Clinton men squirm over Whitewater

TOP Treasury officials sat squirming on Capitol Hill for the second day in a row yesterday, vainly trying to convince disbelieving members of the Senate Banking Committee that they had not lied or been evasive in their accounts of dealings with the White House in the Whitewater affair.

Under relentless questioning from Democrats and Republicans alike, the Treasury Chief of Staff, Joshua Steiner, denied what is strongly implied in a private diary he had kept, that the Deputy Treasury Secretary, Roger Altman, deliberately deceived the committee when he testified on 24 February.

Appearing later in the afternoon, in this fifth round of congressional hearings on Whitewater, Mr Altman apologised if any of his statements had been misleading, but again denied he had done anything wrong. But if his evidence and that of Mr Steiner fail to sway the Senate, Mr Altman could be forced to resign.

At the heart of proceedings is the probe into the failed Madison Guaranty savings bank owned by James McDougal, President and Mrs Clintons' one-time partner in the Whitewater property venture. The investigation was conducted by the Resolution Trust Corporation, the federal agency headed until earlier this year by Mr Altman.

At issue is whether Mr Altman, a close friend of the Clintons, breached procedural rules and kept top aides of the presidential couple informed on the progress of the investigation. In February he told the Senate there had been only one such contact, three weeks earlier. In fact dozens took place. But, he said yesterday, 'no one at the Treasury or RTC improperly imparted information to the White House about the Madison investigation'.

Calm and composed during his inquisition yesterday, the 28-year- old Mr Steiner said Mr Altman had been 'truthful and forthright' in his February testimony. Alas, his diary, a particular embarrassment to the Treasury and White House in the affair, tells a slightly different story.

At one point it notes how Mr Altman had 'gracefully ducked' questions about contacts on Madison Guaranty. Another entry speaks of Hillary Clinton being 'paralysed' at the thought of a special Whitewater prosecutor probing '20 years of business dealings in Arkansas' - implying that the Clintons were keen to have friends like Mr Altman to keep them abreast of potentially dangerous developments. Indeed, the White House is known to have objected strenuously to Mr Altman's initial request to remove himself from the RTC post.

Yesterday, however, Mr Steiner claimed the diary was not intended to be a precise narrative, but rather 'a way to reflect on events'. But these linguistic contortions predictably cut little ice with his interrogators, Republican and Democrats alike, who for all their differences share a common dislike of being lied to.

Mr Altman has made it clear he intends to stay on. But such are the contradictions in the versions given by senior Treasury officials that someone's head will have to roll. Another candidate for the block is Jean Hanson, the Treasury's top lawyer, who was grilled for seven hours on Monday evening. She says she gave information to the White House about the RTC probe as long ago as last September, on Mr Altman's explicit orders. This is denied by Mr Altman. So blatant were the differences that even the relatively sympathetic Democratic Senator John Kerry told her that 'it's almost as if you're setting yourself up to take the fall for Mr Altman'.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk