Fourteen years after they began, a federal judge today dismissed the lawsuits over Filegate, closing the book on a scandal that became an ongoing thorn in the side of the Clinton White House and helped launch Larry Klayman into temporary national prominence.
The plaintiffs sued the FBI, the Executive Office of the President, and a smattering of White House figures, including then first lady Hillary Clinton, in 1996 after the administration revealed that it had mistakenly ordered up the FBI files of more than 400 Bush I and Reagan administration officials. The case, spearheaded by Klayman and his conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch, led to parade of high profile depositions, but seemed to sputter as the years dragged on. Hillary Clinton was dismissed as a defendant last year.
Today, in a colorful 28-page opinion (it includes the phrase “bureaucratic babushka doll”), Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the plaintiffs had failed to provide any evidence that the files were sought as part of a White House conspiracy. Rather, he said, they had shown that the incident was little more than a “snafu.”
“After years of litigation, endless depositions, the fictionalized portrayal of this lawsuit and its litigants on television, and innumerable histrionics, this Court is left to conclude that with this lawsuit, to quote Gertrude Stein, ‘there’s no there there,’ ” Lamberth wrote.
Upon being informed that the cases had been dismissed, former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, who was also named in the suit, exclaimed, “No kidding.”
“The judge said it best. There is no there, there. And there never was any ‘there there,’ ” Nusbaum said. “It is sad that in that day and age, and in this day and age, the politics of personal destruction continues.”