Legal net closes on First Lady

Whitewater scandal: Senate report says Hillary Clinton was behind cover-up into aide's suicide

A fraught Whitewater season for the Clintons opened yesterday with a Senate report charging that the First Lady, Hillary Clinton, was behind a concerted attempt to curb the investigation into the suicide of Vince Foster, her friend and deputy White House counsel, in July 1993.

According to the findings prepared by the Republican majority on the Senate Whitewater Committee and leaked to the Washington Post and New York Times, Mrs Clinton immediately "dispatched her trusted lieutenants to contain any potential embarrassment or political damage" that could arise from Mr Foster's papers. These dealt, inter alia, with the now notorious Whitewater real- estate venture.

The Whitewater special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, will now be asked to investigate whether three of those trusted lieutenants - Mrs Clinton's chief of staff, Maggie Williams, her close friend, Susan Thomases, and the former White House counsel, Bernard Nussbaum - committed perjury in their evidence to the committee during its 13 months of hearings or otherwise obstructed justice.

Ms Williams, according to sworn testimony from a Secret Service agent, removed documents from Mr Foster's office on the night of his death, while law enforcement officials have accused Mr Nussbaum of systematically limiting their access to the office until his own secret search was complete, on the instructions of Mrs Clinton.

Thereafter, the report continues, the White House continued to make life as difficult as possible for investigators, obfuscating and prevaricating at every turn. "Crucial files and documents `disappeared' or were withheld from scrutiny whenever questions were raised," it says.

Capitol Hill, however, is only one of the places which will be making Whitewater headlines in the coming days and weeks. Today a second Whitewater- related trial starts in Little Rock, while the Senate criticism of Mrs Clinton can only embolden Mr Starr in his investigations, which some observers believe could yet lead to her indictment for either perjury or obstruction of justice. Although she never testified to the committee, Mrs Clinton has already suffered the indignity - unprecedented for a sitting First Lady - of being summoned before a federal grand jury.

Lurking in the background, meanwhile, is a forthcoming Supreme Court ruling on the sexual harassment suit brought against the President by the former Arkansas state employee, Paula Jones. If the court refuses to hear an appeal by Mr Clinton, intensely embarrassing pre-trial proceedings could start this autumn, just weeks before the election.

Publicly, the Clinton camp is sneering at the Senate report, deriding it as "a taxpayer-subsidised press release for the Republican Presidential campaign", while the separate verdict to be delivered by the Democratic minority on the committee will undoubtedly clear the White House of all wrongdoing.

But the renewed Whitewater controversy, coupled with the rumpus over alleged White House misuse of confidential FBI files in 1993, may be starting to have an impact on public opinion. Recently as high as 25 per cent, Mr Clinton's lead in the polls over his Republican challenger Bob Dole is narrowing - to as little as 6 per cent in a Time/CNN survey published yesterday.

Nor will the trial of two Arkansas small-town bankers which starts today advance Mr Clinton's cause. As in the trial which ended last month with the conviction on fraud charges of his former Whitewater partners, James and Susan McDougal and Jim Guy Tucker, his successor as Arkansas Governor, the President will give videotaped testimony for the defence, probably on 7 July.

Herby Branscum Jr and Robert Hill are accused of illegally channelling $13,000 (pounds 8,500) into Mr Clinton's 1990 gubernatorial re-election campaign. Though the sum involved is derisory, the case could implicate Bruce Lindsey, the Clinton campaign treasurer of six years ago who remains one of the President's closest White House advisers. If so, the discomfort for Mr Clinton would be acute.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine