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Washington briefs

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 14, 2000

Judge wants White House e-mail facts

WASHINGTON -- A federal judge challenged the White House and its computer contractor on Friday to let "the facts . . . come out" about what the Clinton administration knew in 1998 regarding hundreds of thousands of lost e-mails.

Northrop Grumman Corp. is claiming attorney-client privilege in refusing to disclose information that might shed light on whether White House lawyers and top presidential aides learned 21/2 years ago about an e-mail problem and alleged threats against employees who knew about it. The problem didn't become public until this year.

The e-mail archiving problem resulted in the White House's failure to review message traffic for investigators in the Lewinsky scandal, Whitewater and the fundraising controversy.

At a hearing, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, a Reagan appointee, said the White House should not "sit back" and let Northrop Grumman order its lawyer, prominent Washington attorney Earl Silbert, to refuse to disclose a range of information on the problem.

Congress approves automatic citizenship for adoptees

WASHINGTON -- Children adopted from abroad and other foreign-born children of American parents will receive automatic U.S. citizenship under legislation Congress has passed and sent to the president.

The legislation, which passed the House last month and the Senate late Thursday, would confer automatic and retroactive citizenship on all foreign-born children who are under the age of 18, admitted to the United States as lawful permanent residents and in the legal and physical custody of at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen.

"After what these parents have been through in bringing their children to the United States, the naturalization process is an extra burden they shouldn't have to bear," said Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass.

Also . . .

TOBACCO CLAIMS: The Justice Department asked a federal judge Friday to reinstate some of the claims dismissed last month from the Clinton administration's massive lawsuit against the tobacco industry. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled Sept. 28 that the government could not invoke two federal laws to recover Medicare payments and other costs of treating ill smokers. However, the judge said the government still could try to force the industry to pay billions of dollars for allegedly concealing the dangers of smoking.

MINORITY FARMERS: Hispanic farmers are the latest minority group to sue the Agriculture Department for racial discrimination, alleging in a case filed Friday that they were unfairly denied loans and other assistance. The department settled last year with black farmers, and a lawsuit filed on behalf of American Indian producers is pending. The latest lawsuit, which lists three farm families as plaintiffs, was filed on behalf of 20,000 Hispanic farmers and seeks $20-billion in damages. It alleges that USDA officials told the farmers that money for loans was not available when it was.

HOLOCAUST TREE: Federal investigators are looking into the disappearance of a tree planted in front of the Agriculture Department's headquarters this spring to commemorate victims of the Holocaust. The tree will be replaced. "We're being careful not to jump to any conclusions, . . . but this is certainly troubling," USDA spokesman Andy Solomon said.

SYRIAN JEW RESIDENCY BILL: Syrian Jews who fled to the United States to escape persecution would be granted permanent residency status under legislation the Senate unanimously passed Friday and sent to the White House. Clinton supports the measure, said the office of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the bill's sponsor in the Senate. The measure passed the House this summer.

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