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News Briefs II

Clinton Rejects Allegations Over Tapes

The Washington Post

President Clinton said Wednesday that Republicans are trying to divert attention from their role in preventing campaign finance reform and rejected GOP charges that he failed to take responsibility for what happened in the White House.

Before departing Washington for a day of fund-raising and campaigning, Clinton insisted that videotapes of White House political events, sought for months by the Senate committee investigating campaign finance allegations and turned over only in recent days, "will reinforce the fact that no one has done anything wrong here."

"What's going on here is that under the smoke screen of the films, which everybody can now freely watch, there was yet one more attempt to deal the death knell to campaign finance reform," he told reporters.

On Tuesday, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred D. Thompson, R-Tenn., demanded Clinton "step up to the plate and take responsibility" for the long delays producing tapes showing him with campaign contributors at White House events and for the lack of cooperation shown to the committee by some key party fund-raisers.

Clinton shot back that Thompson was motivated by sour grapes over the committee's failure to produce major evidence of illegality. "I think he may be disappointed in the results of the hearings," he said.

Sen. Thompson Admits Error in Latest Fund-Raising Accusation


A senior Republican senator sought Wednesday to tie President Clinton to a criminal conspiracy involving illegal fund raising for the head of the Teamsters union, but was forced to retreat in the face of White House documents refuting his charges.

The flurry of accusations raised to new heights the degree of partisan acrimony in a Senate panel's investigation of campaign finance abuses and dented the credibility of the committee's chairman, Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.

"We hold people to pretty high standards, and I suppose we should hold ourselves to the same high standards," Thompson said in acknowledging his apparent error. "If you have to eat any crow, it's better to do it when it's warm than when it's cold."

White House officials, who as recently as Tuesday were subjected to fierce criticism from Republican committee members over their belated production of videotapes of White House coffee klatches, were quick to seize upon Thompson's misstep as a way of deflecting that criticism.

"I'm willing to give Sen. Thompson the benefit of the doubt that he intended no innuendo connecting the president of the United States with a criminal conspiracy," said White House Counsel Lanny Davis. "I assume he would give us the benefit of the doubt that when we miss a document, we're not obstructing justice."

Airlines to Inspect Fuel Systems Of 2,000 Planes


The world's major airlines will begin a one-time inspection program to look for problems in the fuel systems of 2,000 jet aircraft, in response to the TWA Flight 800 crash last year, industry groups announced Wednesday.

The inspections will focus on electrical components inside the fuel tanks, such as pumps and fuel-measuring systems, wiring inside the tank, and bonding and grounding straps that help prevent static electric buildup. The inspections will be carried out when the airplanes undergo their regularly scheduled heavy maintenance check, an inspection that usually occurs every five years and can take several weeks.

It will take between 24 and 30 months to inspect the planes, which represent about one-third of the jets flown by the 68 airlines participating in the program.

"These airplanes are safe to fly, and we expect that new data will confirm the safety of both the fuel systems and the design philosophy," said Carol Hallett, president of the Air Transport Association, a U.S. airline trade group. She said the inspections would cost the airlines several million dollars.

L.A. Times Editor Coffey Quits

The Washington Post
Los Angeles

Shelby Coffey III has resigned as editor of the Los Angeles Times rather than work with the paper's aggressive new publisher, sources at the paper said Wednesday night.

Coffey's departure, which is expected to be announced Thursday, comes weeks after Mark Willes, chief executive of parent company Times Mirror, also took the reins as the paper's publisher. A former cereal company executive who took the helm at Times Mirror two years ago, Willes is charging ahead with an extensive remake of the million-circulation paper.

Coffey, who has run the paper for eight years, may be offered a corporate post, perhaps with the title of editor at large, but that could not be confirmed Wednesday night. Sources at the paper said the managing editor, former foreign correspondent Michael Parks, has been offered the top job and is expected to accept.

Said one Times staffer: "This is the least disruptive move (Willes) could make because you're not bringing someone in from the outside. The big unanswered question is how come, other than the desire to change things to prove that you're changing things."

A knowledgeable source said that Willes asked Coffey to reconsider his decision but that Coffey insisted on stepping down. The recent resignation of publisher Dick Schlossberg was also portrayed as voluntary, but insiders say he too found difficult Willes' style.