Relaxed Clinton stems the tide of Whitewater: Congressman refutes President's claim that he lost money

SHOWING that he is at his most effective under pressure, President Bill Clinton appeared yesterday to have succeeded in answering, for the moment, some of the more damaging questions about his involvement in the Whitewater affair.

Nevertheless the Clintons' tax returns for 1977-79, released yesterday, showed that during his first three years in public life the joint family income went from dollars 42,000 ( pounds 28,000) to dollars 158,000 mainly as a result of successful commodity speculation by Hillary Clinton.

At only his second prime time press conference since he took office, Mr Clinton was relaxed but combative. Specifically denying Republican charges that he made a profit out of Whitewater, he repeated that it was a 16-year business venture which lost money, though he adjusted downwards the money lost by dollars 22,000, saying he had forgotten about money he had used to help his mother buy a cabin.

Avoiding a strident counter-attack against his accusers, which might have given the impression he was rattled, Mr Clinton did effectively suggest that he was successfully managing the affairs of the nation although 'many people around America must believe that Washington is overwhelmingly preoccupied with the Whitewater matter'. Out of 15 questions asked at the press conference only three were on topics other than Whitewater.

No surprises emerged in the tax returns, which Mr Clinton promised to release during his press conference, except to confirm that Hillary Clinton made dollars 28,000 in 1978 and dollars 72,000 in 1979 from forward dealing in cattle, a highly risky investment carried out on credit. A wish to conceal the successful speculation, undertaken with the guidance of the chief lawyer of Tyson Foods, the largest employer in Arkansas, probably explains why the White House had earlier refused to release the tax returns.

Republican leaders sniped at Mr Clinton after his speech yesterday but admitted that the President had probably done himself some good. Newt Gingrich, a senior Republican in the House of Representatives, said acidly that if he had loaned somebody dollars 20,000 he would probably have remembered it. Democrats, fearing that Mr Clinton's slide in the polls will damage their re-election chances in November, were all relieved by Mr Clinton's forthright performance.

The most dangerous and specific charges against Mr Clinton came just hours before his press conference from Jim Leach - a widely respected Iowa congressman whose voting record makes him one of the six most liberal Republicans in the House - who claimed that the Clintons had made money out of Whitewater. As the senior Republican on the House Banking Committee, Mr Leach, for the first time in a widely covered speech, laid out the charges against Mr Clinton and said he had evidence to back them up.

At the heart of Mr Leach's attack is the allegation that Whitewater did indeed make money for the Clintons, not through their real estate investment but because it was used by their business partner Jim McDougal to 'skim' money out of the federally insured Madison Guaranty savings and loan and syphon it into the pockets of Mr McDougal's friends. He also produced evidence that a Treasury Department official tried to persuade an investigator earlier this year that Mr Clinton got no money from Madison Guaranty.

Mr Leach's known moderation and clean record - in contrast to Senator Al D'Amato of New York and Phil Gramm from Texas, who have been raising eyebrows all over Washington by their sudden enthusiasm for ethical behaviour - makes his attack the most serious Mr Clinton has faced. The President has complained that the lack of a definite charge against him makes it difficult for him to defend himself. Mr Leach has now enabled him to specify what he did not do. Mr Leach's evidence of Treasury officials soft-peddling investigations to protect the Clintons was looking shaky yesterday.

Mr Clinton has stopped a haemorrhage of political support. A Times Mirror poll, released before he spoke, showed two-thirds of Americans - 73 per cent Republicans, 67 per cent independents and 59 per cent Democrats - believe the Clintons have done something wrong. Only 15 per cent say they are guilty of serious wrongdoing.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own