Michael Isikoff

Stories by Michael Isikoff

  • A Classified Critique

    THE WAR ON DRUGS IS one of Bob Dole's favorite issues, and one he brought up frequently on Sunday night. One of his biggest attack points is a secret internal memo criticizing the Clinton administration's performance in the drug war. The memo, by FBI Director Louis Freeh and DEA chief Thomas Constantine, is officially stamped SECRET, and the White House, trying to avoid embarrassment in the campaign season, recently claimed executive privilege to bar its public release. ""Mr. President, it's time to release the memo so the American people will really understand how bad your drug policy's been the last 44 months,'' Dole said last week. Dole's message was crystal clear: Clinton had booted the problem and is now covering up. ...
  • The Real Hillary Clinton?

    HIS EXPOSES OF ANITA Hill and the alleged philandering of Bill Clinton made David Brock, 34, the Bad Boy of right-wing journalism. Now comes his take on the woman conservatives love to hate: the First Lady. NEWSWEEK has obtained an advance copy of Brock's new book, ""The Seduction of Hillary Rodham Clinton.'' In it, Brock says Hillary once hired a Little Rock private investigator to dig up dirt on Bill's trysts. Brock also reports that on Inauguration Day 1993, a U.S. Park Police officer overheard the Clintons shouting obscenities at each other outside Blair House. ""You stupid motherf---er!'' Hillary reportedly said. The White House refused to comment on the book. ...
  • 'Violations Of Privacy'

    IT WAS CALLED THE ""Up-date Project.'' The bland name was appropriate for what seemed to be a routine bit of bureaucratic housekeeping by the Clinton administration: a 1993 attempt to compile FBI background reports on the thousands of employees holding White House passes. But now it looks as if the venture would be more aptly dubbed ""The Ex-Files.'' ...
  • A Friend In Need

    BILL CLINTON NEEDED MONEY. IN the fall of 1990, a blistering round of Republican attack ads calling Clinton a ""raise and spend'' governor had devastated his re-election campaign. With just days to go, Clinton wanted to retaliate -- and he knew just where to turn: his old friend Herby Branscum. A former Arkansas Democratic Party chairman, Branscum ran the Perry County Bank in the tiny town of Perryville, about an hour's drive west of Little Rock. That year he provided Clinton with $180,000 in unsecured personal loans; $50,000 went to finance a last-minute TV blitz that pushed Clinton over the top. Branscum helped save Clinton's political life. ...
  • Whitewater Comes Due

    SEATED IN A CHIPPENDALE CHAIR IN the White House Map Room, Bill Clinton answered a prosecutor's questions on Whitewater for more than two hours. But for the fact that the president of the United States was a witness in a criminal case, his videotaped testimony was remarkably undramatic. Although he at times showed flashes of icy temper, Clinton flatly denied he pressured Arkansas businessman David Hale to make an illegal $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal, a former business partner who is now on trial with her ex-husband, James McDougal, on multiple counts of fraud. Clinton aides professed relief that the president's day in court had gone so well. ""This sort of spells the end of any speculation that [independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation] is going to touch the president in any way,'' said deputy counsel Mark Fabiani. ...
  • Damaging Damage Control

    EMBARRASSING RECORDS LONG UNDER subpoena have been popping up all over the White House. Consider what just happened to the candid, sometimes profane notes of a pair of top Clinton aides who were on the administration's Whitewater "response team" when the scandal began heating up in January 1994. Last week former communications director Mark Gearan told the Senate Whitewater committee that he had at first thought his notes of meetings at the White House that January were not covered by a host of blanket subpoenas. But when a personal subpoena arrived from independent counsel Kenneth Starr late last year, Gearan, who is now director of the Peace Corps, dug them out and handed them over. Michael Waldman, a staffer on the Whitewater team, recently had a similar moment of discovery, suddenly turning up a two-inch stack of documents, he explained, "in the course of an office move." ...
  • Upstairs At The White House

    IT'S A ROOM THAT'S DEFINITELY NOT ON the White House tour. High on the third floor of the family quarters, the "Book Room" is a cozy hideaway, open to the First Family, staffers and the president's houseguests. Next door is a small office where Mrs. Clinton worked much of last year writing her new book. Last August, a personal aide, Carolyn Huber, was going to pick up some magazine clippings in the Book Room when she noticed a stack of computer printouts that hadn't been there a few days earlier. She stuck them in a box, took them to her office in the East Wing and forgot all about them. Then, earlier this month, she was unpacking the carton--and gave a start when she realized what they were. She immediately called Mrs. Clinton's lawyer. Then she called her own lawyer. ...
  • Lost In Whitewater

    This wasn't why Maggie Williams came to the White House. The depositions, the hearings and the crushing lawyers' bills weren't part of the deal. She became chief of staff for Hillary Clinton, an old friend from the Children's Defense Fund, hoping to transform years of liberal think-tank lobbying into executive action. Instead, Williams is vastly better known for her emotional Whitewater testimony. Wrenching hearings, she told NEWSWEEK, are now "part of my to-do list." She even makes lame jokes about it. "I actually had two other pages of nice things to say about you," she said at a recent roast for Leon Panetta. "But I can't read them -- under advice from my counsel." ...
  • With Friends Like Hillary

    No One Doubts Her Status As A Very special friend of Bill and Hillary--or that Susan Thomases, a brash New York securities lawyer who has known both Clintons since the 1970s, played an important unofficial role in the confusion after Vince Foster's suicide. Thomases, who served the Clinton presidential campaign as chief scheduler and who is still Hillary Clinton's private lawyer, will be questioned at the Senate Whitewater hearings this week. That should raise her profile as an influential member of the Clinton entourage. But what few outside the Beltway know is that Thomases has turned her friendship into a career as a Washington influence peddler-and she isn't subtle about it.Thomases declined repeated requests for comment. But those who have seen her at work describe a heavy-handed style. Hired to represent a group of Puerto Rican companies in a dispute with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, she stunned a lawyer representing the firms by announcing that "this...
  • Out Of The Line Of Fire

    Read the plaque outside the department of Veterans Affairs' Washington office, and you'd think the agency's mission one of the more ennobling in government: it's ""to care for him who shall have borne the battle.'' But walk into room 433A at the VA Medical Center in Beckley, W.Va., and you meet Gregory Walker, 29, who's never been anywhere near battle. A self-described alcoholic and prescription-drug addict, Walker calls his problems ""service-related'': he first got hooked on booze at Fort Knox. Sharing Walker's room is Kermit Fox, a wizened 55-year-old vet who has spent much of the last decade living in a VA psychiatric ward -- the result, he says, of a traumatic gunshot wound he suffered in Chicago long after he left the army. The total cost to the government for Fox's treatment? More than $1 million. Does Fox believe he's entitled to free lifetime care at taxpayer expense? Hell, yes: ""There wouldn't be no U.S.A. if it weren't for the veterans.'' ...
  • Gingrich: Newt's Gay Sister Gets Out Front

    When hundreds of gay and lesbian activists march on Capitol Hill this week to demand support for AIDS funding, Newt Gingrich's half sister, Candace, will be at the head of the pack. A 28-year-old computer technician from Harrisburg, Pa., Candace Gingrich has long had a relaxed, live-and-let-live relationship with her conservative sibling. But she is fast becoming a political symbol. As ever, the religious right is determined to make homosexuality a wedge issue. And the gay-rights movement wants to use Candace Gingrich to fight back. ...
  • To Be Or Not To Be

    Congressman Mark Souder is a loyal foot soldier in Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's army -- a freshman from Indiana who is committed to slashing the federal budget. But last week, Souder found himself grappling with an unexpectedly unpleasant choice. Named to the House panel that will determine the fate of funding for the arts and humanities, Souder discovered that the Ft. Wayne Philharmonic in his district receives a $36,000 grant from that favorite target of conservatives -- the National Endowment for the Arts. Souder never thought much of the NEA, but he has a special fondness for the Philharmonic; one of its members taught him to play the French horn. Philharmonic benefactors were among his biggest campaign supporters. Will Souder join the crusade to kill the NEA? "I haven't made any final decisions," he says. "This is going to be difficult." ...
  • An Armey For The Revolution

    Bill Clinton may soon start praying for Newt Gingrich's good health. The speaker-to-be is a moderate compared with his next in command, Rep. Dick Armey of Flower Mound, Texas. Armey, who will soon take over as House majority leader, once complained that Hillary Clinton sounds ""a lot like Karl Marx.'' She called him the ""Dr. Kevorkian'' of the health-care debate. Ever since that exchange, Armey says, President Clinton has barely deigned to speak to him at White House events. ...
  • Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

    Ben Chavis had no idea what he was getting into when he crossed Mary E. Stansel. Friends say the 49-year-old former aide to Sen. Howell Heflin is a "woman of great commitment" who fights for what she believes. She is also a lawyer who has sued Eastern Air Lines for negligence, the National Bar Association for defamation and an 81-year-old woman for fraud, leaving a trail of subpoenas and discovery requests from Alabama to Washington. ...