First cycle of Whitewater wash starts: Congress told that Whitewater showed only bad judgement

AS CONGRESS opened fiercely partisan hearings into the Whitewater affair, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler yesterday insisted that White House and Treasury officials showed bad judgement, but nothing worse, in their contacts over the failed Madison Guaranty savings bank at the heart of the controversy.

Addressing the House Banking Committee, Mr Cutler firmly denied Republican suggestions that the officials had tried to influence a probe by the Resolution Trust Corporation, the Treasury-controlled regulatory agency, into Madison. Among the audience in the woodpanelled hearing room was Jim McDougal, owner of Madison and co-partner with the Clintons in the Whitewater real estate venture.

Mr Cutler acknowledged there had been much loose talk at the White House, 'too many people having too many discussions about too many sensitive matters' which should have been left to the White House counsel's office. But 'nothing happened as a result of the contacts. They had no impact on the real world of RTC activity.'

Mr Cutler's testimony marks only the beginning of what could be months of on- and-off hearings on Capitol Hill into the Whitewater affair, parts of which are still under investigation by the special prosecutor, Robert Fiske. In PR terms, it could be critical.

A venerable Washington insider and one-time counsel to President Jimmy Carter, Mr Cutler, 76, only returned to the White House in March as Mr Clinton cast around for an experienced figure to contain a controversy which had forced the resignation of former Counsel Bernard Nussbaum and threatened to consume both himself and the entire administration.

'I am not a special pleader for the President of the United States, I did not ask for this job,' he told a Republican questioner, adding that he had issued a set of guidelines to ensure that any future contacts between the White House and law enforcement agencies would be 'beyond reasonable challenge'.

Challenge, however, was the watchword for the Republican minority on the committee, led by Iowa Congressman Jim Leach. Whitewater, said Mr Leach, was not Watergate, it was a mere 'bump on the landscape of political scandal'. But its handling was a case study in the 'arrogance of power'.

On a strict party line vote the committee's Democrat majority beat off a Republican attempt to extend the hearing to cover the 1993 suicide of the White House deputy counsel, Vincent Foster. As a result, this first phase of hearings will be confined to the White House-Treasury contacts.

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

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life