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TRAVEL OFFICE FIRINGS SHOW ETHICAL LAPSES, GINGRICH DECLARES

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The 1993 firings of White House travel office employees may be more telling than Whitewater in exposing ethical lapses of the Clinton administration, House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday.

The travel office case is "more troubling," Gingrich said on NBC's "Meet the Press," because it is "real time now, it's not what did they do back in Arkansas."With President Clinton's character a likely topic in the presidential campaign, Republicans are hitting hard on both the Whitewater and travel office issues.

Senate Whitewater Committee Chairman Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., is wrapping up hearings this month by further examining first lady Hillary Clinton's role in the land deal and possibly summoning Arkansas banker David Hale, the convicted felon who has contended that then Arkansas Gov. Clinton pressured him to make an illegal loan.

In the House, Rep. William Clinger, R-Pa., the chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, is pursuing what he says is possible collusion in the withholding of documents concerning the firing of seven travel office employees so they could be replaced by Clinton appointees.

What should trouble Americans, Gingrich said, is how the White House and the administration "fail to keep to a standard of honest and ethical conduct in this administration, in this government. That's a very different issue than what happened in Little Rock" years ago.

Clinger, speaking on "Fox News Sunday," also said that what he described as a cover-up in the travel office affair was indicative of broader problems in the White House. "If in fact there is a pattern of dissembling in this instance, isn't there a possibility of dissembling in other instances?"

Democrats insist that Whitewater and the travel office are nothing more than Republican attempts to hobble Clinton's re-election chances. "This whole issue is about one thing, it's about politics," Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark., said on Fox. "It is about bringing down this presidency."

D'Amato, speaking on ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley," said there are two issues remaining in his Whitewater investigation to finish June 14 - an FBI fingerprint analysis of legal records that turned up in the White House residence and whether to grant immunity to Hale so he can testify.

Hillary Clinton's fingerprints are said to be on the 1985-86 billing documents, but the White House says that is only natural since she handled them as part of her work for Little Rock's Rose Law Firm.

D'Amato said he had no plans to call Mrs. Clinton to testify, but was ready to bring in anybody who denied having access to the records but whose prints turn up.

He noted that Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr had previously opposed giving partial immunity to Hale so he could testify before D'Amato's committee, but "I sense a change in attitude."

Hale was the prosecution's star witness in the Little Rock trial that led to fraud and conspiracy convictions last week for Clinton Whitewater associates James and Susan McDougal and Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said Democrats are willing to have Hale testify - a two-thirds majority of committee members is needed to grant limited immunity - but said they are "very uneasy about giving blanket immunity across the board."

Newsweek in its upcoming edition released Sunday, also quotes D'Amato as saying he is likely to urge Starr to investigate whether Susan Thomases, a close friend of Mrs. Clinton, and possibly others committed perjury before his Whitewater committee.