Clinton defends his wife over Whitewater: Scandal and suspicion are eroding the First Lady's authority, writes Patrick Cockburn in Washington

PRESIDENT Bill Clinton yesterday vigorously defended his wife, Hillary, who has come under increasing attack for her role in the Whitewater affair. He said: 'Her moral compass is as strong as anybody's in this country. I do not believe for a moment that she has done anything wrong.'

At a White House press conference Mr Clinton repeatedly denied wrongdoing, but he is clearly worried at the political damage done to the administration by the Whitewater affair. He said: 'There will not be a cover-up, there will not be an abuse of office in this White House.'

Mr Clinton said he was unaware of two White House meetings where his advisers discussed the progress of the investigation with Treasury department officials. As in the past he portrayed his involvement with the Whitewater real estate company as a minor business deal that went wrong 16 years ago.

He said the White House had now 'literally erected a firewall' between itself and the investigative agencies looking into the affair. Mr Clinton said the report of the special counsel, Robert Fiske, on Whitewater and related matters would show that he was innocent.

Mr Clinton said he had started to look for a successor to the White House counsel, Bernard Nussbaum, who resigned on Saturday after criticism that he was obstructing the investigation. Ten administration officials subpoenaed by Mr Fiske wil give evidence to a grand jury on Thursday.

As in the past Mr Clinton, looking a little haggard, counter-attacked briskly, saying that the Republicans were seeking to derive short-term political advantage that might rebound on them. 'The American people will be outraged if anybody uses this as an excuse for not doing the people's business,' he insisted.

Allegations of obstructing the Whitewater investigation are sapping the authority of Hillary Clinton within the White House where she has been the greatest influence on shaping policy after her husband. In recent weeks she has cancelled two-thirds of her commitments to devote time to dealing with the scandal.

She is still the main strategist and publicist for the administration's health care proposals. But her ability to sell them to Congress and the public is being undermined by accusations that she, rather than Bill Clinton, was the central figure in stalling investigators.

Repubicans and the right-wing media have long demonised Mrs Clinton as an unelected radical but only recently have they started to draw blood. The Washington Times, which is viscerally anti-Democrat but so far accurate on Whitewater, said yesterday that during the 1992 presidential election Hillary Clinton had repeatedly called couriers to the governor's mansion in Arkansas to take papers to be shredded at the Rose Law Firm, where she was a partner.

The shredding started after the Clintons' involvement in the troubled Whitewater real estate company was revealed, but there is no information about what documents were being destroyed. Unfortunately for Mr and Mrs Clinton the White House record of deviousness over the affair is so well-established that everything they now do is regarded with suspicion.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all