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Gore denies knowing of clemency deal

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 10, 1999

WASHINGTON -- A newly released memo from a high-level White House staffer surmised that President Clinton could give Vice President Al Gore a boost among Puerto Rican voters by offering clemency to 16 Puerto Rican nationalists.

Clinton made the offer Aug. 11, five months after the e-mail was sent. On Tuesday, Gore denied prior knowledge of the president's decision and said he had no idea whether he benefited politically from it.

"The VP's Puerto Rican position would be helped," said a memo from Jeffrey Farrow, co-chairman of the president's interagency group on Puerto Rico. The March 6 note was sent to several colleagues.

The next day, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Maria Echaveste relayed Farrow's ideas to White House Counsel Charles Ruff, who was handling the clemency question.

"Chuck -- Jeff's right about this -- very hot issue," the e-mail said.

The internal White House correspondence was provided under subpoena to the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight after its chairman, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., undertook an investigation of the president's clemency offer. Fourteen of the separatists have since accepted.

The memos provided ammunition to critics who have been insisting that politics was a consideration in Clinton's decision.

The new information prompted Jim Nicholson, the Republican National Committee chairman, to demand Tuesday that the White House retract its earlier claim of executive privilege, which has shielded many documents involved.

Also . . .

BUSH ON VETERANS: In Pickens, S.C., Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush demanded that the U.S. government repay its "debt of honor" to veterans and tangled with rival John McCain's campaign. Bush praised the Arizona's senator's war-hero past but predicted that his two terms as Texas governor make for a more attractive presidential candidate. "I think voters are going to say I'd be a better commander-in-chief because I've had chief executive experience," Bush said.

* * *

GORE FIGHTS BACK: Vice President Al Gore, who issued a stern condemnation of Texas Gov. George W. Bush after he couldn't name the leaders of four foreign "hot spots" last week, lightened up Tuesday on the syndicated radio show Imus in the Morning, which also airs on MSNBC. "The other day I was talking to Utkir Sultanov -- you know, the prime minister of Uzbekistan? And he asked me, "Did you send a birthday card to Hamed?' That's of course Hamed Karoui, the prime minister of Tunisia," Gore told a chuckling Don Imus. But seriously, Gore added that he didn't necessarily fault Bush for blanking on the names.

CAMPAIGN POLL: Vice President Al Gore and Republican front-runner George W. Bush are getting most of their support in New Hampshire from women, according to a Dartmouth College-Associated Press poll. Overall, Gore held a slight lead over former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, 48 percent to 41 percent, among 367 likely Democratic voters in the nation's earliest primary. The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points. Gore's lead was wider among women, 53 percent to 35 percent. Men favored Bradley 54-38. In the Republican race, Bush was favored by 44 percent of those likely to vote in the GOP primary, compared to 31 percent who said they would vote for Arizona Sen. John McCain. Women favored Bush over McCain, 47-26, while men split 39 percent for Bush and 38 percent for McCain.

BAUER MAKES IT OFFICIAL: Republican presidential hopeful Gary Bauer made his campaign official by traveling to Concord, N.H., where he handed over the $1,000 filing fee to put his name on the first-in-the-nation primary ballot.

EX-DOLE AIDE HIRED: Ari Fleischer, the former top spokesman for Elizabeth Dole's failed presidential campaign, has been named a top adviser in George W. Bush's campaign.

BEATTY NOT INTERESTED IN BALLOT: Actor-director Warren Beatty said he was not interested "at this time" in being listed as a presidential candidate on California's primary ballot.

ANOTHER MEDICAID OFFENSIVE: Vice President Al Gore warned that Bill Bradley's proposed elimination of Medicaid in favor of subsidies for insurance would jeopardize health care for Latinos and people with disabilities.

KENNEDY SON NOT RUNNING: Merchandise Mart executive Chris Kennedy, son of late Sen. Robert Kennedy, said he will not run to succeed retiring GOP Rep. John Porter in a suburban Chicago congressional district.

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