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
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: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Manager - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative online car purc...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'