Clinton plunged into crisis as top aide quits

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The Independent Online
THE Clinton White House was tipped into a full-blown political crisis yesterday as the President's chief legal adviser resigned over his handling of the Whitewater affair, writes David Usborne.

Bernard Nussbaum, a long- standing friend of Hillary Clinton, was one of six senior officials subpoenaed on Friday to appear before a grand jury next week to answer questions about the scandal. He is the first senior Clinton aide to quit under such a cloud of disgrace.

The subpoenas stem from evidence that the six may have had improper contacts with Treasury Department officials responsible for investigating Whitewater. Mr Nussbaum, who insisted yesterday that he hadacted properly, is carrying the can for allowing contacts which have raised questions of a cover-up that are beginning to look more threatening to the presidency than those about Whitewater itself.

In a second subpoena that had echos of Watergate, the FBI asked for the production of all documents relating to the meetings coming under scrutiny. Rubbish began to pile up at the White House as officials suspended collection in an effort to prove that nothing was being withheld. Electonic mail is to be stored on computers.

Those being called before the grand jury include the White House deputy chief of staff, Harold Ickes and communications director, Mark Gearan.

The Whitewater inquiry is studying the history and eventual failure of the Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan bank in Little Rock and its connections with the Whitewater housing development in which the Clintons were investors. At issue is whether regulatory oversight of the bank during the mid-1980s was compromised by the Whitewater link or by political funding it may have organised for Mr Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas.

The affair is complicated by questions relating to the First Lady's work in the Little Rock Rose law firm, which represented Madison Guaranty, and by the suicide last summer of Vincent Foster, a Rose partner who had worked on the Whitewater dossier.