WASHINGTON — Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) today announced the Committee will depose Justice Department and FBI officials in an effort to determine what happened to a Campaign Finance Task Force FBI agent?s notes pertaining to the investigation of Yah Lin “Charlie” Trie.
“We had an entirely unsatisfactory meeting Thursday with officials from the Justice Department and FBI offices responsible for handling this internal investigation into the pages apparently removed from an FBI agent?s notebooks,” Chairman Thompson said. “They?ve known for a month that the agent?s notes have apparently been altered, but even when we met with these officials specifically to discuss their findings to date, they were wholly unprepared to talk about the details. The Committee now intends to find out the details on its own.”
Senator Thompson said the Committee will hear testimony from the agent in question and from various officials who handled her notebooks in response to a Congressional subpoena.
“The subject matter of these notes apparently relates to disputes over whether DOJ was willing to intervene to prevent Charlie Trie?s obstruction of this Committee?s investigation in 1997,” Thompson said. “These notes were apparently removed after they had been subpoenaed by a congressional investigation. These are very serious concerns — potentially involving criminal violations.”
At a committee hearing last Wednesday, four experienced Campaign Finance Task Force FBI agents stated that Justice Department attorneys blocked their efforts to conduct an aggressive investigation of Presidential campaign contribution activities.
The committee learned that:
? Although Charlie Trie?s assistant was known to be destroying documents subpoenaed by the Grand Jury, Justice Department lawyers for four months refused to allow agents to ask an independent magistrate for a search warrant to prevent further document destruction;
? Although Charlie Trie?s assistant was also destroying documents subpoenaed by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee with regard to the Presidential Legal Expense Trust, the Department refused to take steps to stop this destruction or even inform the Committee, which was having hearings on that very matter at the same time;
? In an unprecedented action, the veteran FBI agent-in-charge in Little Rock sent a memorandum to FBI Director Freeh setting out an array of instances where Justice Department lawyers had been unprepared, incompetent, or uncooperative and had controlled the field agents? every move in an unprecedented way;
? Despite repeated assurances from the Attorney General that she had entrusted the campaign finance investigation to veteran career prosecutors, the task force?s lead attorney admitted that high-ranking DOJ political appointees were in daily contact with her about the investigation and controlled her decisions in “absolutely” unprecedented ways, and;
? After DOJ had been served with a congressional subpoena and Task Force officials had begun collecting information to respond to it, someone removed 27 pages of detailed notes from notebooks belonging to the FBI lead case agent on the Trie investigation — notes that correspond precisely to the period in which the FBI had its greatest disputes with DOJ attorneys over the Trie search warrant.
“The Attorney General promised America a thorough, vigorous, and effective campaign finance investigation free of Departmental conflicts of interest,” Thompson said. “It?s now becoming clear, however, that what we got was something considerably different.”