Scandal rattles Clinton allies in Congress

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Bill Clinton yesterday began the search for a new top legal adviser at the White House - someone of sufficient stature and recognised integrity to help to repair the damage of the ever more threatening controversy over his and his wife's financial dealings when he was Governor of Arkansas.

Hours after accepting the resignation of the White House Counsel, Bernard Nussbaum, on Saturday, Mr Clinton left unexpectedly with his family to spend the weekend at Camp David - a refuge after the two most tempestuous days yet in the Whitewater affair, which saw not only Mr Nussbaum's forced departure but the delivery of subpoenas to him and nine other officials.

Yesterday, however, brought scant respite as one of the most powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill held open the possibility of hearings into the

secret meetings between White House and Treasury officials that have fuelled accusations of a cover-up. 'We'll take a look at it,' Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said on television.

His remarks are the clearest sign yet of the anxiety Whitewater is causing even to Mr Clinton's allies, as Republicans seek to maximise the damage. No charge of wrongdoing has been brought against either the President or the First Lady. But the New York Republican Senator Alphonse D'Amato said the affair 'has the potential of being as great if not greater than Watergate'. The first test of that assertion will come on Thursday, when Mr Nussbaum, the Deputy Treasury Secretary, Roger Altman, and key aides of both Mr and Mrs Clinton must testify before a grand jury about the meetings, the last of which took place in February.

On each occasion the topic was the ongoing federal investigation into the failed Arkansas savings bank Madison Guaranty, with which the Clintons had both personal and financial links.

Republicans insist it is incredible the presidential couple knew nothing of the meetings, as their spokesmen maintain. But in a dogged defence of Mr Clinton yesterday, Vice President Al Gore said he had 'no indication' Mr Clinton or his wife had been briefed.

Accusing the Republicans of playing politics, Mr Gore admitted that mistakes had been made in the handling of Whitewater. But 'there will be no interference of any kind,' he pledged.

'Whitewatergate', page 10

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