Starr's Lewinsky inquiry cost $6m

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The Independent Online
AMERICANS MAY now be looking on their President as commander- in-chief rather than entertainer-in-chief, but they have been presented with two vivid flashbacks to "that woman".

From the General Accounting Office, which audits public spending, came preliminary estimates that the independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, spent more than $6m investigating the Monica Lewinsky scandal, bringing his total spending over the four and a half years of the investigation of the President to more than $40m - a record for any independent counsel investigation.

Then from President Clinton himself came new evidence of that combination of defiance and fun that made him so difficult for Mr Starr to incriminate. In his first one-to-one interview since his acquittal by the Senate, Mr Clinton insisted that he did not regard the impeachment vote against him in the House of Representatives as a "badge of shame" and harboured no bitterness towards his accusers.

He also stated that, despite rumours of a separation, he and his wife, Hillary, intend to stay together and that if she decided to run for the Senate he would be at her side.

Asked by Dan Rather, the doyen of US television presenters, how he felt about becoming only the second president to be impeached, and the first elected president to suffer that fate, he replied: "I do not regard this impeachment vote as some great badge of shame. I do not because I do not believe it was warranted and I just don't believe it was right."

Asked to respond to the likelihood that his impeachment would figure in the first paragraph of his obituary, Mr Clinton said: "If it is, if the history writers are honest, they'll tell it for just exactly what it was. And I'm honoured that something indefensible was pursued and that I had the opportunity to defend the Constitution."

He denied he had ever considered resignation: "Never, not a second, never, never," he said. But goaded to say that Hillary was the main force behind this reluctance, he said carefully that she had "felt at least as strongly as I did".

Asked about his wife and daughter, Chelsea, Mr Clinton was more upbeat than he has been since he admitted the relationship with Ms Lewinsky. "I think, given what we've been through, we're doing reasonably well. You know, we're not a large family, but we do love each other very much. And we work hard to support one another. I think we're doing quite well considering what we've been through and, God willing, we'll keep after it," he said.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Starr's investigation continues. Legal proceedings involving Mr Clinton's associates such as Webster Hubbell, a former assistant attorney-general, and Susan McDougal, a former business partner from Arkansas, are still in progress, and a grand jury investigation related to further obstruction of justice allegations against Mr Clinton is not yet complete.

Congress, however, must decide by June whether to renew the independent counsel's mandate, and if - as appears likely - it does not, all investigations will end for lack of money.

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