'Secret' Clinton files from WH years won't be unsealed
Some files from the Clinton White House years remain under seal, despite the fact that the law says they can be unsealed 12 years after the president leaves office.
Under the Presidential Records Act, such records can be withheld for up to 12 years after a president leaves office. However, at the 12-year mark, those broad restrictions fall away and the once-secret presidential papers are generally subject to disclosure. For the Clinton files, that milestone came and went in January 2013.
The long-sealed records pose a delicate series of choices for the Clintons, and even President Barack Obama. They could allow disclosure of the papers, fueling new stories about old controversies like Whitewater and pardons granted as the 42nd president left office in 2001. Or they could fight to keep some or all of the files secret, likely triggering a court battle and stoking concerns that the former president and his wife are unduly secretive.
Either way, it’s a potentially messy situation unfolding just as Hillary Clinton — widely considered a clear front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination — mulls over whether to make a second bid to return to the White House.
It’s not entirely clear who’s responsible for the delay, since the release process involves the library and National Archives headquarters, as well as lawyers for the former president and Obama.
Unlike collections in other hands, the withheld files at the Clinton Library are under the control of the federal government. Obama would have to choose whether to back any privilege assertion by the ex-president — a move that would be in tension with public statements Obama made as a candidate and as president, promising to improve access to presidential records. Even the long delays in accessing the files raise significant questions about whether reforms Obama imposed on his first day in office are working.
There are 33,000 pages of documents that Republicans are drooling to get their hands on. There probably isn't anything criminal in the papers - Ken Starr examined those with relevance to his investigations. But no doubt there are some that would contain some pretty salacious gossip and embarrassing descriptions of various administration friends and enemies.
But there is very little chance President Obama will allow anyone to see them before the presidential election in 2016. Hillary could claim it's not her decision to make and President Obama would make up some excuse about not wanting to prejudice voters prior to the election by having the GOP take information out of context. Both are bogus reasons - as if Obama wouldn't unseal them if Bill and Hillary requested it.
Unless there's a successful court challenge to open the files, we probably won't know exactly what's in them until both Hillary and Bill are dead and buried.