WASHINGTON -- There was some last-minute drama in Washington before yesterday's release of the long-awaited report by Independent Counsel David Barrett. Sources close to the three-judge panel overseeing the report say that the panel's members were furious about leaks to the press previewing the report's contents. The report, detailing an organized attempt by Clinton administration officials to shut down an Internal Revenue Service investigation into possible tax violations by President Bill Clinton's secretary of housing and urban development Henry Cisneros, was to be released at 9:00 a.m. Thursday. The day before, late in the afternoon, word went out from the judges to the Independent Counsel's office that the release would be delayed.
Its delay Thursday morning caused apprehension as to the report's future. It had cost some $23 million in taxpayers' money to produce and a decade to research. It allegedly contained information on the politicization of the IRS and the Justice Department during the Clinton years and now might never see the light of day. The morning of the delay saw the kind of stories that roused the judges' ire. Syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote that the impending report was heavily redacted -- 120 pages, poof! Simultaneously, with Novak's column came a front-page New York Times news story similar to the story published in the New York Sun last Monday that the Barrett Report chronicled a cover-up by the Clinton administration of both IRS and Independent Counsel investigations into Cisneros. But the Times report had a significant omission: no mention of the redacted pages in the final report, which after a three-hour delay did come out -- though with the 120 pages missing.