneth Starr brought a new, 10-count indictment against Hubbell for federal tax evasion and fraud. Hubbell is a former top Justice Department official and a longtime friend and colleague of the Clintons from Little Rock. Suzanna Hubbell, a Clinton political appointee in the Interior Department, also is charged in the indictment, as are Charles C. Owen, Hubbell's Little Rock lawyer, and Michael C. Schaufele, his accountant.

Consulting fees

Burton's committee has been investigating Hubbell in connection with large consulting fees he received from the Lippo Group, an Indonesian firm with ties to the president, Hillary Clinton and Democratic fund-raiser John Huang. The payments came at the same time that Hubbell was being pressed by Starr to cooperate in the Whitewater probe. Hubbell has said the payments were not hush money, which is what some Clinton critics allege.

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Photo: (color) Burton
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 4, 1998
Words:772
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