The President's unexpected step came in response to increasingly angry complaints from Congress and the media that he was engineering a cover-up over his relationship with the Madison Guaranty Bank, headed by a close friend of Mr Clinton and his wife. The bank's failure in 1989 cost US taxpayers dollars 60m.
Suspicions had intensified in recent days with the revelation that top Clinton aides had removed files on the affair from the office of the White House deputy counsel Vince Foster, less than 48 hours after Mr Foster committed suicide on 20 July. In particular, scrutiny has been focused on a property venture called Whitewater, set up by Madison's chairman, James McDougal, in which the Clintons had a substantial interest. Until last night the files had been in the keeping of the presidential family's Washington attorneys.
The Clintons say they lost dollars 70,000 (pounds 47,000) over Whitewater. However, it has been alleged that Madison funds may have been used to pay off Clinton campaign debts - in return for which the Governor of Arkansas, as he then was, shielded the bank from scrutiny.
Last night's concession is aimed at clearing up those doubts. The fervent hope of the White House is that they will draw the teeth of a controversy which, combined with new claims over Mr Clinton's alleged philandering when Governor has given his administration and his family one of their worst buffettings since he came to power.
A further complication is the position of Hillary Clinton, who, when she was a partner of the Rose law firm in Little Rock, was attorney for Madison. Yesterday Mrs Clinton cancelled long-scheduled television interviews when the networks insisted on asking her about the controversy.
However, there has been some respite on the second front of the storm shaking the White House, the allegations about Mr Clinton's extramarital affairs while Governor.
Thus far, apart from Gennifer Flowers, the women said to have once been mistresses of the President have either denied it or refused comment. One woman whom telephone records show to have had 60 conversations with Mr Clinton over a two-year period has told a New York tabloid the accusations were 'a lie'. Mr Clinton, she said, was simply an old friend 'helping her through a personal crisis'.
And an Arkansas trooper has sworn in an affidavit that neither he nor any of his colleagues were offered jobs by Mr Clinton. This goes some way towards defusing the especially damaging suggestion that the President might have used the powers of his office to try to buy the troopers' silence. Two troopers, however, still maintain he did.
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