White House Confidential

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WASHINGTON: A lesson for those who think news flows freely out of the White House was Mike McCurry's quiet announcement Wednesday that FBI investigators had come calling on the President and the Vice President--the day before. For journalists, the stone wall is up. "None of us knows anything because they're not saying anything," says TIME White House correspondent Karen Tumulty. "The White House is referring everyone to the President's lawyer. And the President's lawyer isn't saying anything." Even seemingly innocuous details (like how long the sessions lasted) were under wraps as reporters were summarily referred to a statement by attorneys for the pair. "The subject of the interviews was the telephonic solicitation of contributions in the 1994-1996 time period," the statement said. "Consistent with past practice, no further statement about the content of the interviews will be made at this time." Nixon, anyone?

Meanwhile Janet Reno, whose Justice Department was not represented at the grillings, still has until December 2 to decide whether to summon that independent counsel. "These sessions were more or less expected," Tumulty says. "This may not sway her at all. But this is certainly a reminder that the clock is ticking." Which could explain the silent treatment.