$70 Million Whitewater
Report Clears The Clintons
By Michael Kirkland
UPI Legal Affairs Correspondent

WASHINGTON (UPI) - The final Whitewater report was released by the independent counsel's office Wednesday, ending an 8-year investigation whose many phases cost the taxpayer a total of $70 million.

Final verdict: No crimes committed by President Clinton or Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

In a letter accompanying the voluminous report, and in the report itself, the office repeated its conclusions that it first made public last year: There was not enough evidence to charge former President Clinton or Sen. Clinton with any crime, "including perjury," in regard to their Arkansas business dealings and the subsequent investigation into those dealings.

"This office investigated whether President and Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in any criminal conduct related to Madison Guaranty, CMS, or Whitewater Development or had any knowledge of such conduct," the letter announcing the release of the report said, citing various Arkansas business ventures.

The report concluded, "The independent counsel determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either President or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in any criminal conduct involving Madison Guaranty, CMS, or Whitewater Development or knew of such conduct. The evidence relating to their testimony and conduct, in connection with this investigation and other investigations involving the same entities, was also, in the independent counsel's judgment, insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either of them committed any criminal offense, including perjury."

President Clinton's personal lawyer, Washington attorney David Kendall, said he would be issuing a statement later in response to the report.

The final report was actually filed with a three-judge panel more than a year ago. Months before then, the independent counsel's office issued a statement of conclusions that also cleared the Clintons. The judges panel, which appoints independent counsels, directed the office to unseal the report Wednesday.

The investigation, called "Whitewater" after a failed property development, actually began in January 1994 when Attorney General Janet Reno appointed a special counsel, New York attorney David Fiske, to investigate allegations of Clinton wrongdoing.

At the urging of the president and Reno, however, Congress passed the Independent Counsel Act, and Reno asked the three-judge panel to appoint an independent counsel to take over the special counsel's investigation.

The panel rejected Reno's recommendation of Fiske as independent counsel and instead chose a former Bush administration official who had also served as a federal judge, Kenneth Starr.

Starr investigated a cascade of allegations against Clinton and his wife, but eventually cleared them each time. The exception was the investigation into Clinton's sexual relationship with a former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

In articles of impeachment filed with the House, Starr accused the president of lying under oath in the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit about his relationship with Lewinsky. The House impeached the president, but the Senate acquitted him in early 1999.

Starr resigned later that year and was succeeded by independent counsel Robert Ray. Ray himself resigned last week to run for the Senate in New Jersey on the Republican ticket, but not before releasing a final Lewinsky report that said Clinton could have been successfully prosecuted for crimes committed during that investigation.

However, Ray reached a deal with the president in January 2001 shortly before Clinton left office.

Clinton agreed to publicly admit he gave "misleading and evasive" testimony in the Jones case about his sexual relationship with Lewinsky, and agreed to a 5-year suspension of his Arkansas law license.

Clinton also agreed not to seek reimbursement of attorneys' fees, something that only that the special three-judge panel could have granted in an independent counsel's probe.

For his part, Ray agreed to drop any possible prosecution against the president that even many Republicans said he could not possibly win.
Wednesday's announcement of the end of the Whitewater era also detailed the seeds of the investigation.
"That investigation resulted from, among other things, criminal referrals issued by the Resolution Trust Corporation," the independent counsel's office said. The RTC was formed to reorganize hundreds of failed savings and loan companies in the 1980s.
"The attorney general concluded the circumstances warranted the appointment of a statutory independent counsel," the office said, "'because investigation by the Department of Justice of the allegations of violations of criminal law by (Madison Guaranty's Jim) McDougal and other individuals associated with President and Mrs. Clinton and Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, Whitewater Development Corporation, and Capital Management Systems (CMS) would present a political conflict of interest.' "
The report said the Madison Guaranty/Whitewater investigation resulted in the conviction of 12 defendants, including former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, Jim and Susan McDougal, and former Associate Attorney General Webster L. Hubbell.
"This office investigated whether Jim and Susan McDougal committed any crimes in connection with Madison Guaranty, CMS, or Whitewater Development by using control of two financial institutions -- Madison Guaranty and Madison Bank & Trust -- to lend money to or for the benefit of Whitewater Development and to pay Whitewater Development financial obligations at a time when the McDougals and the Clintons jointly owned Whitewater Development. In May 1996, Jim and Susan McDougal were convicted in federal court in Arkansas of various crimes involving Madison Guaranty, CMS, and Whitewater Development. According to one federal bank regulatory agency, the failure of Madison Guaranty cost the taxpayers $73 million."
The report writes its own coda.
"The independent counsel conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation, which has now concluded," the report said. "Matters involving Madison Guaranty/Whitewater are closed."

Copyright © 2002 United Press International. All rights reserved.

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