Whitewater row refuses to go away

It is the controversy which will not die. A new book in the shops, a trial which opened in Little Rock this week, an ugly row which threatens to tie up business on the floor of the US Senate - one way and another, the Whitewater affair is set to hound President Clinton throughout his re-election campaign.

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.

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
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: Sales Advisor - £35,000 OTE

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Advisor is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor / Contact Centre Advisor

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As the UK's leading accident an...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading web hosting pr...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003