WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton claims Sandy Berger has "no official role" in her campaign after Republican lawmakers blasted her Monday upon learning that Clinton's campaign is taking advice from the former top aide to President Bill Clinton who admitted stealing classified documents and disposing them.
"I think it’s a bad move," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaking with FOX News. "He stole documents, classified documents, from the National Archives, destroyed them, lied about what he did (and) is not the kind of adviser that you would want surrounding a candidate for president of the United States. I think it’s a bad decision."
"I think anyone who would surround themselves with advisers like that is demonstrating bad judgment, and I think Sen. Clinton should reconsider," he added.
And Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., said: "I am not surprised but I think it's a very inappropriate choice."
Hoekstra said Clinton's campaign "should clearly distance themselves from Sandy Berger. This person should not be a key adviser to one of the leading presidential candidates in 2007."
And Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz added this shot: "It is beyond belief that Hillary Clinton would have someone advising her campaign who has pled guilty to stealing and destroying national security documents. Sen. Clinton tries to sound tough on national security issues, but it seems that repaying old friends like MoveOn.org and Sandy Berger is her real priority."
Berger was Clinton's national security adviser from 1997 until 2001. In 2003, while preparing for the 9/11 commission hearings, he took copies of secret documents from the National Archives and later destroyed them. He was caught a few days after absconding with papers from the archive's College Park, Md., facility, and lied to investigators.
The New York Democrat's campaign downplayed the fact, saying Monday that Berger is an informal, unpaid adviser to the campaign, something ascribed to many people associated with the campaign. Berger has been a longtime friend of both Clintons.
"He has no official role in the campaign," spokesman Blake Zeff said.
Aides to the New York Democrat were unapologetic about Berger's advisory role, noting he is not a central figure but has valuable and welcome input that he is providing voluntarily.
But Hoekstra took issue with the idea of letting someone convicted in connection with that sort of crime even voluntarily advise the campaign.
"Sandy Berger had a high position within our national security apparatus once before. He abused that position. He took top secret materials. He took them home, and we still have not really discovered or know what was in the documents or why they were so important for him to take them," Hoekstra said.
"It's clearly an indication that Sandy Berger is on the way back. That even though he abused the office that he held before and the privilege that he had before that there's a way for him to get back in and become a part of the national policy-making within the United States of America," he added.
Hoekstra also said there is an apparent imbalance in the way I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's case was handled and that of Berger's. Hoekstra said Libby — who was convicted of perjury after he lied about the investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity — was treated much more harshly than Berger.
The (Washington, D.C.) Examiner first reported the connection between Berger and Clinton Monday.
The Examiner reported the arrangement with Berger is similar to one with Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, for which Berger provided foreign policy advice. Kerry, however, severed the relationship with Berger once charges that he stole the classified material became public.
In 2003, Berger took sensitive national security documents from the National Archives facility, at times stuffing them into his socks. At the time, Justice Department officials said none of the documents were originals.
A separate investigation by the National Archives' inspector general last year found Berger also one time hid papers under a construction trailer near the archives building in downtown Washington.
Berger, who at first denied any wrong-doing, entered his guilty plea in April 2005 to a single charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. He later was fined $50,000 and sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours of community service. He also lost his security clearance for three years.
FOX News' Mike Majchrowitz and Carl Cameron contributed to this report.