Will Hillary Clinton be swallowed up by the Whitewater rapids?

Rupert Cornwell in Washington offers a guide to the bear essentials of the Little Rock scandal

August 78

2 August: The Clintons and James and Susan McDougal purchase 203 acres in the Ozark mountains in northern Arkansas to build holiday homes, the property venture known as Whitewater. Bill Clinton is the state's impecunious attorney general, shortly to be elected Governor, his wife a lawyer with the Rose law firm in Little Rock. Mr McDougal is a small- time financier and speculator who in 1982 will set up the Madison Guaranty savings and loan bank (similar to a British building society).

October 86

October: A report by federal banking authorities finds Madison all but insolvent, but the bank survives somehow (foes would say thanks to Governor Bill and lawyer Hillary, whose firm is handling Madison business). Another prop is a $300,000 loan earlier that year secured by Susan McDougal and fraudulently channelled into Madison and thence in part to Whitewater. In 1989 the immense Reagan-era speculative bubble in savings and loan banks bursts. Madison collapses, costing the US taxpayer $65m.

March 92

8 March : Clinton is by now running for President and the first Whitewater article appears in the New York Times, detailing his land investment partnership with the owner of a failed S&L. Reeling under the Gennifer Flowers and draft-dodging allegations, the Clinton campaign none the less manages to contain the damage - in part because the press fails to follow up a story it judges too complicated.

January 93

20 January: Bill Clinton becomes the 42nd US president, a month after disposing of his loss-making Whitewater interest by selling it back to Jim McDougal. But the US treasury has sent the justice department a report on Madison naming the Clintons as "potential beneficiaries" of illegal activities at the bank. The Administration's efforts to keep tabs on the probe will lead to a first round of Whitewater hearings.

May 93

19 May: "Travelgate" erupts with the abrupt firing of the entire White House travel office - more than probably at the instigation of Hillary Clinton - and the White House's enlistment of the FBI to suggest criminal activities by its staff. The enterprise proves a PR catastrophe for the Administration. After travel office director Billy Dale is acquitted on all charges in late 1995, the Republicans who by now run Congress hold embarrassing hearings.

July 93

20 July: Vince Foster, deputy White House counsel and longstanding personal friend of the Clintons, commits suicide. Conspiracy theorists have a field day: Was Foster murdered? Was his body moved from a "safe house" owned by Hillary Clinton to the park overlooking the Potomac river where it was found? Was the CIA, even Mossad, involved? In fact, the impact upon Whitewater lies in the personal files Foster kept in his office, relating to the original land deal, the Clintons' tax records and "Travelgate". White House aides move heaven and earth to keep the files away from investigators. Foster's death, moreover, lends Whitewater a tragic human dimension which keeps the affair alive.

January 94

20 January: As ever more revelations emerge about Madison and Whitewater, Robert Fiske is named the first Whitewater special counsel. After interviewing the Clintons under oath, he concludes that Foster did indeed commit suicide, and clears the White House of seeking to interfere with the criminal investigation of Madison.

August 94

5 August: The Clintons' fortunes take a turn for the worse with the replacement of Mr Fiske by Kenneth Starr, a tough-minded Republican. Three months later, as Mr Starr intensifies his investigations in Little Rock and Washington, the Republicans capture Congress. In early 1995 the Senate Banking Committee under Alfonse D'Amato begins new, highly partisan, hearings into Whitewater. But despite the White House `rediscovery' of key Rose billing records and a grand jury appearance by Ms Clinton, public interest flags. By spring 1996, the Clintons seem to have survived the worst.

May 96

28 May: At last a Starr success - and a big one. After a three- month trial during which the President gives videotaped testimony, the McDougals and Jim Guy Tucker, Bill Clinton's successor as Governor, are convicted of fraud. It is now official: the Clintons' one-time business partners are crooks. Evidence also shows that part of the $300,000 loan did find its way into the Whitewater real estate venture. The old Watergate question resurfaces: What did the Clintons, especially Hillary Clinton, know - and when?

June 96

7 June: Under pressure from the Congressional committee probing "Travelgate", the White House admits it requested, and received, 430 confidential personal background files from the FBI in late 1993, including some on leading Republicans such as James Baker. Shades of the Nixon "enemies list" are invoked and separate hearings into the fiasco are scheduled this week. Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Senate Whitewater committee issues its report, accusing Mrs Clinton and her aides of obstructing justice over the documents in Mr Foster's office.

The future

Where now ? The supercharged pre-election climate guarantees Whitewater remains an issue, and the ultimate impact depends on Mr Starr. The focus of his probe is the web of dealings around Madison. The real bombshell would be an indictment of Ms Clinton for perjury. Mr Starr may now be able to strike plea bargains with other potential defendants to secure testimony implicating the Clintons. Powerless to intervene, the White House watches, waits and prays.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...