As an aide in the Clinton White House, Elena Kagan steeped herself in details of the Ruby Ridge controversy, an issue that Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania had zeroed in on as he sought the Republican presidential nomination.
Kagan's handwritten notes from 1995 track Specter's hearings, according to some of the Supreme Court nominee's records released Friday from her days as a White House lawyer.
The wife and son of white separatist Randy Weaver had been shot to death in Idaho at the hands of federal law enforcement agents and Specter was looking into a possible FBI coverup of who gave the orders that led to the August 1992 tragedy, which also claimed the life of a deputy U.S. marshal who was shot to death.
Among the Ruby Ridge-related documents in Kagan's files was a preparatory question-and-answer session with President Bill Clinton in which the president called for a "full accounting" on Ruby Ridge, adding that he had not been in office when the shootings took place.
By 1995, it was the alleged FBI coverup following the shootings that became the consuming issue.
"Dispute btw Hatch and Specter — when to finish up? latter wants to get into coverup," state handwritten notes in Kagan's files.
Following a GOP takeover of the Senate as well as the House in 1994, Orrin Hatch of Utah took over the chairmanship of the judiciary committee and Specter chaired the terrorism subcommittee.
Facing fundraising woes and trailing Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas for the GOP nomination, Specter dropped out of the race toward the end of 1995, and Ruby Ridge didn't became a campaign issue.
But earlier in 1995, Kagan's files reflect the importance that the issue of Ruby Ridge held for the president and his top aides.
In July 1995, a news article on a possible FBI coverup of the events surrounding Ruby Ridge was stamped "the president has seen."
The news article focused on the possible shredding of an FBI document that could have shed light on law enforcement decisions during the siege at Ruby Ridge. The bureau had laid down permissive rules for the use of deadly force.
In releasing Kagan's files Friday, the Clinton presidential library kept under wraps for now a five-page Justice Department memo on the coverup allegations. The memo was faxed to the White House in early September 1995.
Releasing it would disclose confidential advice involving the president and his advisers or between his advisers, according to a notice in the Kagan records explaining why the memo is being withheld from public view 15 years after the events.
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