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
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
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project