Clinton accused: Starr: The lawyer who will not let go

The road that has taken Kenneth Starr into the mists of President Bill Clinton's extra-marital impulses has been a winding one. Its origins go back all the way to 1978. It was then that Mr Clinton, as Attorney General of Arkansas, joined with James and Susan McDougal in borrowing $220,000 to build holiday homes on the Whitewater River outside Little Rock.

Whitewater gained infamy during the 1992 presidential campaign when government investigators named both the Clintons as possible beneficiaries of illegal loaning activities by the Whitewater and Madison Guaranty, an Arkansas Savings and Loans bank headed by none other than Mr McDougal.

Fast forward to 1994, when Attorney General Janet Reno, under intense Republican pressure, agrees to appoint a special counsel to investigate Whitewater. He was Robert Fiske. One of his first tasks: exploring any links between the affair and the suicide of Vince Foster, a Clinton pal and White House lawyer. No link was found and that issue is now closed.

Mr Starr replaced Mr Fiske as the counsel in August 1994 and shoes began to drop. Charges were filed in 1995 against the McDougals and Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker. In May 1996, Tucker and the McDougals were convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges.

Mr Starr began last year to show interest in that other Clinton cupboard, the one allegedly containing extra-marital skeletons. Last week, he sought authorisation to investigate his suspicions regarding Monica Lewinsky, that she had sexual relations with Mr Clinton and that he pressured her not to talk about them. Ms Reno obliged Mr Starr last Friday. Thus,Whitewater and the sexual harassment allegations of Paula Jones have been brought together in one explosive mix. On Saturday, the President testified in the Jones case that he had had no affair with Ms Lewinsky.

Defenders of the President accuse Mr Starr of running a vendetta against Mr Clinton and overreaching his powers. He has this answer: that by investigating the Lewinsky affair, he may demonstrate a pattern in the President of deceit and obstruction of justice.

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