Whitewater scandal

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The Whitewater scandal was an American political scandal which developed in President Bill Clinton's first term as president, after the death of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster. After Foster's death it was learned that chief White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum had removed documents concerning the Whitewater Development Corporation from Foster's office. President Clinton and his wife had invested in this corporation; the Clintons were accused of fraud in connection with this investment during the Securities and Exchange Commission's investigation of the bankruptcy of Madison Guaranty, an Arkansas trust company.

At President Clinton's request, a special prosecutor was appointed in 1994 by the Department of Justice to investigate the legality of Whitewater transactions. Two further accusations then surfaced: that then Governor Clinton had exerted pressure on a Little Rock, Arkansas businessman to make a loan that would benefit him and the owners of Madison Guaranty, and that an Arkansas bank had concealed transactions involving Clinton's gubernatorial campaign in 1990.

A court case was never filed against the Clintons on this issue, and they were cleared of any wrongdoing in two reports subsequently prepared by the law firm of Pillsbury Madison and Sutro for the Resolution Trust Corporation, which was overseeing the bankruptcy of Madison Guaranty.

Contents

Background

When the Whitewater scandal first surfaced, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the matter. This prosecutor, a Republican former United States Attorney named Robert Fiske, was subsequently replaced by independent counsel Kenneth Starr when the investigation was transferred to the jurisidiction of the Office of the Independent Counsel. Independent counsels are appointed by a panel of federal judges, to avoid a potential conflict of interest by the Attorney General (a Presidential political appointee).

On January 26, 1996 Hillary Clinton testified before a grand jury concerning her investments in Whitewater.

Three associates, James McDougal, Susan McDougal, and Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker were convicted on several federal charges not directly related to the Clintons in 1996.

In 1994 Paula Jones had filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton which was unrelated to the Whitewater investigation. President Clinton testified in this lawsuit in 1998 and gave the impression through his testimony that he had not had an affair with an intern named Monica Lewinsky.

Unknown to either Lewinsky or President Clinton, a former White House staffer Linda Tripp had recorded Lewinsky talking about her relations with President Clinton. Tripp turned these tapes over to the Whitewater investigators who sought and received an expansion of the scope of the investigation to cover the President's Paula Jones testimony.

Starr Report

In 1998, the independent counsel Kenneth Starr sent a report to Congress in which he charged President Clinton with perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and abuse of authority in the Paula Jones lawsuit. The report contained details, sometimes explicit, of President Clinton's personal activites with Lewinsky. Starr was roundly criticized for expanding the investigation beyond its initial scope and for the graphic nature of the report.

President Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 1998, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, and tried by the Senate in January 1999. President Clinton was acquitted by the Senate on both counts.

The acquittals came about since the charges made against President Clinton did not rise to the severity required for the impeachment and removal of a sitting President since they had nothing to do with his official duties. The wide-ranging investigation basically ammounted to a "witch-hunt" based on the President's personal life.

Republicans suffered a substantial political backlash in the wake of the investigations and impeachment. President Clinton served his last two years in office without any further attacks of a serious legal nature but continued to be criticized by right-wing partisans for the scandals. President Clinton's job approval rating remained high throughout his term even though his personal approval ratings slipped.

In April 1999 Judge Susan Webber Wright found President Clinton in civil contempt of court for misleading testimony in the Jones case but did not press for any criminal charge. Wright referred her ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Rather than undergo a review by the Court, President Clinton voluntarily surrendered his Arkansas law license.

Ray Report

Kenneth Starr's successor, Robert Ray, released a report in September of 2000 that stated "This office 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." Ray's report effectively ended the Whitewater investigation.


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