The head of the White House personnel office that collected FBI files of more than 400 people is being put on administrative leave during an internal review, a White House official said.
The action disclosed Monday night reflected concern over growing pressure from Republicans, who plan to investigate the collecting of the files in 1993 and 1994 of FBI materials on some prominent Republican officials.Jack Quinn, the White House's top lawyer, insisted Craig Livingstone was not being disciplined. He will be paid during his absence while the personnel security office is reviewed, Quinn said on CNN's "Larry King Live" program.
Other aides to President Clinton said Quinn was seeking a new "senior manager" to run the office as part of a reorganization. Livingstone long has been a low-level functionary in Democratic Party politics.
"We are looking at bringing in new blood into the operation," said a senior White House official, insisting on anonymity. The White House would want someone with "a lot more experience in security-related matters" than Livingstone, the official said.
Congressional Republicans criticized the White House action as insufficient. "Reshuffling staff and promises of a review made under the cover of darkness doesn't begin to answer the questions raised by the egregious actions of the Clinton White House," said Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, chairman of the House Republican Conference.
About 30 demonstrators gathered outside the White House Tuesday, some lugging a file cabinet labeled "FBI Files" and chanting "Fire Clinton Now."
"It's time for the White House to 'fess up," said Bob Adams of the National Center for Public Policy research, a conservative think tank.
Quinn insisted that Livingstone called him Monday night and requested the leave, apparently after he was questioned by investigators from the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. The panel begins hearings on the FBI files controversy Wednesday.
The move sent a clear signal that Clinton's aides were concerned about the personnel security operation and the decision to name Livingstone to run it. Republicans were certain to question why the White House took 31/2 years to examine Livingstone's credentials.
White House spokesman Mike McCurry told reporters earlier that Livingstone has remained on the job because "he specifically denies that any improper use was made of any of these files." McCurry has repeatedly said Livingstone's job was not in jeopardy.
Livingstone, who is in his mid-30s, worked on the personal staff of Geraldine Ferraro during her vice presidential campaign and was on Gary Hart's staff when he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988.
Livingstone worked on Vice President Al Gore's advance team in 1992 and was director of security for Clinton's inaugural celebration.