WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bill Clinton's advisers carefully considered how to explain the president's military action against Iraq in 1998 as the House was debating his impeachment, according to records from the Clinton White House that were released Friday. The documents also touch upon Osama bin Laden, consideration of military action in Haiti in 1994 and preparationsfor Supreme Court nomination hearings.
The National Archives released about 1,000 pages of previously restricted documents from Clinton's two terms, part of about 20,000 pages of Clinton records that have been disseminated since February. The papers, which are stored at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, have received interest as former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton considers another presidential bid.
The latest batch also covers the Supreme Court nominations of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, the appellate court nomination of future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, security planning for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the 2000 presidential campaign of Al Gore, the then vice president.
A look at the documents:
The White House mulled how to explain Clinton's decision to launch a military strike against Iraq the day before the House was to debate bringing impeachment charges against the president in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
The notes of national security aide Tony Blinken include a draft of Clinton's address announcing the air strikes in December 1998 as a response to Saddam Hussein's refusal to allow United Nations inspectors to look for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The draft indicates White House counsel Charles Ruff, who was defending Clinton against impeachment, cleared a version that would say, "All of us would have preferred that the need for this action had not arisen on this day -- on the eve of the impeachment debate in the House of Representatives."
Instead, Clinton's address ended up sticking close to what the draft refers to as White House chief of staff John Podesta's version. The president said, "Saddam Hussein and the other enemies of peace may have thought that the serious debate currently before the House of Representatives would distract Americans, or weaken our resolve to face him down."
One tweak: In Podesta's version, the impeachment debate was termed "grave" instead of "serious."
House Republicans suggested it was Clinton who was trying to distract Americans with the timing of the attack. The Republican-led House voted to impeach on the last of the four days of air strikes; the Democratic-controlled Senate later acquitted Clinton.
In one file referencing bin Laden, Clinton urgently asked his top national security aide whether the CIA overstated the involvement of the terrorist leader in the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In his April 1999 scrawled note, Clinton referred to a New York Times story from that month that suggested U.S. intelligence officials had gathered no firsthand evidence of bin Laden's involvement.
"If this article is right, the CIA sure overstated its case to me -- what are the facts?" Clinton asked national security adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger. Clinton's note prompted a flurry of replies from Berger, counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke and aide Daniel Benjamin, but those responses were withheld, apparently for national security concerns.
Government prosecutors later indicted bin Laden among a group of al-Qaida leaders and operatives for their involvement in the simultaneous bombings, which killed 213 people in Nairobi and 85 in Dar es Salaam. Six terror associates were convicted and are serving life terms in U.S. prisons.
Bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, was still under indictment when he was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May 2011.
In 1994, Clinton's team weighed taking action in Haiti to restore democracy and to remove military leaders who staged a coup. Congress opposed any intervention and Clinton's aides debated how to act without lawmakers.
"The operation is likely to involve low intensity and short conflict. Given the consent of President (Jean-Bertrand) Artistide and the limited capability of the Armed Forces of Haiti, such action does not intrude upon the power of Congress to declare war," national security aide Tony Lake wrote to White House counsel Lloyd Cutler.
In another memo, Lake, Cutler and Pat Griffin urged Clinton to take action without congressional approval. They said that simply informing Congress immediately before military strikes was sufficient.
Clinton deployed armed forces in September 1994. As some U.S. military members were in the air en route to the island, Haitian military leaders agreed to step down and they left the country in October. Aristide resumed power.