Clinton likely to need charity

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The Independent Online
The White House confirmed yesterday that a special defence fund may be set up to help President Bill Clinton to cope with legal bills of as much as dollars 1m ( pounds 670,000) which he is expected to run up defending his reputation from two different attacks.

Last week, Mr Clinton hired the Washington 'super-lawyer' Robert Bennett to defend him against the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former Arkansas state employee, Paula Jones. Mr Bennett will try to have the case dismissed before it is allowed to go to trial. If he fails, as is widely expected, the litigation could last more than a year.

Mr Bennett's services alone are rumoured to cost in the region of dollars 450 an hour. In addition to the Jones case, the President and the First Lady have for several months been defending themselves against allegations about their Whitewater real estate development in Arkansas, now being investigated by Robert Fiske, a special prosecutor. For Whitewater, the Clintons have retained another personal lawyer, David Kendall.

A White House official was asked yesterday whether the First Couple were having trouble keeping up with the bills. 'So far, no,' he replied. 'But there is now a civil action and the Fiske investigation. So they have legal costs on two different fronts.'

If a defence fund is set up, the White House could have nothing to do with it, and any donations would almost certainly have to be anonymous. Any suggestion that contributors could expect to receive presidential favours in return would raise further ethical questions.

Beyond the legal fees, there are the damages being sought by Ms Jones, who claims that Mr Clinton pressed her for oral sex during a May 1991 encounter in a Little Rock hotel room. Combined, the damages being sought on four different counts of harassment come to dollars 700,000.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has accused the media of becoming 'the handmaiden of the political right' in their obsession with presidential wrong-doing. In an interview with Vanity Fair she described reporting of the Whitewater affair as a 'paranoiac, conspiracy-driven investigation'.

Sex and politics, page 19