Whitewater row refuses to go away
Thursday 14 March 1996
Four years have passed since the first mention in the national press of a failed property venture in northern Arkansas, in which the businessman Jim McDougal in 1978 offered a 50 per cent share to his friends Bill and Hillary Clinton, the probable next Governor of the state and his ambitious lawyer wife. Today Whitewater is a term embracing not just that land deal, but an imbroglio of past personal and financial dealings of the 42nd President. Mr McDougal meanwhile, along with his wife Susan and Jim Guy Tucker - the man who took over as Arkansas's Governor when Mr Clinton moved on to the White House - is now defending himself against fraud and conspiracy charges in a federal court in Little Rock, the first trial arising from a special prosecutor's two-year investigation of the Whitewater affair.
The Clintons have been neither indicted nor charged with any offence, but even before opening arguments had ended on Tuesday, the President's name had been aired in the courtroom, in allegations by a prosecution lawyer that he improperly pressured a local banker in 1986 to make a $300,000 (pounds 200,000) loan to Ms McDougal. That money in turn disappeared into the Madison Guaranty savings bank, owned by her husband and which collapsed that year, at a cost to US taxpayers of $60m.
The trial will last two months, and before it is over Mr Clinton will have suffered the almost unprecedented embarrassment for a sitting President of testifying in a criminal case in which suspicions swirl around him. The ultimate indignity of a personal appearance in the courtroom is unlikely. But either in videotaped cross-examination, or via a live satellite link from Washington, the McDougal defence insists, Mr Clinton will give evidence.
"A bunch of bull," he has called suggestions of his involvement in the $300,000 loan - but public interest in the case is unlikely to subside. Further Whitewater charges may well be brought by Kenneth Starr, while the author James Stewart, responsible for the best-selling Wall Street expose Den of Thieves, may have another blockbuster on his hands.
According to Blood Sport: The President and His Adversaries, excerpts of which appear in the latest issue of Time magazine, the Whitewater venture was conceived by Mr McDougal as a favour to the impecunious young couple. When it was clearly a money-loser, Mr McDougal tried to buy them out - only to be rebuffed by Mrs Clinton, hoping that it would provide enough income to pay for the university education of the couple's daughter, Chelsea.
As such, the book provides more corroboration that as a partner in the Rose law firm working on Madison and other McDougal-related accounts, Mrs Clinton knew more about the bank, and Whitewater, than she has admitted. That in turn will only keep Whitewater alive on Capitol Hill - through the summer and perhaps beyond.
- 1 End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how Corporation is funded
- 2 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Dakota Johnson's 'It's only Isis' Saturday Night Live sketch sparks controversy
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how Corporation is funded
Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
Dakota Johnson's 'It's only Isis' Saturday Night Live sketch sparks controversy
White and gold or blue and black – what colour is the dress? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Advisor is required to ...
£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As the UK's leading accident an...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading web hosting pr...