On January 5, 1996, a new development thrust the travel office matter again to the forefront. A two-year-old memo from White House director of administration David Watkins surfaced that identified First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as the motivating force behind the firings, with the additional involvement of Vince Foster and Harry Thomason. “Foster regularly informed me that the First Lady was concerned and desired action. The action desired was the firing of the Travel Office staff.” Written in fall 1993, apparently intended for McLarty, the Watkins memo also said “we both know that there would be hell to pay” if “we failed to take swift and decisive action in conformity with the First Lady’s wishes.” This memo contradicted the First Lady’s previous statements in the GAO investigation, that she had played no role in the firings and had not consulted with Thomason beforehand; the White House also found it difficult to explain why the memo was so late in surfacing when all the previous investigations had requested all relevant materials. House committee chair Clinger charged a cover-up was taking place and vowed to pursue new material.
These developments, following Hillary Clinton’s prior disputed statements about her cattle futures dealings and Whitewater, led to a famous exchange in which high-profile New York Times columnist William Safire, who had endorsed Bill Clinton in the previous election, wrote that many Americans were coming to the “sad realization that our First Lady—a woman of undoubted talents who was a role model for many in her generation—is a congenital liar.
A copy of the Rose Law Firm billing records had also surfaced, under subpoena for nearly two years, is turned over to investigators by Hillary Clinton’s assistant Carolyn Huber. Ms. Huber has testified that she found the records, along with a stack of other papers, in the First Lady’s book room in August, 1995. She moved all of the documents to her office before realizing in January that the billing records were among the papers.